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AFC Champions League Round of 16 [1st Leg] Preview: Ulsan HD vs. Ventforet Kofu

Ulsan HD's first match of 2024 sees the Horangi take on J2 League side Ventforet Kofu in the 2023-2024 AFC Champions League Round of 16. The two-time winners will be seen as one of the favourites to go all the way, certainly from the East side of the competition, but won't take Kofu lightly.

Ulsan finished second in Group I following three wins, one draw, and two losses, and ended the Group Stage with a 2-2 draw with another J.League side Kawasaki Frontale.

Ventforet Kofu, meanwhile, who are in the competition for the very first time, have surprised many with their performances so far, having won Group H by claiming three victories, two draws, and losing just once.

There could be debuts handed to several new Ulsan faces, including midfielders Kim Min-woo and Ko Seung-beom, full back Sim Sang-min and veteran centre back Hwang Seok-ho. The Munsu faithful will also be hoping to get a glimpse of the club's new Brazilian duo, defensive midfielder Matheus Sales and winger Kelvin.

Hong Myung-bo has indicated that he aims to have his team play at a quicker tempo and so how his team performs against Ventforet Kofu could offer some indication as to how the Horangi will begin the forthcoming K League campaign.

Press Conference



Opening remarks ahead of Thursday's match...

Hong Myung-bo: "Tomorrow we have our first game of 2024. It's an important game that marks the start of the year. As you know, we had several players away with the national team and so it's not a situation where we've have been able to train or prepare perfectly. As it is the first game, we're expecting there to be difficult situations. But we'll prepare well for them so that the game goes well tomorrow."

Kim Kee-hee: "As the manager has just said, the players are aware of the current situation. Nevertheless, with the time we have left, we'll prepare well so that we can show what we've worked on during pre-season."

On how preparations have gone for a match against a J2 League team that has performed well in the competition...

Hong Myung-bo: "We recognise that there have been big changes to their playing squad and have different foreign players. However, it's not possible to say that we have completely grasped the information about them. Nevertheless, we've given as much information as we could to the players. Most importantly, what's been said to the players is how well we can perform.

On whether the players who have been away for the Asian Cup will play...

Hong Myung-bo: "Those players ended the league season and cup competitions in December and then went straight off for international duty without a break. It's correct that these players played a lot in the Asian Cup. We'll assess these players in terms of their fitness and overall condition until today (Wednesday) and make a decision. I would like to say that the players who have been away with the national team have approached training and preparations tremendously well."

On Kim Kee-hee becoming captain and what the mood is like within the squad at the moment...

Kim Kee-hee: "It's an honour to be captain of Ulsan. We had a meeting about Kofu. There are no easy teams in the ACL Round of 16. We'll make sure we carry out what we've worked on in the game."

On how the new players have settled in...

Kim Kee-hee: "Indeed, new players, we have new players who have brought new strengths. We're working hard so that they can find their feet quickly."

On how the new players will fit in with the existing members of the squad...

Hong Myung-bo: "The key for foreign players performing is adjusting. The new foreign players haven't been with us that long yet but we're working hard to help them adjust. We'll get to grips with this and things will be fine when the season is underway."

On Seol Young-woo being linked with a move away...

Hong Myung-bo: "First of all, my thoughts haven't changed on that. When Seol Young-woo returned to us we both relayed our thoughts to each other. We both understand each other. Seol Young-woo is an important player for Ulsan, he's a player who has benefited from developing at this football club. If Seoul Young-woo can stay with the team for the next year ahead, we will work together to end things well and create a situation where everyone, including the fans, applauds and he can move to a bigger challenge."

Ulsan HD face Ventforet Kofu at 7 PM KST at the Ulsan Munsu Stadium this Thursday 15th February in the first leg of the 2023-2024 AFC Asian Champions League Round of 16. The second leg will take place on Wednesday 21st February at 6 PM KST.

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