FC Seoul’s Spanish defender Osmar Ibanez Barba has warned his side cannot underestimate Vietnamese side Hanoi T&T ahead of their AFC Champions League qualifying playoff on Tuesday night.
Hanoi T&T, runner up in the V-League last season, qualified for the final round playoff after a comprehensive 4-0 win over Indonesia’s Persib Bandung last week.
“These games can be difficult because people may think it should be easier for the “stronger” team,” the former Buriram United man said.
“We can’t underestimate them and we have to play the same as any other game – 100% effort and sacrifice for the team and then let’s see how the game goes.”
Despite the K League Classic season not starting for another few weeks and the fact the V-League has been ongoing since January, Osmar is confident the work his side has done in pre-season will counter any rustiness on their behalf.
“At the beginning (of the match) it could be better for them because they’re already playing games, but we had a good pre-season…we ran and suffered a lot getting ready for the game.
“We played a few games looking for the best way to play and the most suitable style for us. I think we will be ready for this game.”
The club from the Korean capital has come close in the last two years to getting their hands on the silverware, losing in the final to Guangzhou Evergrande in 2013 and getting knocked out in the semi final by eventual champions Western Sydney Wanderers last year.
As luck would have it, should FC Seoul get past Hanoi T&T on Tuesday night, those two teams lie in wait in Group H, together with Japan’s Kashima Antlers.
“I won’t call it revenge, but for sure if we go through there will be big games to play,” the 26-year-old said.
“It’s going to be a tough group with the last two ACL champions in it and one of the best Japanese teams, which means every team will be motivated to win.
“Any team qualifying from this group will be a strong contender in the final rounds.”
While he admitted their desire, obviously, was to finally win the title he again was reluctant to get ahead of himself.
“We know it is very difficult and there are many good teams that can do it (win the ACL) as well, so we have to go step-by-step and don’t think about the final already,” he warned. “We have to play the playoff first and then see how the group stage goes”
Born in Santona, Osmar came through the youth system at Racing Santander, playing for the reserve side and spending a season on loan with CD Salmantino, before returning to the then La Liga side, although he struggled for game time in his three seasons at the club. Midway through 2012 he moved to Buriram United in Thailand, where his form with Buriram United in their run to the quarter finals of the 2013 AFC Champions League caught the attention of teams across the continent, eventually securing a move to the Korean giants.
Now in his second season at the club, he has just been named vice-captain of the club.
“Absolutely, I’m more settled in the team but it’s not enough saying it, I have to keep working hard everyday to prove it and improve myself,” he told Football Channel Asia.
“I’ve just been appointed as vice-captain which is a huge responsibility for me. I want to keep growing as a football player, learning and being better.
“I already know my team mates and they know me as well so I hope all together we can make a strong team and be a strong challenger this season.”