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Muscat shrug off Iniesta threat as Asian Champions League returns

#Muscat #shrug #Iniesta #threat #Asian #Champions #League #returns

Yokohama F Marinos manager Kevin Muscat said Wednesday his team will not fear Andres Iniesta when they face Vissel Kobe in the Asian Champions League round of 16 on Thursday.

J-League leaders Yokohama meet the Spanish legend’s Kobe as Asia’s top club competition resumes and the East region plays its entire knockout stage in the Japanese city of Saitama.

Kobe is aiming for his first continental title and has assembled a star-studded squad built around the world champion and former Barcelona star.

But Yokohama are ranked high in the domestic J-League and Muscat said he is not worried about Iniesta’s influence as the two Japanese clubs prepare for the crucial continental clash.

“He’s obviously had a very remarkable career and it’s not just Iniesta – they have some players, like us, some really good players who can decide moments in the game,” said the Australian.

“We haven’t prepared or done anything else for individual players. We prefer to concentrate on the collective.”

Kobe’s progress in the Champions League has been in stark contrast to their form in the J-League, where they are third from bottom after two-thirds of the season.

Current boss Takayuki Yoshida – Kobe’s third manager this season – said Iniesta will likely play against Yokohama after shaking off an injury.

“It’s true that our game changes a bit whether he plays or not, but it’s not just for Andres – every player has their own characteristics and the team changes accordingly,” said Yoshida.

Daegu FC and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors will meet in an all-South Korean round of 16 on Thursday.

Daegu is in crisis mode after manager Alexandre Gama quit on Sunday following a shocking series of results.

Caretaker Choi Won-kwok said he hopes to get Daegu’s flatline season back on track by defeating two-time Champions League winner Jeonbuk.

“Obviously Jeonbuk are a very strong team and not many teams in Asia can beat them,” said the former assistant.

“But we’ve beaten them before and if we have that attitude that we can beat them tomorrow we can get an amazing result.”

The round of 16 resumes on Friday when Hong Kong’s Kitchee meets Thailand’s BG Pathum United.

Kitchee became the first Hong Kong club to reach the knockout stages of the competition when they equalized in added time in their last group game.

Malaysia’s ambitious Johor Darul Ta’zim will also make his debut in the knockout stages when he takes on Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds.

Urawa, winner of the 2007 and 2017 Champions League, plays at his home stadium, Saitama.

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