ACL preview: Wanderers FC v FC Seoul

With a huge audience across the region, this is one of the biggest games in the history of any Hyundai A-League club. Poised at 0-0 after the first leg, something's got to give in the deciding second leg at Wanderland tomorrow night. Here's what you need to know.

Fixture details

Squads:  

Wanderers: Ante Covic, Daniel Mullen, Daniel Alessi, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Antony Golec, Brendan Hamill, Shannon Cole, Alusine Fofanah, Mateo Poljak, Yianni Perkatis, Jason Trifiro, Iacopo La Rocca, Kwabena Appiah, Labinot Haliti, Vitor Saba, Mark Bridge, Tomi Juric, Brendon Santalab, Dean Bouzanis, Jaushua Sotirio

FC Seoul: Yong-Dae Kim, Sang-Hoon Yoo, Du-Ri Cha, Jin-Kyu Kim, Hyo-Jin Choi, Osmar Barba, Woong-Hee Lee, Seung-Jo Kang, Myong-Jin Ko, Yo-Han Ko, Sang Hyup Lee, Everton Santos, Hee-Seong Park, Kwang-Min Ko, Hyun-Tae Choi, Sergio Escudero, Mauricio Molina, Joo-Young Kim, Dong-Suk Kim, Jung-Han Choi, Je-Hyuk Sim, Nam-Choon Kim

Hashtag: #ACL2014 #WSWvSEO

Broadcast coverage: Fox Sports 3, Wednesday, October 1 at 7pm (kick off 7.30pm)

Bluffer’s guide

It promises to be another tense and tight evening as the Wanderers aim to become just the second Australian side – since Adelaide United in 2008 – to make the ACL final.

If the first leg is anything to go by, there is very little between the two sides and goal-scoring chances could again be limited.

It means the first goal on Wednesday night will be vital to deciding the winner of the tie. Seoul, one of the biggest and most successful clubs in the K-League, are aiming to make the final for the second straight year.

Route to goal

The Wanderers will be boosted by the return of attackers Tomi Juric and Brendon Santalab, as well as the versatile Shannon Cole.

It will give Tony Popovic a few more options and a great deal more firepower in the front third. 

Juric offers a different presence to Labinot Haliti – who started in the first leg – which will allow the home side to be much more direct and put greater pressure on Seoul’s back three.

The first leg was the only time in 11 ACL games the Wanderers have been kept scoreless but with Juric, Santalab and Cole back and a huge home crowd behind them it’s hard to see them not putting one past Seoul ‘keeper Yong-Dae Kim.

Seoul is without Yun Il-Rok who was injured on Asian Games duty, while Spanish defender/midfielder Osmar Barba is racing the clock to be fit. Sergio Escudero – who wasted a couple of great chances in the first leg – will again be the visitor’s best outlet for a goal while Colombian playmaker Mauricio Molina could be the x-factor.

Who’s been in the spotlight this week?

Wanderers skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley has been rewarded for his consistent form over the last couple of years by earning a recall to the Socceroos squad for next month’s friendlies against UAE and Qatar.

But before he can focus on grabbing a green and gold jersey he will have his work cut out trying to keep the likes of Sergio Escudero, Everton Santos and Mauricio Molina quiet.

If the Wanderers are to continue their fairytale run to the final, Topor-Stanley and the rest of his defence will need to be at the top of their game.

Mistake and master-stroke?

It could be a master-stroke for Seoul coach Yong-Soo Choi to use Mauricio Molina from the start. The Colombian was only a second half substitute in the first leg but they immediately looked a better side when he was on the pitch.

It would be a mistake for the Wanderers to go all-out for the goal which would put them through to the final, with Seoul knowing an away goal would put them in the box seat to progress. 

Form lines

The Wanderers haven’t played a competitive match since the first leg. With the Hyundai A-League season still over a week away from starting, Tony Popovic’s squad have been able to focus solely on the clash and they should be physically and mentally fresh enough to produce their best.

Seoul had the weekend off in the K-League, allowing them to arrive in Australia early to prepare for this game. The Koreans shouldn’t be short on confidence, currently on an unbeaten run of 13 games in all competitions. They are hitting their straps at just the right time of the season.

Prediction

Result: Wanderers 2-1 FC Seoul

Back in front of a raucous home crowd, the Wanderers will be confident of getting the victory to get them through to the final.

They have been sensational in the knockout stages at Parramatta and with Juric back in the side look a far more dangerous outfit.

It could very much come down to which side gets the first goal. If it’s the Wanderers you would back them do enough to get a victory but if Seoul strikes first the home side might find it hard to break down their defence at least twice.

It will be a cracking atmosphere at Wanderland and that could be what helps get the Wanderers over the line and keep the club’s fairytale run into an ACL final.