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Preview: Melbourne Victory FC vs Daegu FC

Preview Writers' Chat: Melbourne Victory vs Daegu FC ACL AFC Champions League
2018 Korean FA Cup Champions Daegu FC are about to make their ACL debut on 5th March against Champions League stalwarts ACL Melbourne Victory. Daegu FC Columnist Muyeol Jung and Asian football expert Paul Williams sat down to discuss what can be expected from the first ever meeting between the two teams.

Paul Williams Asks, Muyeol Jung Answers

Paul Williams: What is the feeling among the Daegu fans, do you think the club have a squad that is strong enough and deep enough to compete on two fronts in the K League 1 and ACL?

Muyeol Jung: The Daegu fans are really happy with the fact that the team are in the Asian Champions League for the first time, but they are keen for the team to get some positive results on the road. However, whether Daegu have a strong enough squad to fight on both fronts is something Daegu fans are worried about at the moment.

This year’s Daegu’s starting lineup appears to be as strong as last year’s because there were no significant changes. However, there are still doubts in regards to the depth of the squad. Like last year, the bench offers few options to Daegu, but Andre has faith in young players with potential who will eventually step up to help the team.

PW: How do you think Daegu will tactically approach this game? Will they be more defensive away from home, or will they attack the game?

MJ: With Brazilian gaffer Andre at the helm, Daegu take a defensive approach with counterattacking and I anticipate it to be employed as usual in Tuesday night. With it being Daegu's first time in ACL, I think the team will come to the game under a lot more pressure they have never experienced before. So, I think they could be even more defensive, especially early on.

PW: Here in Australia very little is known about Daegu FC, who are the key players and what are their strengths?

MJ: I suppose that Daegu FC are not the team that many Asian football fans are familiar with. Nevertheless, the Sky Blues have a few outstanding players backed up with young players with a lot of potential. Attacking-wise, upfront Brazilian duo Edgar and Cesinha have been the biggest assets in Andre’s side.

The towering centre forward Edgar, who joined Daegu last summer as a free agent from Buriram United, is very good at holding the ball and linking up with other attackers. Also, his strong headers and good finishing will pose threats to Melbourne. In addition, Brazilian playmaker Cesinha has pace, free-kick accuracy, and dribbling.

Between the sticks, Korean international goalkeeper, Jo Hyeon-woo will be positioned as usual. The shot stopper was not widely known until he showed off his brilliant skills at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. He had been considered one of the most consistent players in K League for last four years.

PW: The season started off well with a 1-1 draw against Jeonbuk, how did they play and how much confidence does that give the team travelling to Melbourne?

MJ: It was not a fine start for Daegu until half way into the first half when they took the lead from a looping header by Edgar at a set-piece. Even though Daegu let their lead slip away a few minutes later, they were very effective and comfortable in getting out of pressure from Jeonbuk and managed to create a few chances.

To be frank, Daegu could have got the result on the road if they were a bit luckier. By picking up that point with solid start against two-times Asian Champions and six-times K League Champions, Daegu proved that last year’s FA Cup win was not just fluke, and will certainly give them a huge confidence boost ahead of this ACL challenge.

PW: How do you see the game playing out?

MJ: I think that Daegu are likely to play cautiously as this is their ACL debut. However, if they can hold on till the halfway into the first half, then they may be able to be a bit bolder and use their pace.

PW: Score Prediction?

MJ: Melbourne Victory FC 1-2 Daegu FC

Muyeol Jung Asks, Paul Williams Answers

Muyeol Jung: Melbourne Victory have been on a four game win-less run since the 3-2 win over Central Coast Mariners in early February. What’s the atmosphere like among the squad ahead of their first ACL group stage match?

Paul Williams: The atmosphere in the team is still quite positive, but fans are starting to get a little restless with the lack of results over the last month. There has been mitigating circumstances, with injuries and suspensions meaning Kevin Muscat hasn’t been able to play a settled squad from one week to the next. The club has been targeting the ACL though, so the players will be focused to get their campaign off to a winning note on Tuesday.

MJ: What is the main tactic for Melbourne Victory? Do you think it will be employed in the first match against Daegu?

PW: Melbourne Victory are known as a team that likes to play attacking, free-flowing football and I don’t expect that to be any different in the ACL. They have a fantastic record at home in the AFC Champions League, so I expect them to come out and look to control the game on their turf.

Mostly this year Kevin Muscat has played a 4-4-2, with a narrow diamond midfield and the full backs pushing on to provide width, but this can vary slightly depending on the availability of players. Fingers crossed most of the squad should be available, so I expect this is how they will look to play.

MJ: Historically, Melbourne has claimed only one win from 14 meetings* against Korean Football clubs in continental competition since 2008, which dates back to their first meeting with a Korean club in 2008 against Jeonnam Dragons. However, Victory are unbeaten in 13 home games in the ACL since 2011. What do you think the reasons are behind these poor results against particularly Korean teams? 

*W1 D8 L5; Jeonnam in 2008, Seongnam in 2010, Jeju in 2011, Jeonbuk in 2014, Suwon Bluewings in 2016, Ulsan in 2018

PW: I wasn’t aware the record against Korean teams was so bad, so that doesn’t bode well. But as you said, and as I mentioned earlier, their home record is exemplary. I think Korean teams tend to match up well against Australian teams.

Australians like to play a slightly more physical game, as do the Koreans, so they aren’t intimidated by that and I think generally across the board the technical skill of the Korean players is at a higher level, which means they have been able to get the better of the Victory. Hopefully this year will be different.

MJ: In Korea, Melbourne Victory are well-known and as the club of Japanese midfielder Keisuke Honda Keisuke but which other players do you think Daegu have to be wary of?

PW: Obviously Keisuke Honda is the standout name, but for me the most important player for Melbourne Victory is Swedish striker Ola Toivonen. He too played at the World Cup last year and he’s been in terrific form for Melbourne this year, but has missed most of the last 4-5 weeks with injury and illness, and it’s no coincidence that has coincided with a downturn in form for Melbourne.

His movement and positioning, his touch and all round game awareness are at another level, and when he’s not out there Melbourne lose a lot in their attack. He missed the game on the weekend against Newcastle with illness, so hopefully he will be fit come Tuesday night. Raul Baena is a crafty central midfielder from Spain, and look out for Kosta Barbarouses too. He’s been playing off Toivonen this year in the two up front and has been in sensational form.

MJ: This clash will be their first meeting. How do you envisage it playing out?

PW: Melbourne Victory are determined to finally make an impact in the ACL, something they’ve never been able to do before, and finally it seems like they have the squad to be able to compete at this level. Given Victory’s excellent home record, I think they can get their campaign off to a winning start.

MJ: Score Prediction?

PW: Melbourne Victory 2-1 Daegu FC

Where to Download

If you would like to download this episode, you can find The K League United Podcast on a number of platforms linked below. You can also catch the show every week on Football Nation Radio at 5pm Sydney Time (or 3pm for those of you here in Korea).

iTunes | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Libsyn | TuneIn Radio

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