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The AFC Champions League is our number one goal, says Yokohama's Thiago Martins

Yokohama: Brazilian defender Thiago Martins and his Yokohama F. Marinos teammates are looking to pick up where they left off in Continental football following disappointing results on the home front. 

With two wins in their first two AFC Champions League matches in February, Yokohama F. Marinos seemed set for another title-contending season.

However, things have not gone to plan for the 2019 J1 League winners. The defence of their domestic championship has fizzled out and the team is some way out of contention for the 2021 AFC Champions League places as the season draws to a close.

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For Marinos defender Thiago Martins, the priority now is to put aside the erratic J1 League form and focus on replicating the impressive performances they showed in the opening matches of the 2020 AFC Champions League back in February.

"Honestly speaking, it was unfortunate to stop the competition as we had a good start with two wins in a row, but it couldn’t be helped," said the 25-year-old centre-back.

"In the domestic competition, we have played a match every few days for the past few months. It was a tough schedule since we couldn’t take enough time to rest and prepare for our next game."

"Even though it was the same situation for other clubs, we couldn’t get good results. This means there is room to improve our football.

"At the moment, I feel happy to be able to restart the AFC Champions League again. Although the format has changed, what we need to do has not changed.

"We will do our best, and I strongly believe we will progress beyond the group stage."

Group H - MD2: Yokohama F. Marinos 4-0 Sydney FC

The 2020 AFC Champions League competition that Martins and his teammates will be returning to, when they kick off their first tie in Doha on November 25, will have a significantly different complexion to the home-and-away tournament spread over the calendar year they participated in back in February.

A centralised bio-bubble hub in Qatar and packed fixture schedule will bring challenges and obstacles to overcome, and the Brazilian insists that physical and mental preparation are the key factors to having a successful campaign.

"We have already experienced a tough schedule in the J1 League, and we understand the AFC Champions League will also be a tough schedule since we will play so many matches in a short period of time in Doha," he said.

"The important things are good physical and mental preparation as well as concentration on the game. If we can fight with high concentration, I believe we will get good results.

"It is also important to review and think about our activity from this season and to stand on the pitch with confidence. These things will be key for a good restart."

The switch from Japan to Qatar, also brings with new experiences on as well as off the pitch with teams needing to adjust to opponents of contrasting styles in a short period of time.

Martins, however, is excited rather than intimidated, and feels that the chance for success that has eluded them on the home front this year could be within reach in Doha.

"Obviously, respecting each team as quality is necessary in this tournament," he said.

"But, wherever the team we play against is from, we should play our attacking style of football to win the game. If we can show our best, we will be able to achieve our goal."

"It is a good opportunity for the club, because we can show our football to the world. For this reason, I feel excited and am looking forward to the international scene.

"At the moment, the AFC Champions League is our number one goal as it is a possibility to get a title.

"In this situation, we must not forget our down-to-earth approach for each match and that giving more than 100% performance personally, and as a team, is necessary to win the competition."

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