AFC Champions League Group F, Matchday 1: Ulsan Hyundai host FC Tokyo in battle of the runner-ups
The AFC Champions League kicks off on Tuesday evening for the East Zone. In Group F Ulsan Hyundai will host FC Tokyo. Both sides qualified for the tournament by finishing second in their respective domestic leagues.
The other match in Group F between Perth Glory and Shanghai Shenhua has been postponed until May as a result of the Coronavirus epidemic.
Ulsan are the only side in Group F to have won the tournament previously. In the 2012 edition of the ACL, they beat Saudi Arabian side Al-Ahli in the final 3-0. They were also paired with Tokyo in the group stages that year.
Manager Kim Do-hoon is likely to stick with the 4-1-4-1 formation that proved effective for much of last season.
That said, many of the moving parts have been renewed from and this match is likely to see several Ulsan debutants.
Norwegian target man, Bjorn Johnsen, has arrived from AZ Alkmaar and will join Brazilian forward Junior in spearheading the attack.
The midfield has been strengthened with new additions Ko Myong-jin and Yoon Bit-garam. Yoon is known for his goal-scoring ability from midfield and has even been dubbed as the Korean Michael Ballack.
Kim is said to be under pressure to deliver the good this year with Ulsan’s 2017 FA Cup win being the last accomplishment of note.
FC Tokyo are making their third appearance in the ACL and have never progressed past the round of 16. Manager Kenta Hasegawa has stated that he will be prioritizing this competition along with the league.
Tokyo will continue with the new dynamic 4-3-3 system that Hasegawa has been drilling in pre-season training.
The front three will consist entirely of Brazilian forwards. Adailton will return at center forward with Kashima Antlers loanee, Leandro to his left. 2019 club top scorer Diego Oliveira is set to return from his knee injury and will start as a right-sided forward.
Young Shuto Abe and experienced midfielder Takahagi Yojiro will make up the center of midfield, connecting defense to attack. Japanese international, Kento Hashimoto, will be in the holding position, dropping back into defensive duties as the wing-backs push forward.
Similarly, both sides will set out to showcase their new and improved squads with a point to prove after a trophy-less 2019 season.Published 11 Feb 2020, 06:17 IST