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ACL Round of 16 Preview: Nagoya Grampus vs Daegu FC

K League side Daegu FC are set to embark on a historic journey by facing off against J.League's Nagoya Grampus this Saturday at Toyota Stadium on the road in the Round of 16 of the AFC Champions League. Can the Korean side make more history with a first tournament win, or will the in-form J.League side advance to the quarter final? K League United's Daegu FC correspondent Muyeol Jung previews the clash.

Recent Form

Nagoya Grampus
Nagoya Grampus appear to have been in excellent form, undefeated in all competitions for one month with seven wins and seven clean sheets and a 1-1 draw in their last eight games. In the latest league game played last Friday, they bagged a comfortable 3-0 win over Tokushima thanks to two penalties and an own goal.

Daegu FC
Lee Byunggeun's Daegu FC have turned things around with two wins and a goalless draw in three games after five straight defeats in the league due to a hang over from self-isolation and significant injuries. Before they flew to Nagoya, the Sky Blues came from behind to beat Pohang 2-1 on the road and became the second club in the league to record a win over all K League club this season following league leaders Ulsan Hyundai.

Head to head

The two sides have never clashed with each other before in any competition.

Perhaps it might be wise to look at each team's result in the group stage of AFC Champions League 2021. Nagoya were held to a 1-1 draw by Pohang in the return fixture after the Grampus's 3-0 win over the Korean side in the first match of the group stage.

Meanwhile, Daegu FC fell to two straight defeats to the invincible Kawasaki Frontale in the group stage (3-2 and 3-1).

Team News

The club officially didn't announce the squad for the tie, it is believed that about 20 players have travelled to Nagoya with a few injured players and a suspended player left in Korea; Kim Jaewoo, Kim Wooseok, Park Byunghyun, and Lee Jinyong through injury and captain Kim Jinhyuk (suspension).

Manager Lee Byungguen's selection will likely be similar as usual with young defender Jo Jinwoo continuing to start in a back three. Giant defender Jeong Taewook came off the pitch last time out with what looked like a groin injury, but he is likely to start in defence. Jeong Seungwon, who dropped out due to a chronic neck injury, is also likely to return. The expected line up is below and the substitutes are Lee Yunoh, Park Seongsu, Park Hanbin, Lee Keunho, Ahn Yongwoo, Jeong Chi-in, Jang Sungwon, Oh Huseong, and Lee Sangki.

Expected line up for Daegu against Nagoya

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What to Watch

Can Daegu overcome J.League phobia?
It is not a secret that the Sky Blues have some difficulties in playing against J.League teams for some reasons. The Korean club have never beaten any J.League clubs in AFC Champions League with four straight defeats; two to Sanfrecce Hiroshima in 2019 and two to Kawasaki Frontale in 2021.

However, despite the defeats against formidable Kawasaki who were on 30 games unbeaten run by then this season, their performances against the J.League leaders were brilliant and seriously could have stunned them if they had defended more resolutely with the service of Jeong Seungwon and Jeong Taewook who were unfortunately away for the Olympics Team's training.

Versatile midfielder Jeong Seungwon looks to play for Daegu with Jeong Taewook in AFC Champions League
This time, thankfully, we have their services back, although both are not physically 100 % fit due to some minor injuries. Nevertheless their role will be undeniably massive en-route to Daegu's first win over a J.League side as well as the first tournament win in the knockout stages.

Who to Watch

Australian international goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak will look to show off his shot stopping skills against Daegu's talisman Cesinha. The shot stopper massively contributed to the team's water tight defending with 21 goals conceded in 28 league games, which is the second best in 20 teams following Kawasaki's 17 goals.

Sho Inagaki (L) is competing for the ball with Cesinha in a white kit in AFC Champions League 2019
Sho Inagaki is another player to watch out. The Japanese midfielder recently made his international debut on Japan's famous 14-0 win over Mongolia at the age of 29, but he might be better remembered for Daegu fans as one of Sanfrecce Hiroshima players who beat the Sky Blues twice in 2019 AFC Champions League group stage. This season, he has six goals to his name in 28 games.

Upfront, Brazilian forward Mateus needs attention as currently the 167 cm tall forward is the team's top scorer with seven goals in 28 games.


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