ACL 2017 Group Stage Round 1 – Previews

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This week sees the first round of the Group Stages of the 2017 ACL and for many of the teams it’s that much awaited first competitive match of the season and the chance to showcase the new additions to the squad. The first round has a couple of matches which even at this early stage could go a long way to deciding who gets out the group and who gets to “focus on the domestic scene”. With last year’s winners Jeonbuk being thrown out of the tournament all Korean eyes will be on ACL regulars Seoul and Suwon Bluewings to see if they can keep the trophy in Korea.

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FC Seoul v Shanghai SIPG (Tuesday 21st Feb)

FC Seoul start their Asian Champions League campaign with a home match against Andre Villa Boas’ Shanghai SIPG in what is generally regarded as one of the toughest ACL groups in recent years. Where SIPG are bolstered by players such as Hulk, Carvalho and Oscar, Seoul have seen their squad somewhat depleted with Adriano leaving for pastures new over the close season. Adriano had a fantastic group stage last year and will be undoubtedly be greatly missed with his replacement, Maurinho, hardly an eye-catching capture . With the other two members of the group being Urawa and Western Sydney Wanderers its fair to say that every point is a prisoner and neither team can afford a slow start. Shanghai came through the playoff stage with a rather routine 3-0 win over Sukhothai, Seoul haven’t exactly set the world on fire with their pre-season friendlies, it could all come too quick for the K-League Champions.

Prediction : Draw : Seoul 1 – Shanghai SIPG 1

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Kashima Antlers v Ulsan Hyundai (Tuesday 21st Feb)

The second Korean team involved in this year’s ACL are Ulsan Hyundai who found themselves the main beneficiaries of the ACL decision to prohibit Jeonbuk playing in this year’s tournament. Ulsan were promoted to the play-off stage after Jeju automatically moved up to take Jeonbuk’s place. They had a rather tense affair against Kitchee when the match went to penalties, this really was a match that they should be winning without too much huff and puff but I guess you can excuse them as they really didn’t get a whole lot of time to prepare. Ulsan make a welcome return to the ACL having last competed in 2014 when they failed to qualify from the group stages. They start their campaign with a tough trip to Japan to face J-League title holders and Fuji Xerox Cup winners Kashima Antlers. The main talking point of the match will undoubtedly be Kwon Sun Tae making his first appearance against a Korean team since his winter transfer from Jeonbuk. Ulsan themselves have seen a few new faces arrive in the close season with Mislav Orsic and Lee Jong Ho being two huge additions to their squad. As mentioned they did struggle against Kitchee and Kashima will be a tough nut to crack away. Brisbane Roar and Muangthong United make up the rest of Group E so they might just view this one as being “loseable”

Prediction: Home Win : Kashima 2 – Ulsan 0 

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Kawasaki Frontale v Suwon Bluewings (Wednesday 22nd Feb)

Korean cup winners Suwon Bluewings will head to Japan to start their ACL campaign and must be hoping for a better showing in the group stages this year than last year when they lost out on away goals to Melbourne Victory. They have strengthened quite a bit over the close season and seem to be building a team for an assault on the K-League title, signings such as Matt Jurman and Shin Hwa Young should more than compliment the squad which clinched the FA Cup to end the 2016 season. They seem to have managed to keep the prolific Jonathon in their ranks and on his day he is one of the deadliest in the K-League. This match will see Jung Sung Ryong line up against his old team for the first time since his J-League switch.  Kawasaki finished 3rd in the J-League last year and will be no pushovers and considering the other teams making up the group are Chinese giants Guangzhou Evergrande and Hong Kong’s Eastern it will almost certainly come down to the head-to-head between these two. Hopefully Bluewings will have learned from last year’s harsh lessons and be a little more focused in their home matches.

