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Preview: Daegu FC vs Guangzhou Evergrande

Preview: Daegu FC vs Guangzhou Evergrande AFC Champions League Group F ACL
On a run of three games unbeaten, 2018 Korean FA Cup Champions Daegu FC will host two times Asian Champions League Winners Guangzhou Evergrande FC at DGB Daegu Bank Park this Tuesday night for their second group stage match. Daegu FC Correspondent Muyeol Jung sat down with Johnathan White from the South China Morning Post Sports Desk to discuss what can be expected from Tuesday's match

Muyeol Jung Asks, Jonathan White Answers

Muyeol Jung: Two times Asian Champions League Winners Guangzhou Evergrande FC are a very well-known Chinese football club in Korea and are seen as one of the favourites to win the competition. However, since 2015, which was their second crown, they saw a series of relatively unsuccessful campaigns, and particularly, the Evergrande’s exit in group stage in 2016 was a shock. What’s the reason behind poor results in recent years?

Jonathan White: To take 2016, they struggled at the start of that season, losing the opening CSL game to Chongqing Lifan and the malaise continued in the AFC Champions League where they got two points from the first four games. The last two seasons have been down to an absolutely bonkers two legs with Shanghai SIPG in 2017 and then last season it was Fabio Cannavaro’s former team Tianjin Quanjian who knocked them out, again on away goals.

MJ: What’s the main tactic for Guangzhou Evergrande?

JW: They are used to having the ball and they will look to work it forward, down the flanks, to Paulinho and Anderson Talisca arriving in the box late. Those two shooting from distance is another notable goal threat as is their presence on set pieces. Cannavaro opted for a 4-3-3 formation in the first two CSL games but reverted to their normal 4-2-3-1 in their win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Either way, it should mean taking the game to Daegu.

MJ: During the previous three games they played, the manager Fabio Cannavaro rotated the squad. For Chinese Super League matches, young Chinese players were given the chance to play whilst in ACL it was mainly, experienced, older players who started the game. Do you think this tendency will be employed again on Tuesday night?

JW: The main difference for the ACL is that there is no incentive to play youngsters as there is in the CSL. Aside from that, Evergrande should be beating most of the teams in the CSL while blooding the new signings that they made over the winter window, when they were very active in recruiting younger members of China’s national team, essentially becoming China’s regular season training camp. The more attacking they set out, the more of the younger faces we might see.

MJ: Evergrande made two new signings with Everton youth product Tyias Browning and Korean defender Park Ji-soo coming in to bolster the defence. They haven’t made their Super League debuts yet but played in the ACL game against Sanfrecce Hiroshima with regular full backs Li Xuepeng and Zhang Linpeng. Did you see any signs of weakness from that game, perhaps due to a lack of experience and time with teammates and communication problems?

JW: Any new defence has the possibility of a mistake in them but they looked comfortable aside from a few difficulties on corners against the J.League side. They also have a World Cup winning defender as their manager. If I was a Daegu fan I would be crossing my fingers for a defensive mix-up.

MJ: Putting aside Brazilian talents Paulinho and Talisca, which players do you think Daegu should be wary of?

JW: Wei Shihao is the most exciting of the players brought in. He has the talent to cause problems for any team in the competition and at his third big club needs to start doing that more often. Gao Lin is always a threat, too, but they have players capable of scoring from all over the pitch.

MJ: How do you envisage it to play out on Tuesday night?

JW: Evergrande should win and I would be shocked if they did not come away with three points. Last season saw them trophy-less for the first time in years and that should inspire them to get the job done. I’d expect they would want to get qualification assured as soon as possible and that means taking every game seriously.

Jonathan White Asks, Muyeol Jung Answers

Jonathan White: How seriously are Daegu taking the AFC Champions League this season. Are the club pinching themselves that they are even involved or is it a case of testing themselves at this level?

Muyeol Jung: In despite of fans’ mixed feelings about taking part in ACL competition, Daegu FC are taking the ACL very seriously, considering their preparations and comments from Daegu manager Andre and his players. Even though it is very busy schedule for them, in such a short time period and with a long journey to Australia, the gaffer has set out his strongest side so far. Therefore, I think they will give 100% with their strongest lineup as this will be the first ACL match at the new stadium.

JW: What atmosphere can Guangzhou Evergrande expect at the Forest Arena?

MJ: With a 12,000 capacity stadium set to welcome ACL football for the first time, it seems that nearly 10,000 tickets have been already sold out. Daegu have never hosted ACL football before so the fans are getting excited about it. Therefore, it will be a great night in a packed Forest Arena and a vibrant atmosphere.

JW: Are Daegu’s Brazilian trio the danger men?

MJ: Daegu have got Brazilian trio Edgar, Cesinha, and Dario up front, I have no doubts about Edgar and Cesinha as they have been instrumental in Daegu’s tactics going back to last season. As you have witnessed from Daegu’s first ACL game, they showed quality. However, I have fundamental doubts about Dario, who just joined Daegu ahead of this season. He made his K League and ACL debut as substitute, but to be frank, failed to make much of a difference on the pitch. 

