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ACL Preview: Johor Darul Ta'zim vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings

Suwon look to rebound from a late loss to Vissel Kobe on Match Day 1 when they take on Malaysian giants Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) Tuesday night. To get some insight on the Bluewings' opposition and what to expect from two teams looking for their first #ACL2020 win, Ryan Walters spoke with Fox Sports Asia and the Malaysian Football League's Keesh Sundaresan.

Ryan Asks, Keesh Answers

Ryan Walters: It was a rough go for JDT in their ACL opener against Vissel Kobe losing 5-1. Considering Safawi Rasid drew things level in the 27th, how did everything go so wrong?

Keesh Sundaresan: Things were somewhat even in the first half, but JDT completely collapsed in the second half. You could attribute it to a number of reasons, including the fact that Andres Iniesta was simply out of this world that night. But fitness was certainly a concern. They were no longer pushing like they usually do after the 65th minute. The body language of some of the players after going 3-1 down was a let-down as well. Having said that, I think there is a general consensus amongst players, management, and even fans that the nature of that defeat was a one-off incident, and not necessarily a reflection of the team's strength this year.

RW: On the note of Safawi Rasid, he’s one of several Malaysian players who continually gets mentioned for a move abroad. Do you think another strong showing in ACL will see him leave home? Also, how worried should Suwon be about him?

KS: Safawi was absolutely brilliant last year and he will be key to not just JDT’s hopes domestically, but also in Asia. There has always been talks of him needing to move abroad and personally, I’d want to see him try his luck in a stronger league as well. But he’s got to be more consistent in Asia and JDT have also got to receive an offer that tempts them to let their prized asset leave. Safawi’s importance to this JDT team cannot be stressed enough. They will look to hang on to him, like any team would.

Suwon would definitely need to keep an eye on him. He loves to cut inside and has got a wicked left foot. Vissel Kobe were able to afford him very little space last time out, and that was effective in restricting his influence

RW: Things went quite a bit better in the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium opener where the Southern Tigers lifted the 2020 Sumbangsih Cup. What do you think the club will take away from that match and apply to Suwon midweek?

KS: I don’t think JDT had the best of games in that 1-0 win last weekend. They would probably admit that too, though a win is still a win. And it must have been a huge confidence boost to have notched a win in your first game at the new stadium. New signing Matt Davies looked good at right back, but he wont be eligible to play against Suwon. That leaves veteran fullback S. Kunanlan, who was poor against Vissel Kobe, for the starting XI on Tuesday. JDT will be eager to improve their output in the final third as well. It wasn't great against Vissel Kobe and Kedah. They need to get their attack running again on Tuesday night.

Keesh Asks, Ryan Answers

Keesh Sundaresan: Suwon Bluewings incurred a defeat against Vissel Kobe last time out. Were they far off the pace in that match, or was it exactly like the scoreline suggests - a close & tight affair?

Ryan Walters: Surprisingly enough, it was pretty much like the scoreline suggested. In the time between Suwon's competitive matches Kobe had won the Emperor's Cup, Super Cup, and dismantled JDT 5-1. The expectation going in was that the winter rust would be far too thick for Suwon to shake off in their first competitive match of 2020, but they more than held their own. Manager Lee Lim-saeng mainly got the lineup right and had his squad organized, effectively eliminating Iniesta from that match. It would be easy to say Kobe simply had better fitness and that's why they scored the late winner. As true as that is, it had just as much to do with missed defensive assignments. Regardless, Suwon looked far better than expected and much improved on the 2019 version.

KS: K League has been postponed due to the ongoing situation with Covid-19. How do you see this impacting Korean teams in ACL?

RW: It's going to be extremely difficult to get match fit. ACL is always a challenge for K League clubs as the first two or sometimes three group stage matches take place before the season kicks off. This year, it's hard to say when K League is officially going to kick off and get these players and coaches into the form they need to be in. In addition to the physical aspects, the team also hasn't had much time to gel. It wasn't a complete roster overhaul, but there are quite a few new key pieces like defender Doneil Henry, and forwards Sulejman Krpić and Kim Min-woo that will need game time with the team to fully fit in.

KS: Adam Taggart is undoubtedly someone JDT must pay close attention to. What do they have to do to nullify the threat he poses on the pitch?

RW: Taggart had a career year last year performing well above his expected goals through plenty of talent and being in the right place at the right time. Most of that success was in a three man front line with service coming in from the wings. Should Lee Lim-saeng line his men up in a similar formation Tuesday, then denying balls in from the channels will be key. However, should Suwon lineup with two up top, then JDT need to ensure Taggart receives the ball with his back to goal. It's not so much that he struggles in hold up play, but more so that it will force him into a provider role leaving the shooting to Krpić and others.

KS: Predictions?

RW: Suwon surprised last time out and played a much more complete game than expected. Given the lack of matches under their belt at this point, they'll likely sit deep in the first and simply try to keep things close. Look for them to fully attack the match in the second half and likely take their foot off the gas with 10-15 remaining if it's still tied as an away point would be a decent result.

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