It’s not over yet. An unstoppable battle is taking place to advance to the Asian Champions League (ACL) group stage. Incheon United, led by coach Cho Sung-hwan, will play the 5th game of Group G of the 2023-2024 ACL group stage against Yokohama Marinos (Japan) at Incheon Soccer Stadium on the 28th.
It is a game of fate. In this season’s ACL East Asia region, the top players from five groups (Groups F-J) will advance to the round of 16. Among the 2nd place teams in the 5 groups, the three teams with the best performance will advance to the round of 16. Incheon recorded 2 wins and 2 losses (6 points) alongside Yokohama Marinos. However, Yokohama is ranked 2nd and Incheon is 3rd in terms of goal difference.
Incheon took the ACL stage for the first time this year, celebrating its 20th anniversary. They advanced to the finals through the ACL playoffs (PO). It started well. In the first game against Yokohama, they won 4-2. They won two games in a row by defeating Kaya (Philippines) at home. However, they lost two consecutive games to Shandong Taishan (China), led by coach Choi Kang-hee.
Incheon is aiming for a reversal at home. It is disappointing that there are so many injured players. Most of the foreign players, including Mugosa, Mpoku, Gerso, and Delbridge, left due to injury. Players who were supposed to take center stage, such as Lee Myung-joo, Shin Jin-ho, and Moon Ji-hwan, were also excluded due to injuries. However, Incheon recently showed hope by defeating Gwangju FC and Ulsan Hyundai with young players.
Coach Cho, ahead of the final match, said at a press conference on the 27th, “There are many injured players, but this is the last chance to get through the group stage. We will do our best to win in front of the home fans. The last match against Yokohama was Incheon’s first ACL final match. At the time, “The game set the team’s direction. This game can also serve as motivation for the players. We will achieve victory at home,” he said.
‘K League 1 champion’ Ulsan will clash with Pathum United (Thailand) in Group I of the group stage at Pathum Thani Stadium in Thailand at 7 pm (Korean time) on the 28th. Victory is absolutely necessary. In Group I, Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale (12 points) is in first place. Ulsan and Johor Darul Takzim (Malaysia) are competing for second place with 6 points. Ulsan traded 1 win and 1 loss with Johor. Ulsan won 3-1 at home and lost 1-2 away. Ulsan will clash with last-place Pathum this time. On the other hand, Johor is tied with Kawasaki. Ulsan will try to maintain second place with a win against Pathum.
Ulsan has good memories against Pathum. In the 2021 ACL group stage, they faced each other twice and won 2-0. In the first match of the group stage on September 19, they won 3-1 thanks to Martin Adam’s hat trick. Ulsan entered the decisive battle site on the 26th and is adapting to the local situation.