This week sees the return of the ACL and with it some huge matches that might just dictate which teams need to check their passport expiry dates and which ones can put them back in the drawer until next year. All four Korean teams go into their fixtures on the back of victories and confidence should be high.
Western City Wanderers v FC Seoul (Tuesday)
FC Seoul face a tough journey to Sydney in a match that will surely decide their Champions League fate. The last time the two teams met they played out one of the most uneventful 0-0 draws I’ve ever seen. The highlight of that game being me convincing the staff in the GS inside the stadium not to decant my beer into a paper cup. Seoul don’t have a great record on Australian soil and are going to have to pull out all the stops to try and reverse that record. They sit 3rd in the group behind WSW on goal difference and will need to ensure they don’t lose if they are to have any hope of continuing in the tournament. They did manage to snatch their first domestic victory this weekend and this should have given them a much needed boost before boarding the plane. They face a WSW side who are also struggling domestically, another 2pts dropped this weekend in a 1-1 home draw with Melbourne City. It is a ‘must win’ match for both teams, or maybe that should be a ‘can’t lose’ match for both. With home advantage Wanderers should be feeling the more comfortable of the two. Can they make that count more in the ACL than the A-League is the question that will be answered on Tuesday.
Seongnam v Guangzhou R&F (Tuesday)
One of the surprise results of the last round of matches was Seongnam’s 1-0 victory in China, though not that anyone saw the goal due to ridiculous broadcasting by KBS. The return match at Tancheon should be another great match. Seongnam’s domestic form has been as shaky as Delia Smith’s voice after a few too many. They did manage to put 4 past Daejeon at the weekend and Kim Do Heon in particular excelled in that match going home with the match ball. Guangzhou will be a much sterner test than Daejeon though, although in fairness so would the 7 aside team that plays out of Scrooge Bar in Itaewon. Guangzhou come into the match on the back of a 1-1 home draw with Jiangsu courtesy of a last minute Lu Lin equalizer. They currently sit 7th in the table some 6pts behind Bejing in the ACL spot and they’ll know a defeat in Tancheon would leave them an uphill struggle to get out the group. An Australian betting site has Seongnam as 4th favourites to win the ACL this season and a lot of that is based on their amazing home record in this tournament. They will need to be at their best to keep that record intact on Tuesday but if they do then surely they have one foot in the knockout stages.
Suwon v Brisbane Roar (Wednesday)
The last time these teams met it finished 3-3 in probably the best match of the tournament so far. Suwon were two behind in that one before taking the lead only to see Brisbane equalize with 10 minutes left on the clock. As we so often see in the K-League Suwon are a tough nut to crack at home as Busan found out this weekend. They seem to have an impressive ‘never say die’ attitude and have both come from behind and scored winners in the last minute on more than one occasion this season. In Brisane though they are playing a team who seem to have found their shooting boots again, as their 6-1 humbling at the weekend of Central Coast Mariners proved. Suwon will need to keep their wits about them in this one as there is no doubt that Roar are a dangerous team and can be a handful. The fact that Suwon managed to put three past them in Brisbane should give them a confidence boost going into the home match. They are level on points with Roar and you would imagine that if either team can get the victory on Wednesday then they might just have done enough to secure themselves second spot in the group.
Binh Duong v Jeonbuk
The last time these teams met was a relatively straight forward canter for Jeonbuk. They might only have scored the 3 goals but in reality it could have been any number. A victory on Wednesday paired with results going the right way in the other match and Jeonbuk will be in the next round. Jeonbuk prepared for this match with a tough 1-0 home victory over Pohang. They currently sit second in the table behind Ulsan on goal difference and although they haven’t really hit top form in the league yet they do look like a cut apart from most teams. Binh Duong also come into the match on the back of a 1-0 home victory. They defeated Hanoi T&T at the weekend and currently sit atop the Vietnamese league 2pts clear of Quang Ninh. They’ll be hoping to put up a better show than when they came to Korea that’s for sure but if Jeonbuk are on fire then it could be a long night for the hosts.