JW: Daegu started with a 3-1 win away at Melbourne Victory - has that changed expectations for the AFC Champions League this season?

MJ: It does, to be honest. Not many fans were optimistic about Melbourne Victory away because of long journey and lack of experience in the competition. And those ominous feeling seemed to be ahead of Daegu until Victory took the lead with relative ease half way into the first half. However, miraculously, Daegu managed to level the game with an individual effort by Cesinha, which resulted in Daegu being composed enough to see the game out with a stunning performance. Therefore, their first ever ACL win, on the road no less, will have given Daegu a great amount of confidence and belief.

JW: What has changed for the team since last season’s seventh place K League finish and historic FA Cup win?

MJ: Not much has changed as there’s only one personnel change to the team from last year. Daegu's strategy for pre-season was to keep as much of the existing talent as possible and add a couple of new signings to bolster the squad. The only change in startling list is Kim Junyup at right wingback. From what I have seen in the last three games with his involvement for Daegu, the Sky Blues remain as resolute as last year.

JW: Daegu are unbeaten this season so far, including a 1-1 draw with champions Jeonbuk on the opening day. Do you expect this to change on Tuesday?

MJ: I think not only is Guangzhou Evergrande obviously the strongest side in Group F, but also they are one of the favourites to lift the trophy. So, this will be a very tough game for the hosts. However, as long as Daegu can play in the way they have been playing since last summer, Daegu can get a positive result. Also, hosting ACL game in Daegu for the first time will act as the strong motivation for them.

Monday 11th March Press Conference

Guangzhou Evergrande

Question: What do you think of Daegu FC as tomorrow's opponent?

Fabio Cannavaro: We analysed Daegu FC a lot, especially many games from the end of last season to this stage. I think Daegu are very well trained team with good performances based on a lot of work rate.

Question: What do you think Daegu FC's strengths and do you have plan for it?

Fabio Cannavaro: We know Daegu have got very good Brazilians; number 9 and number 11 [Edgar and Cesinha]. We think they combine with each other very well, but we do have a good measurement for them. Also, we need to focus on defending on set-pieces.

Question: What do you think of Park Ji-soo, your new signing?

Fabio Cannavaro: Even though he has played only one game for us, but he is very positive and professional player. He always gives out 100% in training. In spite of the minor language problem, he has very good relationship with his teammates. Ultimately, we would like to improve him as good enough to become a key figure in Korea National Team.

Question: Kim Minjae had a terrible night in Jeonju where he made a few mistakes against his former team, do you have any problem tomorrow (question from a Chinese journalist)?

Park Ji-soo: I don’t have any ties with Daegu FC, I don’t think I have any problems in playing against Daegu FC.

Question: What’s the reason for joining Guangzhou and what do you want to achieve?

Park Ji-soo: I was looking for a new challenge for myself, and the offer from Guangzhou was the something intriguing as Fabio Cannavaro was one of the best defenders in the world. I would like to improve myself here with the gaffer.

Question: Do you have any particular concerns about the defence due to lack of experience as a defensive line or communication problem as yourself and Tyias have played only once so far?

Park Ji-soo: Although we have played only once together, we have been practising together through training. In terms of communication, I don’t think we have any problems as I am learning Chinese words and English, as well as repetitive training and communicating through eyes let us overcome it.

Daegu FC

Question: Fabio will focus on holding Cesinha and Edgar tomorrow, how do you break the defence?

Andre: I think he is spot on, but we are much stronger as one team, rather than relying on particular players, so I have strong faith in our lads.

Question: Due to the busy fixture schedule, players must be fatigued. How are they?

Andre: As you said, we would be fatigued due to busy fixture schedule, but it has been a mere few weeks since the new season kicked off. So, I don’t think they are physically that fatigued. We are preparing for the match in a recovery perspective.

Question: Do you have any other plan in case the game doesn’t go according to plan?

Andre: Before the season started off, what I discussed with the Club President was to keep existing talent with two more players in each position, and I think I have got what I wanted. Therefore, any players from bench will do the same job in a way we have been training without any problems.

Question: Are you particularly focused on set-piece as the opposition manager stressed?

Andre: We do not focus too much on set pieces but we spend a lot of time practicing on training. We scored the stunning goal from a corner kick in the 2-0 win over Jeju, I think Guangzhou must come prepared.

Cesinha: As the gaffer said we spend a lot of time on set-piece training. I believe we can get a good result from it [set pieces] if we can play in a way we have trained.

Question: Are you more encouraged for this match to play against Talisca, and Paulino?

Cesinha: Regarding tomorrow’s game, having an opportunity to get involved with the match is the clear motivation. As you said, playing against giant clubs, famous players is something exciting, but I would like to play professionally as usual and a good outcome will hopefully follow.

K League United Guide to the 2019 AFC Champions League: here

Cesinha Interview: here

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