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ACL Preview: Vissel Kobe vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings


Suwon Samsung Bluewings lock horns with Vissel Kobe in their final game of Group G on Friday knowing that only a win would keep them alive in the AFC Champions League. Despite losing the reverse fixture between the sides, Suwon have improved with consecutive draws against Guangzhou Evergrande after the competition resumed. Can they pull off one final result to secure qualification? K League United’s Nived Zenith previews the clash. 

Last Time Out

Vissel Kobe 0-2 Guangzhou Evergrande 

With qualification already secured, Vissel Kobe were not under the kind of pressure Guangzhou were in during the previous outing. The J1 League outfit did not enjoy the best of starts with both Yutaro Oda and Keijiro Ogawa failing to hit the target from two early opportunities. Shortly after, things took a turn for the worst as Hirofumi Watanabe conceded a penalty after a foul on Anderson Talsica, who made no mistake from the spot to break the deadlock in the 17th minute.

Following the opening goal, Guangzhou grew in confidence and started pushing to extend their lead. Talisca missed two opportunities to double the lead, while Zhong Yihao had an attempt thwarted by Hiroki Iikura. However, Ai Kesen eventually made it 2-0 in the 36th minute with a sublime free-kick. Vissel tried to up the ante in the second forty-five, where attempts from Douglas and Andres Iniesta were kept out of the net by Guangzhou shot-stopper Liu Dianzou. In the end, Guangzhou prevailed with a clean sheet and put an end to their seven-game winless streak in the AFC Champions League.


Guangzhou Evergrande 1-1 Suwon Samsung Bluewings

Park Kun-ha’s men played out an entertaining 1-1 draw with Guangzhou Evergrande in their last outing in the AFC Champions League. Both teams started with caution as they knew a defeat would end their hopes of qualifying from Group G. The Bluewings enjoyed two chances in the first half, but were unable to find the breakthrough as Ko Seung-beom’s free-kick from 30 yards sailed just above the target. Park Sang-hyeok also had a similar miss before the interval. 

However, Suwon eventually took the lead in the 52nd minute, when Lim Sang-hyeob pounced on a rebound from a free-kick by Lee Ki-je. With a possible elimination on the cards, Guangzhou stepped up their efforts and restored parity through Wei Shihao’s dinked finish in the 72nd minute. Although the Chinese Super League giants were reduced to 10-men after midfielder Zhong Yihao receiving a second yellow, Suwon were kept at bay as the teams shared the points.

Previous Meetings

The only time the sides have met each other was in the Group G reverse fixture back in February. Kyogo Furuhashi proved match-winner for Vissel Kobe on the night after he crushed Suwon with a stoppage-time winner at the Big Bird. 

However, that loss is unlikely to have a psychological impact on Suwon considering their inspiring performances against Guangzhou. As such, they are expected to fight tooth and nail to try and secure the win against Kobe. 

Team News

Vissel Kobe

Atsuhiro Miura is expected to have his full squad of players available for selection against Suwon on Friday. Although both Andres Iniesta and Brazilian attacker Douglas were limited to appearances off the bench in the last game, the influential pair looks likely to return to the fold for the upcoming game. 
Kyogo Furuhashi is another player who did not feature from the start against Guangzhou, but his goals have been valuable over the course of the AFC Champions League campaign and he will almost definitely play a more prominent role against Suwon. 

Suwon Samsung Bluewings

With none of their foreign signings available in Doha for the continental competition, Suwon have more than held their own so far. Owing to the absence of several key players, the onus has fallen on Kim Min-woo to lead the attack. 
Ko Seung-beom will also want to improve his output inside the final third. Currently, he is the player with the most number of chances created without scoring a goal. As many as 17 shots (12 attempts and 5 chances created) have not been rewarding for him in the ongoing campaign and Suwon will be hoping he can break the duck in the crucial game. 

[LISTEN: Weekend Preview]

The Adversary

Even though they have struggled in the J1 League this season, Vissel Kobe has endured a memorable debut campaign in the AFC Champions League. Pitted against two former champions in Group G, the side managed to become the first team to qualify ahead of both Guangzhou and Suwon.

Vissel Kobe rely heavily on a possession-based approach. In fact, only two teams (Yokohama F. Marinos and Ulsan Hyundai) have a higher tally of average possession than Kobe’s 60.1 per cent. Coincidentally, all the three teams have qualified for the next round of the competition as well.

The chances are that Suwon may have to absorb a bit of pressure before they can try to find the goals. However, the Bluewings will know they have to severely improve on their shooting accuracy, which is the second-lowest in the competition this term, if they are to nick a win and secure qualification. 

What To Watch

Can Suwon exact revenge and pull off the incredible?

All things considered, Suwon are still not favourites to qualify for the next round. Mathematically, they need a 2-0 win if they are to edge past Guangzhou, who currently occupy second-place in Group G. The last time Suwon registered a 2-0 win in an AFC Champions League group stage game was back in 2018, when they triumphed over Shanghai Shenhua. 

Although performances have improved in recent outings, it is still far-fetched to think Suwon are guaranteed a win on Friday. They will have to do it the hard way against Vissel Kobe, who beat them early on in the season, as they aim to pull off the incredible.

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The fact that Vissel Kobe suffered a comprehensive defeat in their last outing is an encouragement for Suwon. However, with a potential return to the starting eleven on the cards for Andres Iniesta and Douglas, they will be strengthened massively. 

Since Suwon have yet to register a win in the competition, a 2-0 triumph and qualification to the next round looks highly ambitious. However, stranger things have happened before and only time will tell. 

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