ROCK SOLID: Wanderers defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley in action against Ulsan Hyundai in the Asian Champions League earlier this year.
ROCK SOLID: Wanderers defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley in action against Ulsan Hyundai in the Asian Champions League earlier this year. Brendon Thornegetty Images

Sydney Wanderers ready to challenge FC Seoul

WESTERN Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic believes his team is ready to give FC Seoul plenty of headaches in its first semi-final away leg of the Asian Champions League tonight.

That is despite the fact strikers Tomi Juric and Brendon Santalab and winger Shannon Cole are all out suspended for accumulated yellow cards.

And Popovic is not scared of the opposition either - FC Seoul made the final last year, but lost to Guangzhou Evergrande on away goals - the same team the Wanderers overcame in the quarter-finals.

"The suspensions are things we can't control. But the players that are here are very well prepared," Popovic said.

"We know we're up against a very good opponent which made the final last year. They're in the semi-finals again so it's a credit to them.

"But we've overcome some big obstacles so far to get to this stage, against some very good players and very good teams."

Popovic's team has already made history making it this far - it is only the second team to make the semi-finals of the ACL, in just its second season as a professional entity.

But the hard taskmaster is genuinely excited to have his team playing on such a massive stage.

"It's another huge challenge for our club, but we'll go into it with confidence," Popovic said.

"We may not have the experience that they have at this stage, but we have a lot of belief that we can make the final."

Wanderers defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley echoed Popovic's thoughts, saying his teammates will not fear a team that has won five K-League titles, and twice finished second in the ACL.

Defender Osmar Barba, signed from Thailand's Buriram United before this season and who has been used as a defensive midfielder, is pivotal to the hosts denying the Wanderers a crucial away goal.

In its past five games in all competitions, Seoul has conceded just two goals.

"I think the hallmark of our team is that we don't really pay attention to individuals. We focus on ourselves more than anything," Topor-Stanley said.

"As long as we get that right we'll come away with a good performance and hopefully the result."


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