ACL preview: Wanderers v FC Seoul
Improving in the Hyundai A-League, Western Sydney Wanderers FC's ACL group campaign reaches a pivotal moment on Tuesday night against a familiar foe from South Korea.
Wanderers could take a huge step towards progression to the AFC Champions League knockout stages with a win over FC Seoul in Parramatta.
Likewise for Seoul, who'll have revenge on their minds after last season's semi-final knockout at the hands of the red and black, three points would be worth their weight in ACL gold at this stage of the campaign.
Guangzhou Evergrande is all-but through, top of the group with three wins out of three, meaning the Wanderers and FC Seoul are elbowing each other for second spot.
It couldn't be tighter. Both sides are currently level on four points although Tony Popovic’s side currently has their noses in front on goal difference, by the solitary goal.
It all points to another fascinating night of Continental football at the home of the reigning Asian champions.
With the head-to-head record between two sides the deciding factor - if teams are tied at the end of the group stage - this clash takes on even greater importance.
Despite just one win in their last five Hyundai A-League matches, the Wanderers have performed well lately, including a 1-1 draw with Melbourne City FC on Friday night.
While FC Seoul are just at the beginning of their domestic campaign, Choi Yong-soo's men have struggled to find results, with just one win from their first four K-League matches.
That victory came on the weekend, though, a 1-0 win over Jeju United thanks to a last-minute goal from substitute Everton Santos.
But Wanderers boss Tony Popovic also feels his side is finding their groove in time for what is a vitally important clash for his weary troops.
“We’ve put ourselves in a good position to go through in a very tough group and we have two home matches coming up,” Popovic said.
“This one is a crucial one for both teams and we’ll make sure the team we put out on Tuesday gives it their all. We want a positive result on Tuesday and if we can get that we know that we’ve put one foot into the next round.”
The Wanderers have a lengthy casualty ward with the likes of Matthew Spiranovic, Nikita Rukavytsya, Brendan Hamill and Brendon Santalab all unavailable.
It means Popovic is limited in what kind of side he can put out. If Antony Golec can shrug off injury he should come in at left-back in place of Sam Gallaway while Iacopo La Rocca will start at either centre-back or midfield.
The other debate is who to start with up front, with Kerem Bulut perhaps to get the nod ahead of Tomi Juric who played almost 80 minutes in tough conditions on Friday night.
Like in Seoul last month, Wanderers will need to get the better of FC Seoul’s impressive imports Mauricio Molina, Osmar Barba and Santos, who'll be buoyed by that goal on the weekend.
Western Sydney Wanderers v FC Seoul Tuesday night, 7.30pm kick-off at Parramatta Stadium
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