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Taggart: Strong start vital for Suwon Samsung Bluewings when AFC Champions League resumes


Suwon: With two defeats in their opening two Group G ties, Suwon Samsung Bluewings' star striker Adam Taggart admits that it is essential for the Korea Republic side to start on the front foot when their AFC Champions League campaign resumes on November 22.

A last-gasp 1-0 defeat to Vissel Kobe and then a shock 2-1 loss away at Malaysia's Johor Darul Ta'zim was far from the start to their Continental campaign Australia forward Taggart and his Suwon teammates would have been after, and the K League 1 club will be playing catch up once the action returns in Doha.

First up will be a meeting with Chinese heavyweights Guangzhou Evergrande and the Socceroo knows that it's already taken on the role of a must-win.

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"That first game especially is definitely important to get off to a really strong start," the 27-year-old exclusively told the-AFC.com.

"We've got nothing on the board so far, we're already two losses down. We need to really try and win all of our matches which, in my opinion, is what we need do anyway. The aim of every game should be to win it.

"It's a tournament where we have to go out and play with no fear. We have no choice, we have to attack and take the game to the opposition, it's the only way to get us out of the tough situation we're in."

Group G - MD3: Johor Darul Ta'zim 2-1 Suwon Samsung Bluewings

Getting out of tough situations, though, is something Taggart and his teammates are familiar with after a difficult first half to the K League 1 season which saw the two-time Continental champions involved in the relegation round in the latter half of the year.

An upturn in form post-split for both the striker (four goals from the five games) and Suwon (three wins, one draw, one defeat) saw the Bluewings ultimately ease away from the drop, finishing the domestic season six points clear of bottom side Busan IPark.

"It's obviously been a tough, crazy year," said Taggart. "Not just for Suwon or myself, but for everyone, so it's a bit of a weird feeling looking back on this year, especially the difficult situation that we were in throughout most of it."

"We were really poor from the start of the year when the AFC Champions League started and we struggled to find our rhythm and consistency. The team was changing an awful lot with players coming in and out of the team with injuries – it was a just a mixture of a lot of things.

"Obviously the year as a whole was really disappointing but the vital thing was to avoid relegation.

"It was really important to end the season off on a high; we had a lot of wins in our last five or six games and we finished off strongly, which is so important going into the AFC Champions League, as well as looking towards next year."

The 2020 AFC Champions League that Taggart will encounter in Qatar will be a markedly different experience to the one he and Suwon started at the beginning of the year with the tournament relocating to Doha and the centralised hub.

Instead of home and away ties across East Asia spread out over the year, the fixtures will come fast and furious over a condensed period of time and all played out within the protective bio bubble in Qatar.

"I was really excited to go and play in different countries and stadiums and experience those football cultures, going into a hub you miss that," said Taggart.

"But, having said that, the format will now see a short period of time with a lot of games – it's almost like a mini World Cup – and lots of people will be tuning in, so it's a great opportunity for a lot of people to showcase themselves.

"There's a lot of challenges ahead of us, and I'm obviously disappointed not to travel to other countries, but I think there are pros and cons about it."

One of the undoubted pros, however, will be the opportunity to face off against some of the biggest names currently plying their trade in the Asian game. Few bigger than a certain Barcelona legend currently captaining Vissel Kobe and due to face Taggart and his team when they conclude their group stage on December 4.

"As a footballer, you always want to challenge yourself against the big players and obviously [Andres] Iniesta has had a fantastic career," said Taggart.

"It's something to tick off the bucket list to have played against him in a game. I don't think it matters how old he gets, he's still the same player, he is still world class.

"I think we'll all be looking forward to playing against him again in the AFC Champions League because people like that add a bit of spark to the competition and people want to watch those sorts of players."

Taggart will have to wait until the final tie of the group to face off against Iniesta again, but Asian football fans can catch Vissel Kobe in action on November 25 when they face Guangzhou Evergrande.

The Chinese side, who are yet to play a tie in the 2020 AFC Champions League, will feature in the first Group G fixture of the tournament's resumption when they take on Johor Darul Ta'zim on November 19.

Suwon will be in Continental action for the first time since March 3 when they face Guangzhou on November 22.

Photos: K League

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