Perak are just one step way away from clinching a spot in the group stage of Asia's most elite cup competition but it is a gigantic step. South Korean side and 2012 AFC Champions League winner Ulsan Hyundai stands in the way and they will definitely start tomorrow's play-off match as the firm favourites.
Goal spoke to Daniel Croydon of KLeagueUnited on all the things that the Perak team and fans should look out for ahead of the crunch single match decider on Tuesday. The winner will go straight into Group H where Sydney FC, Kawasaki Frontale and Shanghai SIPG await.
On Ulsan's transfer activities leading into the 2019 season
Ulsan have been one of the more active K League teams in this year's winter transfer window. They have made some exciting signings, whilst keeping hold of most of their existing talent. Manager Kim Do-hoon has moved to sure up the defence by signing Korean international Yun Young-sun from Seongnam, along with the giant Dutchman Dave Bulthuis from SC Heerenveen.
The standout signing though has to be ex-Cardiff City midfielder Kim Bo-young, who has come in on loan and will hopefully be able to unlock even the strongest back line. So, the overall feeling around the club is very optimistic - if still a little cautious at this point.
On what manager Kim will do with the strength of the XI against Perak
Traditionally the club have taken this competition pretty seriously, so I certainly expect Kim Do-hoon to select a strong team. Whether it proves to be his best XI remains to be seen, but I think he will pick the players who have proven themselves match ready during the various friendlies and training camps.
Kim is not the most tactically diverse manager so I can say with some certainty Ulsan will start with one up front, three in attacking midfield, two holding midfielders and a flat back four. The fact that such an important game is the first match of the season will definitely be a concern.
Experience has shown us as much. The last time Ulsan were in the playoffs, two years ago, they only just scraped by Kitchee on penalties. So the manager is bound to be drilling into his players not to take anything for granted.
On what will be Ulsan's target for the ACL in 2019
It seems the competition has grown in stature since Ulsan won it, and the competition, especially from the Chinese clubs, has certainly got a lot tougher. Having said that, Ulsan qualified from their group last season - a group that featured both Shanghai SIPG and Kawasaki Frontale. So, realistically they should be aiming to do the same again, before hopefully winning a knockout tie this time.
On Ulsan fans' perception on the match and will they come out in full force
As you will no doubt see on Tuesday night, only the hardcore fans will show up to watch the early rounds of the ACL. It's not so much to do with the caliber of the opposition, rather the fact that midweek winter/spring games just aren't that popular. But the fans that are there will certainly expect a win. Most won't care how it comes about either, just so long as Ulsan get through.
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