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Unbeaten Ulsan Hyundai FC out to continue dream AFC Champions League run against Vissel Kobe

Doha: With seven wins from seven in Qatar, Ulsan Hyundai FC know more of the same will help them advance to the 2020 AFC Champions League final at the expense of Vissel Kobe.

The K League runners-up have brushed off domestic heartbreak to emerge as the form team of the AFC Champions League (East), scoring multiple goals in all seven of their Doha fixtures.

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Every challenge thrown their way has been navigated, the most recent being the 2-0 win which eliminated the previously unbeaten Beijing FC in Thursday’s quarter-final, with Brazilian striker Júnior Negrão scoring both goals.

While that match was considered by many to be something of a 50-50 proposition, Ulsan will enter Sunday’s semi-final as strong favourites to beat Vissel Kobe.

“Nobody knows if this is our last game, but we have to leave everything on the pitch and show our quality on the pitch," said Ulsan head coach Kim Do-hoon.

"We will do our best to put in a great performance tomorrow."

2020 AFC Champions League (East) - Quarter-final: Review

Ulsan are in fine form and have been able to carefully rotate their squad throughout the tournament, while Vissel Kobe have reached the final four despite a relatively patchy record of two wins, one draw and two losses since they arrived in Qatar last month.

The Japanese side also come into the clash less than 72 hours after an arduous 120-minute battle against Suwon Samsung Bluewings, with a heavy injury cloud hanging over FIFA World Cup winner Andres Iniesta of further concern for Atsuhiro Miura’s side.

"We need to take control in midfield and be extra focused in the box so we can take our chances," said Kim.

"I hope our players will show their maximum energy on the pitch tomorrow.

"We played in this stadium before, so we know it. Regardless of the dimensions, we have to show our game. It is a semi-final but the players also need to enjoy their game and play at their best. We need to avoid mistakes and be confident playing our own football.”

Kim – a former Vissel Kobe player - has hardly any worries going into the match.

Korea Republic national team goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo is unavailable as a consequence of testing positive to COVID-19 in November, but it is an otherwise full deck at Kim’s disposal.

In Júnior, substitute striker Bjørn Johnsen and midfielder Yoon Bit-garam, he has three separate players who have netted four goals In the tournament, and the quality runs throughout the first team squad, with substitutes frequently making game-changing contributions to Ulsan’s cause throughout the competition.

The Korean club also have the greater pedigree in the competition.

While Vissel are appearing on the top Asian stage for the first time, this is Ulsan’s eighth AFC Champions League campaign in 15 years, and they famously won the title in 2012.

Lee Keun-ho remains from that triumphant side and, should their seven-match winning streak become nine, the 35-year-old veteran will be toasting a second AFC Champions League title.

Ulsan Hyundai FC (KOR) v Vissel Kobe (JPN)
Venue: Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium
Kick-off: Sunday, 13:00 (UTC+3)

*Poll ends on December 13, 18:00 (UTC+8)

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