So, it’s a bit late given that the first day of round 2 of Champions League action is already in the books (no Koreans involved as Park Chu-Young isn’t in Arsenal’s Champions League roster). But Son Heung-Min should be involved in tomorrow’s round of matches, and then possibly Park Ji-Sung in Thursday’s Europa League action with PSV (haven’t checked to see if he’s recovered from his slight injury). It’s not Europe, but the semi-finals of the Asian Champions League is tonight and features the K League Classic’s FC Seoul, as well as Kashiwa Reysol (J League) and Guangzhou Evergrande (Chinese Super League).
Bayer Leverkusen vs Real Sociedad
NT Players: Son Heung-Min (Bayer)
Date/Time: 10/2, 2:30pm Eastern
US TV: None (that I know of)
Korean TV: SPOTV, 10am (replay)
Chronomorets vs PSV
Korean Players: Park Ji-Sung (PSV)
Date/Time: 10/3, 3:05 Eastern
US TV: None (that I know of)
Korean TV: SPOTV2, 8am (replay)
AFC Champions League
Esteghlal vs FC Seoul
NT Players: Go Yo-Han, Yoon Il-Rok (both FC Seoul)
Date/Time: 10/2, 11:30am Eastern
US TV: ONE World Sports (12pm, replay, I think)
Korean TV: none (that I know of, checking)
Guangzhou Evergrande vs Kashiwa Reysol
NT Players: Kim Young-Gwon (Guangzhou), Kim Chang-Soo (Kashiwa)
Date/Time: 10/2, 8:00am Eastern
US TV: ONE World Sports (live, I think)
Korean TV: (none that I know of, checking)
*Note on times, please double check times for your area. I’m doing conversions from Korean time to Eastern time, but I’m reading the AFC times from converted times (from Iran and China respectively), so dates change and so on.
Match 1: Bayer Leverkusen vs Real Sociedad
Of course, the main midweek match for Korean fans is the Champions League match between Son’s Bayer and Basque side Real Sociedad. Both are looking for points from this match as they both lost their opening round (against United and Shakhtar) respectively. Since those losses Leverkusen has been in good form, winning league games over Mainz 05 (4-1) and Hannover 96 (2-0), and a cup game over Arminia Bielefeld (2-0, with Son getting a goal). Sociedad on the other hand has really struggled in the league, and currently sit 13th in La Liga with just 7 points from 7 matches. Despite their 4th place finish last season, coach Philippe Montanier left the team and was replaced by former youth team and assistant coach Jagoba Arrasate.
Leverkusen is a relatively known side to most fans since Son made his move there in the summer, so this preview will focus a little more on Real Sociedad. Sociedad is based in the lovely coastal city of San Sebastian, which is in the Basque Country in northern Spain. Sociedad is the regions “second side” behind regional rivals Athletic Bilbao, but they have a strong history in the Primera division, usually finishing comfortably midtable, with a few short spells in the Segunda. Sociedad has twice been crowned league champions, winning back-to-back titles in the ’81/’82 and ’82/’83 seasons.
Last season, La Real earned their Champions League spot on the final day of the season, beating Deportivo La Coruna 1-0 (also relegating Coruna and allowing Park Chu-Young and Celta Vigo to survive), that coupled with Valencia’s 4-3 loss to Sevilla saw Sociedad make it to the qualifying rounds. Sociedad was an exciting team to watch last season, with a free flowing attack that scored 70 goals in La Liga (behind only Barca and Madrid). The main characters behind the attack are midfield captain Xabi Prieto, and wide forwards Antoine Griezmann and Carlos Vela.
The goals have dried up a bit this season, which would seem to be the main cause for Sociedad’s struggles. Against Shakhtar in the opening match, Sociedad dominated possession, but failed to score. A similar thing has occurred in the league as Sociedad has only managed 6 goals thus far. Further complicating their problems is the injury to the aforementioned Xabi Prieto, which should keep him out of tomorrow’s match.
Being at home and in good form, Leverkusen should win this one, but if there’s a repeat of the defensive performance that we saw against United, Sociedad has the attacking quality to score.