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Writers Chat: Ulsan Hyundai vs Brisbane Roar Preview

AFC Champions League 2017 Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs Brisbane Roar
Last week's first round of group fixtures saw Ulsan Hyundai get off to a difficult start, losing away to Kashima Antlers whereas Brisbane Roar held Muangthong United to a commendable draw at home. Both teams will now be looking to win this clash and kick their continental campaign into gear. our columnist Matthew Binns (myself) spoke to Scott Owen from Brisbane Football Review about what we could expect from this fixture.
(header images via uhfc.tv and facebook.com/brisbaneroarfc)

Matthew asks, Scott answers

Matthew Binns: Brisbane Roar has never proceeded beyond the group stages at this tournament yet this year they are in perhaps the most favourable group they could have asked for. What are fans expectations for the team in this competition and what importance does it have when considered alongside their domestic campaign? 

Scott Owen: The initial expectation for most here in Brisbane was that qualifying for the Group Stage would be a solid achievement given the spending power of Shanghai Shenhua. While the Champions League is an important competition, in most fans view the A-League is considered to be the higher priority for most people at the present time.

As you mentioned this group is far friendlier than the last couple Brisbane have faced in the Group stage, although I do feel that many underestimated the Muanthong side last week in the first matchday. The expectations here in Brisbane are that there will be a battle between Ulsan and Brisbane for second spot in the group behind Kashima, but after last week I think that Muanthong should be considered a genuine challenger for a spot in the knockout stages.

MB: Brisbane Roar fielded a number of younger players in the previous Champions League game against Muangthong United and they seemed to put in an encouraging and confident performance despite the goalless draw. Can we expect a similar line up when the team visits Ulsan or are more senior members set to return? 

SO: Given the constant run of games Brisbane are in at the moment it’s difficult to know which players will play, and there will probably be a better indication after the League game at the weekend. Midfield duo Matt McKay and Thomas Kristensen were close to playing against Muanthong and should be back, although defenders Corey Brown and Luke DeVere are out. New defensive signing Avram Papadopoulos only just arrived in Brisbane last weekend and is unlikely to be ready to play either.

If the senior players are back fit I expect that they would be thrown straight back into the starting line-up, if not the clubs talented youngsters like Dane Ingham, Cameron Crestani and Joe Caletti could get another chance to impress.

MB: Which player do you expect to cause Ulsan a number of headaches throughout this game? 

SO: Brandon Borrello and Tommy Oar used their pace on the counter attack extremely well in the qualifier away to Shanghai Shenhua and I expect both of those to feature prominently in this game. Borrello, who was recently named as the A-League Young player of the month has been in strong form lately and is definitely one to watch.

German import Thomas Broich is equally important however with his ability to unlock opposition defences and create opportunities for others at the heart of Brisbane’s attacking plan.

MB: Are there any areas of this Brisbane side that particularly concern you going into this fixture?

SO: Defensively is where there are some questions at the moment due to the current run of injuries in the side. With both Luke DeVere and Daniel Bowles out of the side youth team captain Cameron Crestani is getting an extended run, and while he’s done well so far, losing such an important player like Devere is a blow to any side.

It’s at full-back however where the issues lie for Brisbane, with youngster Dane Ingham only just learning the role as a converted winger. With Corey Brown out for the foreseeable future, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Matt McKay drops back from the midfield into that left back role.

MB: Finally, how do you see this match playing out?

SO: Given the short turnaround between Brisbane’s league game on the Saturday afternoon and the game over in Korea there a massive opportunity here for Ulsan to kick start their campaign with a win. Brisbane have been incredibly resilient over this run of games with the clubs never say die attitude once again on show, and with the attacking talent at John Aloisi’ disposal I think they will return home with a point.

Scott's Predicted Score: Ulsan Hyundai 1-1 Brisbane Roar

Scott asks, Matthew answers

Scott Owen: The big talking point surrounding Ulsan Hyundai from here in Australia surrounds Dimitri Petratos, who recently transferred to the K-League from Brisbane Roar. How has Dimi settled in to Ulsan and is he likely to play in this match?

