Brazilian defender Adilson missed last month’s 1-1 draw in Saudi Arabia due to suspension, but the 37-year-old is eligible to return on Wednesday as FC Seoul seek to convert a third quarter-final appearance in five years into a first-ever last-four berth.
Former Asian Club Championship finalists FC Seoul, who have twice been eliminated in the quarter-finals by Middle Eastern opponents, had taken an early lead at King Abdulaziz Sport City following a fine strike from Dejan Damjanovic only for substitute Sultan Al Sawadi to equalise for Al Ahli with 10 minutes remaining.
“Adilson is a reliable player who has played for the club for a long period of time. He is the core of our team and his return will definitely help our side,” said former Korea Republic international Choi, who took over as coach in April 2011 and went on to secure the domestic title in his first full season in charge last year.
“It was a very tough trip to Saudi Arabia and it was a very hard away match because of the jet leg and fatigue, but we were able to score the first goal, and considering that fact we were in a difficult condition, a draw is not a bad result.”
Since returning from Saudi Arabia, FC Seoul are unbeaten in their last five domestic outings after beating former AFC Champions League winners Pohang Steelers 2-0 on Wednesday at Seoul World Cup Stadium thanks to two goals in the final 20 minutes from Mauricio Molina and Ko Myung-jin to extend their unbeaten record to eight games in all competitions.
“We will do our best to use the home ground advantage. FC Seoul have a high winning percentage at home and with the passionate supporters, we feel their will for victory on the pitch. The passion of the supporters drives us to make good results,” added Choi, who represented Korea Republic at FIFA World Cup in 1998 and 2002 before retiring as an FC Seoul player in 2006.
“Al Ahli were a strong team as I expected. They are a team with good individual skills and teamwork.
“(Mustafa) Al Bassas is promising player and he will be the future of Saudi Arabian football, while Bruno Cesar is also a splendid player who can control the game with experience and great finishing.
“But even though Al Ahli have a lot of good players, I believe that FC Seoul have many talented players and that we are well organised.”
Should FC Seoul advance to the semi-finals of the AFC Champions league for the first time – having lost to Qatar’s Umm Salal in 2009 and Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad two years later – Choi’s side will face either Thai Premier League leaders Buriram United in a re–match from the group stage or Iranian champions Esteghlal for a place in the final.
Esteghlal won last month’s first leg 1-0 in Tehran thanks to Khosro Heydari’s fortunate early strike at Azadi Stadium, but Buriram are unbeaten at home in the AFC Champions League this season having recorded a 2-1 win over two-time semi-finalists Bunyodkor from Uzbekistan in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie in May.
On the other side of the draw, Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande will look to defend a two-goal first leg advantage against Lekhwiya in Qatar, while Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab entertain Kashiwa Reysol following a 1-1 draw in Japan.
Image courtesy of WSG