Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors may be the only Korean side left in the AFC Champions League but they have refused to be overawed by the prospect of facing Japanese giants Gamba Osaka in the tournament’s quarter-finals.
The Jeonju side advanced to the knockout phase of the tournament after finishing as runners-up in Group E and set up the fixture against Osaka, with a victory over Beijing Guoan. Gamba topped Group F and beat FC Seoul in the last 16.
Choi Kang-hee, Jeonbuk’s coach, told Yonhap News that his team is confident of advancing to the semi-finals.
"Since the second half of last year, we have enjoyed good results and we won the K League and that atmosphere led up to the beginning of this year," Choi said.
"And that winning mentality and DNA can work in the league and in parallel in the AFC Champions League.
"Of course I want to win and I crave having a good memory of winning. Since we set our goal to win the AFC Champions League before the season started, we will still be focused and we will be ready for the challenge."
Choi’s side is currently undefeated at home in the AFC Champions League and tops the K League; ten points clear of title rivals Suwon.
In Gamba, they face the J League and Emperors Cup defending champions, and Choi admits that the Osaka outfit may be a tough prospect.
"The key to going to the semifinals and the final is to raise our match performance and maximize it using good resources, while also maintaining the good spirit within the team," he said.
"Overall, we've been playing well in the AFC Champions League and as the tournament has progressed the relationships between the players have been getting better and better," Lee said.
"However, we have had troubles when playing Japanese teams, who have good technique and passing, so we'll have to prepare well for the quarterfinal against Gamba."
The first leg of the quarter-final will take place on Wednesday August 26 at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, with the second hosted in Osaka on September 16.