Matthew Binns: It's been difficult to judge how well he is adapting as Dimitri has only been eligible to play for one game so far (the 2-0 defeat to Kashima Antlers) but did not feature in the starting eleven, making his debut from the bench in the 69th minute. Unfortunately, the only thing he did of real note was collect a yellow card late on but I do not think fans will judge him too harshly based on his twenty minutes or so on the pitch. He was a signing that was certainly welcomed and his track record would suggest he will fit in well in Ulsan, especially given the recently signed talent that will accompany him. I am not sure if the manager will opt to start him against his former club, but I do expect him to make another appearance from the bench in the second half. I do think he will be more of a regular feature in the team when the more crucial reverse of this fixture takes place in May.

SO: Despite Brisbane playing Ulsan back in the 2012 Group Stage, the Korean side is something of an unknown for many here in Brisbane. What can you tell us about the teams style of play, and which players we should keep an eye on?

MB: Unfortunately, supporters are also unsure of what to expect this season. Last year the team often opted for either a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-2-1 but frequently found themselves unable to score, relying on their defence to ensure they kept in the upper echelons of the league table. Highly rated defensive players and their best striker from 2016 have now moved on, but so has the manager and the new appointment Kim Do-hoon has been allowed to bring out the cheque book, especially once Champions League qualification was confirmed. The players they have signed, particularly Oršić, Lee Jong-ho and the aforementioned Petratos certainly indicate a more attack-minded intent. The new manager has also wheeled out both a 4-1-4-1 (when not all new players were signed or eligible) and a 4-4-2 (morphing into a 4-2-3-1) in his two competitive games so it remains to be seen what his preference will be with these players at his disposal. I expect something leaning towards the latter though.

SO: After receiving a somewhat late call-up to the Champions League due to Jeonbuk Hyundai being excluded from the competition, what sort of expectations are there for the team in terms of progressing beyond the Group Stage?

MB: There should have been little expectation, but their qualification has allowed them to attract stronger names than originally anticipated. Given the heightened competition in the league this season, you may also think this could be Ulsan may struggle to qualify again next year so why not go all out? The team they have formed looks strong on paper, but their late inclusion in the tournament and recent purchasing spree has meant these players and manager have not had enough time to work out their strongest line up and formation, or gel together which was most evident in their play off game against Kitchee. I still believe they will be competing for progression from the group, but I hold little hope for these opening exchanges and any supporters expecting more will perhaps need to lower their sights for the time being. If they can just keep in contention for progression though, then they should be coming together as a more finely tuned unit in time for the final group fixtures.

SO: Having suffered a 2-0 defeat against Kashima Antlers last week in Matchday one, is this game perceived as a must win from Ulsan’s point of view?

MB: The result against Kashima Antlers, away against the champions of Japan and Club World Cup finalists, was possibly deemed as "losable" amongst the more realistic supporters, providing they perform when in Ulsan. In the Champions League, it is incredibly important to win your home games. Last year's champions Jeonbuk won one game away from home last season but made sure to win all but one of their fixtures in Jeonju. Given that ties with Australian teams are always difficult for the away side due to the distance involved, this clash will have been highlighted early on by Ulsan as a prime opportunity to get three points on the board and ensure they do not get left behind. Whether they can or not is another matter entirely

SO: Who do you see winning this game?

MB: Despite this being a must-win, I am still unsure this Ulsan team has enough to claim victory at this moment in time. There were flashes of brilliance and reasons to be optimistic in their defeat to Kashima, but Brisbane are a strong unit and are in the middle of their domestic campaign, whereas Ulsan are still in their pre-season finding their feet ahead of the league kick-off next weekend. Home advantage will help to ensure they do not lose, but a lack of coheison will likely mean they do not take all the points on offer. I will also opt for a score draw.

Matthew's Predicted Score: Ulsan Hyundai 1-1 Brisbane Roar

We would like to extend our thanks to Scott Owen for joining us on this piece. Scott is from Brisbane Football Review, a site dedicated to providing previews, opinions and analysis on all things Brisbane Roar. We highly recommend you visit their website or follow them on Twitter to keep up to date and get all the latest insights on The Roar.

Have Your Say

Agree or disagree with your writers comments? Join the debate below by leaving your opinion in the comments. You can also vote in our Twitter poll below to see how others expect this game to play out.

FIFA 17 Prediction

This season we are also simulating key match ups in both the K League and AFC Champions League using FIFA 17. This week, Ulsan Hyundai and Brisbane Roar have been given the virtual treatment. You can view the highlights below or by clicking here.

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