AFTER months of uncertainty, a hub and a smorgasbord of breath-taking football – it has all come down to this.
The 2020 Asian Champions League will have a definitive winner when Persepolis take on Ulsan Hyundai on Saturday night at 11 PM (AEDT).
Iran’s heavyweight against Korea’s classy movers – the contest reeks of excitement.
This week on FNR, Iranian football expert Sina Saemian and K-League United’s Ryan Walters joined the crew to give their take on the upcoming final.
Here’s what they had to say:
Preparation for the final:
Saemian on Persepolis – “This is their second Champions League Final in the last three years so they are hoping they can do what they couldn’t do against Kashima Antlers and win their first ever continental trophy. They haven’t played for a few weeks, not through their own fault. The last two games they played domestically in the Persian Gulf professional league their opponents have had more than a few COVID cases so the games have been postponed. Persepolis have made the most of it by taking a break and putting their focus and preparation for the final.”
Walters on Ulsan – “Ulsan have been playing more frequently and their bench players and their role players have been doing a tremendous job so the confidence has grown and grown over the past couple of weeks. They’re on an eight match winning streak and a nine match unbeaten run in the ACL and the confidence is never going to be any higher for Ulsan right now. They are riding that high right now.”
Road to the final:
Saemian on Persepolis – ‘I’ll be completely honest, if it was the same format with two legged ties in the knockout stages, they may not be where they are today and preparing for that final. The tournament format helped them by being able to win one-off games against some tough opponents including Xavi’s Al-Sadd, Pakhtakor and of course in the semi-final against Al-Nassr. It was their fighting spirit and resilience which got them to where they are today and that’s the mentality they will take into the final.”
Walters on Ulsan’s semi vs Vissel Kobe – “The main takeaway from that was them showing the tenacity that they haven’t had in big matches before. They got lucky, they got very lucky. Vissel Kobe came to play, they played well. In the end, Ulsan showed they can win in a game that matters and we haven’t seen them do that yet so that is what impressed me in this one.”
Saemian on Persepolis – “A lot of players are still at the club from that defeat (2018 Asian Champions League Final) and they want to make amends. I think if it was a one-off final, Persepolis would have had a better chance and I think that is why they have a higher chance of winning the Champions League this time around.”
Walters on Ulsan – “Ulsan please don’t Ulsan this thing. The positive side is Asian football fans have seen how good this team is. This is the same Ulsan team that we have seen in Korea all year long. They are tremendously talented, this is a deeper team but they have a tendency to not get it done on the big stage. They couldn’t get one past Jeonbuk and win the title nor the FA Cup so they have already lost the double but here they are on the grand stage. It looks set for a fun one we have a very defensive side in Persepolis against an amazing attacking side in Ulsan.”
Saemian on Persepolis – “They have key suspensions to Issa Alekasir who has been suspended for a few months and Vahid Amiri who is suspended due too many yellow cards. They are the striking partnership they will be missing for the final and that is a huge loss but again they will be focusing on making sure Ulsan don’t score goals and they keep that clean-sheet.”
Walters on Ulsan – “They have been playing highly competitive matches lately and all of the players involved have been playing at a high level so I don’t know how it couldn’t be an advantage. Kim Do-Hoon has done a tremendous job rotating his squad and we saw it in the back-to-back matches against Perth and again against Tokyo. He has done a really good job at plugging and playing players based on needs. The club is fresh and it’s the longest break they’ve had since they’ve been in Qatar.”