Ulsan Hyundai vs Pathum United
Ulsan Hyundai’s pursuit of a third AFC Champions League crown commences at the Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium against Thai side Pathum United.
Drawn together with Kawasaki Frontale and Johor DT in a competitive-looking Group I, Ulsan will be keen to kick things off with a bang against a Pathum side they’ve defeated in both previous H2Hs via an identical 2-0 scoreline. The upcoming continental commitments could be a welcoming distraction for the reigning South Korean champions, considering they come into proceedings amid a disappointing three-game winless league run (D2, L1). Complacency could be getting the better of Hong Myung-boo’s men, as they’ve let second-placed Pohang Steelers reduce the gap to six points. But since they’ve already qualified for the playoffs, Ulsan can switch their undivided attention to making an impressive Champions League start.
Unlike their rivals, Pathum United won’t be lacking confidence, no matter the odds, as they upset the apple cart to overcome a more heavily fancied Shanghai Port 3-2 in the Champions League qualification playoffs. On top of that, the visitors come into this fixture in the midst of a purple patch, having won their last three competitive games by a combined score of 10-4, finding the net on either side of halftime on each occasion. The new campaign has brought a change in fortunes for Pathum as they’ve gone unbeaten on all three competitive travels (W2, D1) after finishing last season on an underwhelming three-game losing streak. It’s also worth noting they won their last away game ‘to nil’ after conceding multiple goals on their previous five road trips.