Seongnam coach Kim Hak-bum has declared both his side and Gamba Osaka are under pressure heading into their AFC Champions League clash tonight after both sides suffered opening round losses last week.
Seongnam, who only just avoided relegation to K League Challenge last season and qualified for the AFC Champions League after a fairytale win in the Korean FA Cup, suffered a 2-1 loss away to Thailand’s Buriram United last week, while Gamba Osaka fell 2-0 at home to Guangzhou R&F.
“Both Seongnam and Gamba lost their opening matches, so we are both under pressure to win,” the 55-year-old said. “But Seongnam is playing at home so we are confident about winning this match.”
Their recent home form, however, suggests it will be a much tougher task, only winning two of their last seven at home in K League Classic last season.
Given their struggles in the league last season, many have written off Seongnam as a challenger this year, but Kim says his team wants to fly the flag for Korean football.
“It’s the second match for us in the ACL and the players and I will do our best to make the K League proud,” he said. “We aim to win and show the power of the K League clubs in this competition.”
Korean clubs have an enviable record in the AFC Champions League in recent years, with four different clubs winning the title since 2006, including Seongnam (in their previous guise as Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma) in 2010.
In fact, Seongnam also have an enviable record in the AFC Champions League, only failing to make it past the group stage once in eight previous attempts.
Coming off the back of an historic domestic treble, Gamba Osaka started their domestic campaign in perfect style over the weekend, winning the season opening Super Cup 2-0 against rivals Urawa Reds.
That has given Kenta Hasegawa’s side a confidence boost as they head to South Korea, with last season’s J.League Manager of the Year declaring his side would return with all three points.
“The AFC Champions League has a high level of players and teams, so even though we lost it doesn’t mean we’re not good, it just means we have to try harder,” he said. “My team is doing their best in training for this match and although we lost our first match, we will win our second match.”
One player he is familiar with is striker Kim Dong-sub, who was on the books of Shimizu S-Pulse from 2008 to 2010 when Hasegawa was S-Pulse manager.
“We will try our best to counter Seongnam’s stronger players like striker Kim Dong-sub, who I remember being very fast and physical when he played in the J.League,” the former Japan international said.