Prediction : Draw : Bluewings 1 – Kawasaki 1 

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Jeju United v Jiangsu FC (Wednesday 22nd Feb)

Our final Korean team in action are Jeju United who embark on relatively unknown territory as they make only their second ever appearance in the ACL, the first of which was back in 2011.They qualified courtesy of finishing third in the K-League and then were moved into Jeonbuk’s place after they were expelled. They had a good season last year and will be hoping to build on a rather surprising third place spot this year. They strengthened their squad by adding Frederic Mendy from Ulsan whilst bringing Aleksander Jovanovic back from China. They also signed the experienced Park Jin Po from Seongnam which should add some steel to their often leaky defence. In Jiangsu FC, they face a tough opening game against such big names as Ramires, Martinez and Teixeira as well as continuing the ex-player theme by coming face to face with Hong Jeong Ho. Add in Adelaide United and Gamba Osaka and they have a really tough group which they will do well to get even close to qualification from to be honest. They are difficult to beat on the island in the domestic scene but bringing that form into the ACL is a different kettle of fish altogether.

Prediction : Away Win : Jeju 1 – Jiangsu 3

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ACL Half-term Report

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Yesterday marked the conclusion of Round3 of this year’s ACL group stage so it’s time for a half-term report. So who have been the class swots, the class clowns and those that should really get expelled for bringing the game into disrepute. Each ‘student’ gets a grade with a letter for effort and a score for ability. 

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Form E

Teams P W D L GF GA GD PTS
JEONBUK HYUNDAI MOTORS (KOR) 3 2 0 1 6 4 2 6
JIANGSU FC (CHN) 3 1 2 0 4 3 1 5
FC TOKYO (JPN) 3 1 1 1 4 3 1 4
BECAMEX BINH DUONG (VIE) 3 0 1 2 2 6 -4 1

Jeonbuk Hyundai  Grade : C1

Although Jeonbuk is top of the class, he appears to have been doing the bare minimum to get by including an underwhelming performace at home to Binh Duong and a loss in China. Must do better or may get overtaken after half-term.

Jiangsu Sainty Grade : B2

Jiangsu informed me that she returned late from her Winter holiday and this clearly had an impact early on in the term as she struggled with Vietnamese. Doesn’t seem to have made full use of her top quality new study aids.

FC Tokyo Grade : B3

Tokyo has performed reasonably okay but needs to up his game if he wants to fulfil his potential.

Binh Duong  Grade : A4

Not everyone can go to Oxford and we are all about fulfilling potential. Binh Duong has improved greatly from last year and has exceeded my expectations.

Form F:

Teams P W D L GF GA GD PTS
FC SEOUL (KOR) 3 3 0 0 14 2 12 9
SHANDONG LUNENG FC (CHN) 3 2 0 1 6 5 1 6
SANFRECCE HIROSHIMA (JPN) 3 1 0 2 5 6 -1 3
BURIRAM UNITED (THA) 3 0 0 3 0 12 -12 0

FC Seoul Grade :  A1

If Seoul keeps up this level of performance, he looks certain to get a prize come prize-giving.  Has been the star of this class, answering all questions thrown at it with answers way above what is expected at this level.

Shandong Luneng   Grade : B2

Started brightly but has faded badly in recent weeks.  The results of her last test were nothing short of disastrous and I wonder if she did any studying for it at all.  Needs to pull her socks up if she hopes to progress.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima  Grade : C3

Started the year with a good reputation but has not shown any of that potential so far.  Her answers to questions are superficial at best and she has struggled with the tougher elements of the course.  Much work will be required in the second half of term if she wants to pass.

Buriram United  Grade :  D4

Having taught Buriram before I have seen firsthand how he has blossomed in recent years. This year however has seen him take a step backward and I fear that he will have to repeat the year.  He has seemed distracted and disorganised; perhaps you could arrange to come and see me and we can discuss any troubles you may be having outside of the classroom and how to try and salvage this academic year.

Jeremy Paxman gives his view of Seoul v Buriram
Jeremy Paxman gives his view of Seoul v Buriram

Form G:

Teams P W D L GF GA GD PTS
SHANGHAI SIPG (CHN) 3 2 0 1 5 4 1 6
MELBOURNE VICTORY (AUS) 3 1 2 0 3 2 1 5
GAMBA OSAKA (JPN) 3 0 2 1 2 3 -1 2
SUWON SAMSUNG BLUEWINGS FC (KOR) 3 0 2 1 1 2 -1 2

Shanghai SIPG Grade : A2

It’s always tough being the new kid in school but Shanghai has adapted relatively well and tops Form F at half-term.  Apart from that unseemly fight with Melbourne, she has been a leader in the classroom and looks to have a head older than her years.  Keep up the good work!

