After failing to get past the Round of 16 in their last three AFC Champions League campaigns, Jeonbuk Hyundai are determined to get this year’s campaign off to the best possible start when they host Japan’s Kashiwa Reysol at home tonight.
The defending K League Classic champions, who finished a massive 14 points clear of second-placed Suwon Bluewings last season, will line up for their sixth consecutive ACL appearance when they take to the field in Jeonju tonight.
“The players have prepared well for this match during winter training,” said Jeonbuk coach Choi Kang-hee. “They know that this is an important match, so we will prepare well and win the match.”
That confidence might be somewhat tempered by the news that captain and last season’s K League Classic MVP Lee Dong-gook and Australia’s Asian Cup winning defender Alex Wilkinson are under injury clouds heading into tonight’s encounter.
The potential loss of Lee, who also missed South Korea’s Asian Cup campaign with injury, could be offset by the signing of Brazilian striker Edu from FC Tokyo and the return of fellow Brazilian Eninho after a season and a half in China with Changchun Yatai.
“This is our first match in 2015 and it is also a home match,” said Choi.
“It will be an important match for our club’s first goal, which is to reach the Round of 16 of the AFC Champions League.”
To do so they will need not only to get past 2013 semi finalists Kashiwa, who only sealed their place in the competition with an extra time win over Chonburi last week, but also Shandong Luneng from China and Vietnamese champions Binh Duong.