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Korea, Japan to face off in Champions League games

Apr 09,2019
Korea and Japan will engage in a football war this week as their qualified clubs will go head-to-head at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League.

All four K League 1 representatives will take on Japanese opponents for their third group stage matches at the premier Asian club football tournament on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Korea and Japan are well-known arch rivals in football. They are also the two most successful nations at the AFC Champions League (ACL). Korean clubs have won 11 titles, while J.League teams have lifted seven trophies.

Gyeongnam FC, last year’s K League 1 runner-up, will cut the ribbon for Korea. The team will host defending ACL champion Kashima Antlers at Changwon Football Center in Changwon, 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of Seoul, today for their Group E contest.

Gyeongnam, playing in its first-ever ACL, is the only Korean team of the four to not yet win a game in the group stage. The team currently sits in third place in Group E with two draws, while Kashima leads with one win and one draw.

Kim Jong-boo’s team may miss former Inter Milan striker Luc Castaignos and Brazilian attacking midfielder Negueba, who both sustained injuries in recent K League 1 matches. Gyeongnam’s Japanese forward Takahiro Kunimoto will have to step up to lead their offense.

From Kashima, Korean football fans will see familiar faces, as center-back Jung Seung-hyun and goalkeeper Kwoun Sun-tae are with the Japanese club.’

Reigning K League 1 champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors will be up next. Jeonbuk, two-time ACL champions, will face Urawa Red Diamonds at Saitama Stadium in Saitama, Japan, today for their Group G campaign.

Jeonbuk, now led by Jose Morais, former assistant to Jose Mourinho, is looking to rebound from its 1-0 defeat to Buriram United on the road last month. Morais’ team is currently in third place in the group with one win and one loss, while Urawa leads with one win and one draw.

The two teams last met in 2013, when Jeonbuk had the edge over Urawa in the group stage with one win and one draw.

Jeonbuk’s veteran striker Lee Dong-gook will try to extend his ACL scoring record. Lee, who turns 40 on April 29, is currently the all-time leading scorer in the competition with 37 goals.

Tomorrow, defending Korean FA Cup champion Daegu FC will try to extend its two-game winning streak when it plays Sanfrecce Hiroshima in their Group F match at Hiroshima Athletic Stadium in Hiroshima, Japan.

Daegu is the ACL debutant, but the team has won its last two matches and is a surprise leader in Group F. Led by Brazilian head coach Andre, Daegu previously beat Melbourne Victory and Guangzhou Evergrande.

Daegu has become one of the most exciting teams to watch in the K League 1 with its efficient counterattacks and energetic defense. Brazilian forward Cesinha has been a key playmaker to lead the team’s attack, while national team goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo has been showing his presence in the net. Daegu’s Japanese midfielder Tsubasa Nishi will also be ready to face players from his country.

Ulsan Hyundai FC will welcome Kawasaki Frontale at Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan, 400 kilometers south of Seoul, tomorrow to cement its lead in Group H. Ulsan, coached by Kim Do-hoon, has one win and one draw, while Kawasaki has one win and one loss.

The two teams clashed last year in the group stage, and Ulsan managed to get a 2-1 win at home and collected a 2-2 draw on the road. Ulsan, the 2012 ACL champion, is the current leader in the K League 1, with four wins and two draws.

Ulsan’s defense, led by center-back duo Yun Young-sun and Dave Bulthuis, has yet to concede a goal at the 2019 ACL. The team’s offense, powered by Brazilian striker Junior Negrao and midfielder Kim Bo-kyung, will need to overcome Kawasaki’s Korean goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong.

Yonhap