FC Tokyo’s AFC Champions League knockout stage prospects will rely on the efforts of every player when they face group leaders Ulsan Hyundai, according to head coach Kenta Hasegawa.
Their Round of 16 hopes back on track after a 2-1 win over Shanghai Shenhua on Friday, second-placed Tokyo now face the challenge of facing a red-hot Ulsan Hyundai side who have won all their matches in Doha and remain unbeaten in the tournament.
In fact, Hasegawa’s side are the only team in Group F to have avoided defeat against the Koreans. The teams played out a 1-1 draw in February, but the Tokyo boss believes that match has limited relevance for the one to come at Education City Stadium, saying his side must all pitch in if they are to challenge Kim Do-hoon’s in-form outfit
“Everybody is a key player,” said the former Japanese international. “This is the third game with a three-day break. Nobody is in their best condition, so we need teamwork. We have to win as a team.
“We played each other back in February, but it’s a different team now with a different system and different players. They’re on the top of our group ranking and they have top players, so we will have to have the force to win.”
Tokyo were on the front foot for the majority of their previous matches against Shanghai Shenhua, ending up with one win and one defeat from their two back-to-back clashes. But Ulsan appear to be a different proposition. The K League runners-up have had more than 60 per cent possession in all three of their outings in Qatar, but Hasegawa declared his side will not change their tactical approach in order to counter a side packed with attacking talent.
“We don’t have any special tactic for Ulsan,” he said. “We don’t change our plan based on our opponent’s players. “They are good at keeping possession, and sometimes we can be good in possession too. They are very strong in their transition between defence and attack, and it’s important to stop that.”
Depending on the result of the clash between Shanghai Shenhua and Perth Glory – also today – an FC Tokyo win may seal their progression to the knockout stage with a game in hand, but Ulsan enter the match knowing that a win will be good enough for them not only to advance, but to do so as group winners. That would not only give Kim the chance to rest his stars in the final group stage match on Thursday, but also ensure they avoid the Group E winners, likely to be the rampant Beijing FC, in the Round of 16.
Perth Glory better than their record suggests, says Shanghai Shenhua’s Choi
Shanghai Shenhua head coach Choi Kang-hee declared he will not fall into the trap of underestimating eliminated Perth Glory when the two sides meet in an AFC Champions League clash at Education City Stadium today
Appearing in the premier Asian competition for the first time, Perth have lost all four of their matches to date, leaving them out of Round of 16 contention with two group stage matches still to play.
Shanghai Shenhua, on the other hand, sit one point behind second placed FC Tokyo, and remain well and truly in the race for a first trip to the knockout stage since 2006, but it’s a target which may slip out of reach by tonight should they lose to the Australians.
With so much at stake, Choi declared Perth a better side than their lowly position on the group table indicates. “If you look at all of their games in isolation, they are not a team which has been completely defeated in any game,” said the former Korea Republic boss.
“They have competed until the last second (in every match) and then been defeated. Still, with Perth Glory, we remain focused on the current situation in our team right now. It really depends a lot on how many players we can use and whether our injured players will be able to recover in time. We still have to focus on ourselves in this game.”
Stricken by a lengthy injury list and player unavailability throughout the tournament, there is good and bad news for Shenhua ahead of today’s clash. The important Stephane M’Bia and Qian Jiegei return from suspension after missing Friday’s costly 2-1 defeat to FC Tokyo, but Choi revealed star imports Giovanni Moreno and Kim Shin-wook are still only partially fit, despite both making second half cameos against the Japanese side, and with Moreno finding the back of the net. Perth will be hoping to add to Choi’s worries. While their maiden participation in Asian competition will end in a group stage exit, coach Cristian Ola said his charges are determined to find a silver lining among the Champions League clouds.
“Except for the fact that we are not able to go further from the group, which is obvious at this moment, there is absolutely nothing we will change in our approach for the last two games,” said Ola, who is part of the Perth technical team led by Richard Garcia.
With Perth still chasing their first point, and falling victim to late heroics from Ulsan Hyundai in both of their past two matches, there has been little to cheer, but midfielder Brandon Wilson believes the tournament has at least helped unearth some potential future stars for the Western Australian clubs.
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