On paper, not many would give the Lion City Sailors a chance against Korea Republic’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in their Group F Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League clash.
Afterall, Koreans are twice winners of the the competition – in 2006 and 2016, compared to the Sailors who are only participating in the competition for the second time in their short history since being inaugurated in 2020.
But gulf in experience aside, Singapore’s only representatives to the Asian Champions League are unfazed.
Buoyed by a win against Hog Kong’s Kitchee the last time out, Sailors head coach Aleksandar Rankovic said that his charges were ready for the Korean challenge.
“Jeonbuk is a big club with a lot of tradition in the AFC Champions League, with physically very strong players, local players who are playing at the highest level for South Korea and a very experienced coach as well,” he said.
“We’re here as a new club trying to represent the best of Singapore football.”
“But we’re ready to come here and compete – my players are ready for this challenge and we’re not intimidated.”
GROUP STILL WIDE OPEN
The Sailors currently have three points on the table, the same as their Korean counterparts, after two group matches so far.Both sides lost to Thailand’s Bangkok United, which is currently leading the standings with six points.
With a spot in the next round still up for grabs, Sailors defender Zulqarnaen Suzliman said that the Sailors were aiming to show “what Singapore football can do”.
“Jeonbuk is undoubtedly one of the strongest teams in Asia, but we came here to compete and show what Singapore football can do,” he said.
“We believe we’re capable of playing good football, even against the best in the region,” he said.
The defender also said that the team have been acclimatising well, even though temperatures have been hovering between 7 to 18 degrees.
“After a few days here, we’re getting used to things,” he said.
“This weather is actually perfect for football – it’s not too cold and we don’t sweat as much compared to when we’re playing in Singapore,” he said.
“This is a big game – a tough test – for us and we’re going in with everything we’ve got to make our fans proud.”
PHOTOS: LION CITY SAILORS