After a hugely disappointing first round in the ACL Group Stages in which the four K-League representatives amassed the measly total of a single point it’s time for Round 2 and for some a week of must-win matches await. The first round was somewhat of a disaster for the Korean teams as both Seoul and Jeju succumbed to 1-0 home defeats while Ulsan returned from Japan with a 2-0 defeat. Suwon Bluewings were the only team who could hold their head up high after battling to a 1-1 draw with Kawasaki although even that scoreline came about as a result of an own-goal for the Korean FA Cup holders. There is no time to rest for the ACL teams as round 2 is already upon us so with no further ado let’s look at who the Korean teams face this week.
Ulsan Hyudai v Brisbane Roar (Tues Feb 28th)
Ulsan welcome Brisbane Roar to town sitting rather unpretty at the bottom of the table after falling to two second half goals in Japan last week. That result probably wasn’t wholly unexpected and you would imagine that Kashima will probably run out eventual winners of Group E without breaking too much sweat. Ulsan will have had another week to blood new signings Orsic and Lee Jong Ho into the team and when they settle and hit form they will undoubtedly be a force. Their opponents, Brisbane, weren’t able to build on their emphatic play-off win over Shanghai Shenhua and could only manage a home draw with Thailand’s Muangthong United. With Kashima looking strong it will come down to the matches between the others to decide who is ‘best of the rest’ which in turn means that a result at home this week is essential for Ulsan. Interestingly back in 2012 when Ulsan won their solitary ACL crown they were drawn with Brisbane in the group stages. Both matches that year ended in draws, 1-1 in Ulsan and 2-2 in Brisbane so maybe just maybe history will repeat itself.
Prediction Home Win – Ulsan 2 Brisbane 1
Urawa Red Diamonds v FC Seoul (Tues Feb 28th)
Of all the K-League teams in action last week FC Seoul will probably be the most disappointed as they lost to Shanghai SIPG at home in a match which they had a good amount of the play in. They seemed to have their tactics spot on for large parts of the match and managed to contain both Oscar and Hulk for the most part although it was the latter who won the tie with a truly outstanding strike (see video clip below). Seoul missed a penalty at 1-0 after Dejan had spectacularly thrown himself to the ground under a challenge from He Guan and to be honest for all their good play that was the most clear cut chance they had. Urawa on the other hand, come into the game on the back of a spectacular 4-0 victory over Western Sydney Wanderers which has put them in pole position in the group. Last year Seoul knocked Urawa out in the first knockout stage on penalties, they lost the away leg 1-0, a similar result in Round 2 could see them really struggle to get out of the group this year. They really need to return from Japan with a share of the spoils and hope they can get maximum points from the WSW double header. It’s going to be a tough ask though.
Prediction : Away Win : Urawa 1 – Seoul 0
Swuon Bluewings v Guangzhou Evergrande (Wed March 1st)
Suwon Bluewings might have returned from Japan with a point last week but this week will definitely prove to be more of a challenge as they welcome the mighty Evergrande to town in one of the most eagerly anticipated clashes of this year’s tournament. Bluewings’ goal in the last round came courtesy of a Taniguchi own goal in a fairly even match that could have swung either way to be honest. The match marked the debuts of Shin Hwa Young and Park Ki Dong with the latter coming off the bench in the final stages. Suwon are generally a tough team to beat at home but they will need to be at their best if they are to get a result against their opponents this time. Evergrande ran out 7-0 winners against the minnows of Eastern Sports Club who played most of the match with only nine men. It’s difficult to really judge how good a result that is due to the dismissals but it does look as if the Chinese champions mean business this year after a woeful campaign last year. The Bluewings’ away draw means they probably could afford to lose this match as long as they win the home clash with Kawasaki in April.
Prediction : Score Draw : Bluewings 1 Evergrande 1
Gamba Osaka v Jeju United (Wed March 1st)
Jeju will get set for the short hop across to Osaka safe in the knowledge that they gave their all against Choi Yong Soo’s Jiangsu Sunning only to lose out to a 90th minute Ramires strike. They hit the woodwork twice against the Chinese runners-up in what was, if nothing else, a brave display. Ex-Seongnam skipper Park Jin Po made his debut for the Islanders with Frederic Mendy coming off the bench in the last minute for his first outing in orange. They will definitely feel hard done by but can definitely go to Osaka with their heads held a little high. Gamba on the other hand, will have more then the proverbial spring in their step as they trounced Adelaide United 3-0 in Australia in a rather one-sided affair. Gamba are now without star striker Takashi Usami but they seem to be adjusting to his loss quite quickly. This group was always going to be a tough one for Jeju but given how well their Japanese counterparts have started it does mean that a point really needs to be coming back with them on the plane if they are to have any chance of qualification. Gamba have a relatively decent record against Korean teams although Suwon Bluewings did go there and win last year which should give Jeju a glimmer of hope.
Prediction : Home Win : Gamba 2 – Jeju 1