Buriram brace for tough test at Bunyodkor

Scott Cooper knows his Buriram United side face a tough test on Tuesday when they meet Bunyodkor in the second leg of their AFC Champions League last-16 tie.

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The Thai Premier League giants head into Tuesday's clash in Tashkent leading 2-1 on aggregate following last week's victory at the New I-Mobile Stadium, which came after headers from Anawin Jujeen and Ekkachai Sumrei cancelled out Igor Taran's brilliant volley.

But despite being in a good position to progress to the quarter-finals, Cooper, who took over from Attaphol Puspakom at the start of the month, knows his side will not have it easy against the Uzbeks, even though their opponents failed to win a game at home during the group stage.

"We won the first game in Thailand, although we know Bunyodkor spent a lot of time flying to Buriram and that caused them problems," he said on the AFC's official website.

"Tomorrow's [Tuesday's] game will be difficult for us as Bunyodkor want to qualify for the quarter-finals, although our aim is also to reach the next round."

"Bunyodkor were unable to win at home during the group stage, but it does not mean that they are a weak team. They have a lot of experienced players and they played in the semi-finals last year."

The Thunder Castle will be boosted by the return of captain Suchao Nutnum and league top scorer Carmelo Gonzalez, and Cooper is hoping they will both be able to have a positive impact on their return to the side.

"I was only appointed head coach recently and I am still trying to explain my philosophy to the players," the Englishman added.

"But I hope that our two leading players, who were suspended for the first match, will help us get a positive result."

Bunyodkor coach Mirdjalal Kasimov is aware his side will also have a difficult evening at the Bunyodkor Stadium, especially given Buriram's defensive qualities.

"We lost the first leg and this means this game will be very tough as Buriram are a strong team," he said. "But we will try to win the game and advance to the next round.

"We have been unable to win in Tashkent during the AFC Champions League this season, but we want to break this tradition.

"Buriram played with five defenders at home and they will again play defensibly tomorrow [Tuesday], which will be a problem for us. Buriram are a disciplined team and their two main players [Suchao and Carmelo] will also play against us tomorrow [Tuesday]."

Kasimov is also waiting to see if first-choice goalkeeper Ignatiy Nestorov will recover from injury in time for the clash, although he has full faith that back-up custodian Murod Zukhurov, who played last Tuesday, will be able to get the job done if necessary.

"Nesterov missed the first game due to a minor injury and the doctors will decide if he can play," he added.

"But I was satisfied with how Zukhurov played in Thailand."

Both sides played in Asia's premier club competition last year as well, with Buriram falling at the group stages, while Bunyodkor reached the semi-finals before being eliminated by eventual champions Ulsan Hyundai.

Image courtesy of Buriram United FC

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