Melbourne Victory   Grade :  B2

I am aware that Melbourne lives quite far away from school and she sometimes seems tired by the commute.  Her performance in the debate against Suwon was slightly disappointing given that it was supposed to be her specialist subject, her home turf if you will…with more long trips to come there is no room for complacency.

Gamba Osaka  Grade : C3

I think this has been a disappointing half-term for Gamba.  After his strong performance last year and nomination as a potential prefect I expected more than his tepid performance.  I know he has often started slowly in the past but there is a real risk of him being left behind this year.

Suwon Samsung Grade  : D4

This year was always going to be tough for Suwon but she hasn’t put in the necessary effort and seems to be lacking the teeth for the fight. Suwon will have to focus on her goals for the rest of the term if she wants to avoid being put in the bottom set for the rest of the year.

Form H:

Teams P W D L GF GA GD PTS
SYDNEY FC (AUS) 3 2 0 1 3 3 0 6
POHANG STEELERS (KOR) * 3 1 1 1 1 1 0 4
URAWA RED DIAMONDS (JPN) * 3 1 1 1 4 3 1 4
GUANGZHOU EVERGRANDE (CHN) 3 0 2 1 3 4 -1 2

Sydney FC   Grade : A2

Sydney has handled the long commute to school better than expected and this is reflected in his grade for the half-term.  Given that he has opted for home-schooling for most of the second half of term, I am optimistic that he can get a good result come the end of term exams.

Pohang Steelers Grade : B2

It’s always tough being the younger brother at a school where your siblings have excelled and we have tried to moderate our expectations for the latest Steeler sibling. Results over the half-term have been mixed with decent performances on his Chinese and Japanese tests but a disastrous effort on his essay on From Summer Bay to The OC: a Treatise on Home and Away Actors’ success in Hollywood, which frankly was garbage. Pohang is still in with a good shout of finishing the term well but will need to demonstrate which is his true self.

Urawa Reds  Grade :   C3

A topsy-turvy half-term for Urawa.  He started strongly, faltered in the middle and came back right at the end.  If he maintains his momentum, he could still make the top set.

Guangzhou Evergrande  Grade :  D4

Massively disappointing from last year’s star pupil.  Has looked distracted all term and I wonder if she has issues at home.  The decline in performance has been astounding and I wonder if we should have a chat about signs of drug-use or abuse as declines of this level are normally a cry for help.  While there is still time for things to turn around, it will not be easy at all.

'Big Phil' accepts his 48 Shades report card.
‘Big Phil’ Scolari receives his 48 Shades report card.

Episode 52 – The morning quickie

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Episode 52 – The Morning Quickie


 

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This week saw the return of competitive football in the shape of the Asian Champions League. It also witnessed the much awaited return of FC Seoul legend Dejan in the red and black although it would be another player in Seoul’s colours who would steal the limelight as Adriano would rack up four goals against a rather beleaguered Buriram defence in a 6-0 routing.  There was also a good result for Jeonbuk who ran out 2-1 victors over Fc Tokyo with a number of their new signings making their debuts, some more successful than others. Pohang returned from China with a share of the points in a closed doors game against the mighty Evergrande in what must be regarded as a point won. The final match was Suwon v Gamba which Mark made the trip down to watch. It finished 0-0 with both teams huffing and puffing before ultimately hitting the woodwork and leaving a disappointed and frozen Mark to make the journey home without a goal to show for his efforts.

Tune into Episode 52 for a review of all four East Asian groups as well as the result of the nail-biting K-League motto competition. We also hear who the Managers and Captains of each Classic team think will win the league *spoiler alert – it’s not Gwangju*. And to round things off the boys will discuss their favourite subject ….. Ball Beer Girls.