Paartalu v Burns in ‘Aussie’ ACL clash

Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC won’t be the only Australian representatives in this year’s ACL with Erik Paartalu set to come up against Socceroos forward Nathan Burns when Jeonbuk host FC Tokyo on Tuesday.

Paartalu and Burns are joined by Socceroo Trent Sainsbury’s Jiangsu Suning in Group E. 

Ex-Western Sydney Wanderers strength and conditioning coach Adam Waterson is at FC Seoul while former Sydney FC midfielder Jared Lum’s Kitchee was also involved in the ACL qualifying rounds.

Paartalu left City before Round 18, with John van ‘t Schip’s Melbourne City side sitting third in the A-League, five points off top spot and in with a great chance to win the men’s team’s first major piece of silverware

But the former Hyundai A-League champion with Brisbane Roar claimed he couldn’t turn down the opportunity to challenge himself further.

The defensive midfielder described the decision to head to Jeonbuk as “easy”, with the K. League club’s ACL aspirations helping lure the 29-year-old away from the A-League.

A second AFC Champions League (ACL) title is a “huge target” for Jeonbuk Motors this season, according to Paartalu.

Jeonbuk have won the past two league titles in South Korea and after being eliminated from at the quarter-final stage of the 2015 ACL, Paartalu told Goal Australia that Choi Kang-hee’s men are focused on mirroring the club’s achievement from 10 years ago.

Melbourne City midfielder Erik Paartalu.

In 2006, Jeonbuk defeated Al Karamah of Syria 3-2 on aggregate in the two-legged final, while five years later they lost the decider on penalties to Qatar’s Al Sadd.

“There is an expectation to do well in Asia this year, we want to win the K. League again but definitely the ACL is a huge target for the club this season,” Paartalu said.

“The lead-up to [Jeonbuk’s first group match against] FC Tokyo has been good.

“We had a camp for a week, then a few days off and we have been finalising preparations at our training base just outside of Jeonju.”

The powerful holding midfielder added: “My decision to join Jeonbuk was an easy one as they are one of the best clubs in Asia.

“The ACL was definitely a factor in joining as it’s a chance to showcase your talent but also play with a good side with great Champions League experience.”

Paartalu has previously played for Tianjin Teda in China and Thai club Muangthong United, while his professional career effectively started in Scotland.

“You know coming to a new country there are always challenges because it’s something you’re not used to, I look forward to these challenges,” he said.

“You find out pretty quickly what type of person you are and you are out of your comfort zone.

“In my opinion it’s the only way in life you can grow.

“There is a great opportunity to ply your trade in Asia right now, particularly for tall defensive players. 

“We all grow up wanting to play for Manchester United or Barcelona but not many, if any, realise that dream.”