K League leaders Ulsan Hyundai are taking their first steps toward the top of Asia. The club will look to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL) to provide a turning point in their recent faltering form.
Hong Myung-bo’s side will take on BG Pathum United (Thailand) in the first leg of their 2023-24 ACL Group I clash at the Munsoo Football Stadium in Ulsan, South Korea, at 7 p.m. on Nov. 19. Pathum enters the tournament as the runners-up in the Thai League 1 from the 2021-22 season. This season, they are in fifth place in the Thai League with two wins and two draws. It will be two years since Ulsan and Pathum met in the 2021 edition. Back then, Ulsan won 2-0 on both occasions in Thailand.토토사이트
Speaking at the official pre-match press conference, head coach Hong Myung-bo said, “Two years ago, we played away from home, and the players we played against then are still here. We’ve added good players, so I think we’re a better team now.” “Now, the tournament is played home and away. In that sense, we will definitely win this first-leg match at home.”
In particular, Hong Myung-bo and Ulsan are determined to turn around their recent slump in the K League through the ACL. Recently, Ulsan has been on a downward spiral with two wins, three draws, and four losses in their last nine matches, including a three-match winless streak (two draws and one loss). At the midway point of the season, they were considered the overwhelming favorites to win the title, but now they are only six points behind the second-place Pohang Steelers.
“It is true that we have been sluggish in the league recently. However, through the ACL, we want to change the atmosphere so that the remaining league matches can also go upward. We will definitely win tomorrow’s match (against PATUM) and the matches against Suwon FC and Pohang so that we can have a good flow.” “The season is in full swing. We will try to continue the good trend not only in the ACL results but also in the upcoming K League.”
When asked about the goal of winning the ACL, he replied, “We will definitely try to achieve good results.” “In my first year, we reached the quarterfinals, and last year we stayed in the qualifiers (group stage). But last year we had a clear goal, so we didn’t mind,” he said. “As a coach, it’s good and honorable to play in the ACL, and (with the rule change) the first game to start next season is the ACL. It’s important to calculate this well and pass the qualifiers until this year,” he added.
Goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo, who also attended the press conference, said, “I’m looking forward to the first ACL game. I hope both teams have fun and finish well without any injuries. There are a lot of Ulsan fans supporting us, and we will bring both performance and results.”
Below is a one-on-one interview with head coach Hong Myung-bo at the pre-match press conference.
- Preparations for the match.
“We play our first game of the ACL tomorrow. Our opponent is a very good team. We met them two years ago, and we have some players left. We are in the middle of the season. We’re in the middle of the season, so we’ll try to continue the good trend not only in the ACL but also in the K League.”
- It’s the first meeting in two years. How do you compare the strengths of the two teams?
“The game two years ago was away, and some of the players who played against each other back then are still in the team. I think we are a better team now because we have good players. Now it’s home and away. So in that sense, we’ll definitely try to win the first leg at home.”
- Do you think the recent trend in the league will affect ACL?
“The league has slowed down. On the contrary, through the ACL, we want to turn the rest of the league into an upward trend, so we will definitely win tomorrow’s game and the games against Suwon FC and Pohang.”
- What do you remember about your past opponents? You weren’t on the team that won the ACL with Ulsan in 2020, so your aspirations must be even higher.
“I was proud when Ulsan Hyundai won the Champions League. I was proud to be a member of Ulsan Hyundai. It motivates me every game. We played (against BG Pathum) two years ago, but I think they are a good team. We watched the pool match and analyzed them well. For tomorrow’s game, we will do our best to bring the result we want.”
- As a coach, he is also eager to win the ACL.
“The first year we finished in the top four, and last year we qualified. Last year, we had a clear goal, so we didn’t care (about the ACL result). The season is coming to an end, and the ACL is a fresh start. It’s a different format than before. Next, the ACL is important because it’s the first match to start the season next year. It’s important to calculate these things well and pass the qualifiers that are happening this year. As a coach, it’s good and honorable to go to the ACL. It’s a different type of season, but we’ll try to do well.”