After an undefeated round from the 4 Korean AFC Champions League representatives last time around, FC Seoul, Jeonbuk Hyundai, Suwon Samsung and Pohang Steelers are at it once again in Matchday 2 of the Asian Champions League. What teams await them in this round of play, and can they continue their positive campaigns in Asia?
FC Seoul vs Sanfrecce Hiroshima (March 1st, 2pm KST, 12am EST)
March 1st is Independence Movement Day in Korea, commemorating the March 1st Movement of 1919. On this national holiday, Koreans are given a day off of work, hence the peculiar midweek start time of 2pm. The Samil Movement was one of the earliest public independence demonstrations in Korean history. 33 activists declared the nation’s independence in downtown Seoul, while close to 2 million Korean participated in impromptu demonstrations across the country shortly after. Naturally, the Japanese imperial regime was livid, leading to clashes between a heightened police force and demonstrators. Ultimately, 7,500 people were killed, and tens of thousands injured (though the number depends on what history book you’re reading and if it’s Korean or Japanese).
So, that gives this game a dash of political backstory, as FC Seoul welcomes reigning J.League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima to Sangam Stadium in their first home game of the year. It should be a chilly afternoon in Seoul for this encounter. Seoul were on fine form in Matchday 1 with a 6-0 trouncing of Thai side Buriram United. Adriano scored 4 goals, with Dejan and Lee Seokhyun adding two more. Choi Yongsoo should keep his side relatively unchanged, but expect Sanfrecce to present much more of a test. The Japanese champions were dominant in last year’s J. League, scoring 73 goals and conceding just 30 in 34 matches, and although the stereotype of Japanese sides not travelling well or not taking the ACL seriously can still apply, it won’t under any circumstance be a cakewalk for FC Seoul.
Note: This game will be featured on a Tavern Broadcast of the match including pre match, highlights (it’s hard to find good ACL highlights on YouTube, but we’ve got you covered!) and post game reaction.
Score Prediction: 2-1 FC Seoul
Jiangsu Suning vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (March 1st, 9pm KST, 7am EST)
After a 2-1 home win over FC Tokyo in matchday 1, Jeonbuk hop across the Yellow Sea to China to take on Jiangsu Suning. Their Chinese opponents finished 9th in the CSL last season but qualified as Cup champions, and notably went on a massive spending spree over the transfer window, picking up Chelsea midfielder Ramires for a 25 million pound (34.6 million USD) transfer fee. Jiangsu didn’t stop there – after their 58 million pound attempt at nicking Oscar didn’t work out, they decided to “settle” for Shakhtar Donetsk’s Alex Teixeira, for a Chinese record fee of 50 million euro (54.6 million USD). Despite these two big names, Jiangsu were terrible against Vietnamese side Becamex Binh Duong on the first match day, having to be content with a 1-1 draw against a side who probably wouldn’t be able to muster up Ramires’ fee if they sold the whole side three times!
Up against a cohesive Jeonbuk unit, who’ve integrated their new players very well and have a solid, developed, proven core, I think the South Koreans have the edge and will leave Nanjing with 3 points in their pockets. They’ll have to be careful, however, as defensively there are discernible vulnerabilities, with Kim Kihee’s late transfer out forcing Choi Kanghee to pair their two sole remaining centrebacks – Lim Jongeun (who isn’t even a natural CB) and Kim Hyungil together.
Score Prediction: 2-1 Jeonbuk Hyundai (if their defense keeps its shit!)
Pohang Steelers vs Urawa Reds (March 2nd 7:30pm KST, 5:30am EST)
Asia’s most successful club (in terms of AFC CL wins) somehow left Guangzhou with a 0-0 draw last weekend, and for that they deserve enormous plaudits. Choi Jincheul set up his team very defensively as looked to hit Guangzhou on the counter, which quite evidently was the right gameplan, as the deadlock scoreline reveals. This time out, however, we’re going to have to see what they can do on the front foot. An unconvincing 3-0 win over Hanoi T&T in the qualifying playoff revealed a lot of exploitable space in behind the defensive line. Moon Changjin and Lazar should make returns to the starting XI after not playing a role at Tianhe Stadium last week, while Shim Dongwoon will hope to continue his quick start to the ACL season after scoring all three of Pohang’s goal in the qualifying playoff. Urawa was the lone Japanese side to win last week in the ACL, with a 2-0 win over Sydney FC to their credit. It should be an interesting, even encounter.
Score Prediction: 1-1 draw
Shanghai SIPG vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings (March 2nd, 8:30pm KST, 6:30am EST)
Suwon couldn’t put away Gamba Osaka last week at the Big Bird Stadium, though Kim Gunhee and Kim Jongwoo came close for the Bluewings. It’s common knowledge that Samsung are cutting money to the side (they also allowed Maeil, a dairy company, to come in as a sponsor) who has struggled all season to compete in the transfer market and is going to have to make do with what they got. I mean, they lost the race to sign Kim Dongchan this past week (who chose DAEJEON of all teams instead LOL). So while Suwon is doing that, Shanghai SIPG is doing quite the opposite. They nicked Guangzhou’s Elkeson in the transfer window, to add to their already strong foreigner core of Asamoah Gyan, Dario Conca and Jean Evrard Kouassi. Under the stewardship of Sven Goran Erikson and their big name foreigners, Shanghai made a 2nd place league finish last season in the CSL. Attacking midfielder Wu Lei also dons Shanghai’s colours and will be one to watch out for.
However, continuing this trend of Chinese buying power and no results on the pitch on Matchday 1, Shanghai fell 1-2 in Melbourne to the Victory. Despite this, Shanghai has the quality and the cohesiveness to take all three points at home on Tuesday against a Suwon side that lacks bite.
Score Prediction: 1-0 Shanghai