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ACL Writers' Chat: Brisbane Roar vs Ulsan Hyundai Preview

AFC Champions League Preview - Brisbane Roar vs Ulsan Hyundai
With neither side capable of progressing to the AFC Champions League knockout rounds, Ulsan Hyundai have to travel to Australia midweek to face Brisbane Roar with nothing but pride to play for. Brisbane Football Review's Scott Owen and K League United columnist Matthew Binns sat down to conduct a post-mortem on both teams' continental campaigns.

Matthew asks, Scott answers

Matthew Binns: Both Brisbane and Ulsan came into this competition via play-offs and were “out” of this tournament in the previous round of fixtures. What lessons do you think can be taken from Brisbane’s participation in this year’s ACL?

Scott Owen: While there’s a few lessons to be learned for Brisbane from their participation in the competition, there has been some positives with wins away to Shanghai Shenhua and at home to Kashima Antlers. On the whole though it’s not been good enough to progress. Despite that it was refreshing to see Brisbane trust their younger players and one of the biggest lessons to come from the 2017 ACL campaign will hopefully be that if the coaching staff trust them, they are good enough to contribute to the first team.

MB: While it may still mostly feel like negatives, who has stood out for Brisbane in their Champions League campaign?

SO: While he hasn’t quite replicated his form from the qualifiers in the Group Stage, Brandon Borrello’s five goals in the competition make him the clear standout for Brisbane in the 2017 Champions League. Aside from Borrello, a few of the clubs younger players like Joe Caletti, Dane Ingham, Nicholas D’Agostino and Cameron Crestani have really emerged as first team players for the future throughout this campaign.

MB: With the A League now having drawn to a close, Brisbane have guaranteed a play off spot for next year’s Champions League. It may be a long while away yet, but what changes would you have liked to have seen taken place by then?

SO: The 2018 playoffs for Brisbane are still a long ways off and if recent history is anything to go by there will be numerous twists and turns both on and off the field over the off-season before we get to that point. In terms of changes there will be a few with club legend Thomas Broich and striker Jamie Maclaren both departing Brisbane after this game and the pressure will be on to find replacements. Id also like to see the young players who’ve got their chance towards the end of this season continue their development in the first team next season with another ACL campaign in mind. 

MB: Wednesday’s game is mostly for pride. Do you see Brisbane using this as an opportunity to try something new, or will they look for a win to send the fans off on a positive?

SO: The original plan was to use this game to give departing club legend Thomas Broich a fond farewell, however it was confirmed today that he won’t play due to an ankle injury. With that plan now out of the window, the focus is likely to be on giving the clubs younger players another chance to show what they can do while also trying to end what has been a mixed ACL campaign on a positive note.

MB: How do you see this game playing out?

SO: It’s hard to say really because neither side has that incentive of the last 16 to play for so it’s a game which could go either way, in terms of being an open entertaining contest or a bit of a struggle with limited excitement. Either way I do expect the game to be a much closer contest than when the two sides met on Matchday two, with Brisbane having far more time to prepare than last time around.

Ultimately though I think both sides will cancel each other out and share the points as both sides involvement in the 2017 Champions League draws to a close.

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

Scott asks, Matthew answers

Scott Owen: Like Brisbane, Ulsan will bow out of the competition, how would you rate their performances in the ACL this year?

Matthew Binns: As mentioned in our previous chat, Ulsan were entered in this competition at the last minute with little expectations prior to the play-offs. With qualification then confirmed, the club undertook some serious spending in order to make sure they were competitive. In that sense, their failure to progress has certainly proved less understandable, although acquiring lots of players last minute and hoping it clicks almost instantly was always going to be somewhat of a gamble.

Annoyingly, the team never really got to grips with the tournament, scoring six times in the group stages, all against Brisbane. This is despite the attacking acquisitions of Mislav Orsic, Dimitri Petratos and Lee Jong-ho to bolster their attacking threat. I also do not think the manager was right for the task, often looking unsure on how to break down sides (see the games against Kitchee and Muangthong United) and persisting too long at times with ineffective strategies. Kim Do-hoon did not sign on to manage in the Champions League this year admittedly, and it is certainly hyperbolic to call for his head, but if Ulsan's pre-season ambitions were to qualify for next year's tournament, why hire a manager whose other experience at the helm was with a struggling Incheon United side who averaged less that a point per game last year before sacking him? He does have extensive experience as a coach and an assistant though and it seems he is now getting to grips with the upper echelons of league. If Ulsan do qualify for ACL next season, he and the team should hopefully be stronger for this experience.

SO: Did any particular players stand out over the course of the group stage? 

MB: Seems a bit of a cop-out giving this as my answer yet again, but Mislav Oršić has probably been Ulsan's best player in all competitions so far this year. There was good reason why he was highly coveted by Jeonbuk as a replacement for Leonardo before their disqualification was announced. He has good pace, drive and dribbling ability down the left flank, not to mention his crossing and shooting abilities. It was believed he opted for Ulsan as he wanted to have his first taste of Champions League action, and therefore will be disappointed for the adventure to have ended so quickly. He is only 24 though and will have learned from this experience with the team. I am sure he will have another opportunity to prove himself on this stage again.

SO: A question we asked last time surrounding Dimitri Petratos, with more game time under his belt how is he going over in South Korea?

MB: Dimitri Petratos has not featured for Ulsan in the starting eleven or amongst the substitutes in any competition since being taken off in the 73rd minute against Muangthong United back on the 12th April. Unfortunately, as seems to be an annoying trait with many K League clubs, injury information is not forthcoming so it is not clear why he had such a lengthy time away from the squad. Team photos would suggest he has made the trip to Brisbane though to face his former club.

Initial performances have been mixed but mostly positive, with the player only completing ninety minutes once this campaign (in the reverse of this fixture). That said, he runs well with the ball, creates plenty of space and has an assist in both the league and ACL. He would certainly not be the first former A League player to have teething difficulties in Korea though, so hopefully the management and fans take a longer term view when assessing him. His signing was certainly a welcome one and it seems he does have the ability to really make a name for himself at Ulsan given time. To answer your question, I would say it is still too soon to call.

SO: How do you see Ulsan approaching this game? Do you think they will bring their best side in hopes of ending the campaign on a positive note, or will they take the opportunity to rest a number of key players with the K-League season in mind?

MB: Ulsan have found themselves in 3rd place in the league somewhat surprisingly given their ACL form. With a visit from second placed Jeonbuk on Sunday, I would be very surprised if the manager uses or even takes his strongest lineup on a long haul flight when they can be using the time to focus on the league. Sentimentality will likely mean Petratos makes an appearance to be given a proper farewell after his sudden departure from Brisbane, but I imagine it will mostly be a collection of the club's youngsters, reserves and those in need of match fitness that will feature on Wednesday night.

SO: How do you see this game playing out?

MB: This game is more of an annoyance to the Korean side given its lack of meaning and lengthy travel time, regardless of the positive spin they may try to put on it. Perhaps those who feature will use this as their opportunity to prove a point, but I cannot look beyond Brisbane for this one.

Matthew's Predicted Score: Brisbane Roar 2-1 Ulsan Hyundai

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.

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