Wanderers’ no-excuses mentality ahead of semi

Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic has refused to use unavailable personnel or a lack of experience as an excuse ahead of his team’s clash with FC Seoul.

Popovic’s men will take on last year’s AFC Champions League (ACL) runners-up in South Korea on Wednesday night in their semi-final first leg but the Wanderers boss is not worried about Seoul’s greater continental experience.

Seoul only lost the 2013 ACL final to Guangzhou Evergrande on away goals, while Choi Yong-soo’s side are in fine form having not lost in 10 matches in all competitions.

Under Choi, Seoul have only lost one ACL home match in two years, winning eight of 12, but Popovic was still bullish about Western Sydney’s chances at the official pre-match press conference on Tuesday.

“I know they’re very good team that reached the final last season,” the former Socceroos defender said in Seoul.

“But we overcame lots of obstacles to reach here. We have very good players and team to reach the semi-finals. We might not have experience like Seoul but we have a belief to reach the final stage.”

The Wanderers will be missing suspended trio Tomi Juric, Brendon Santalab and Shannon Cole at the Seoul World Cup Stadium, while Matthew Spiranovic is still out following ankle surgery.

But Popovic backed Western Sydney’s preparation after their 11-day training camp in the United Arab Emirates between their quarter-final triumph over reigning champions Evergrande and the trip to Seoul.

“[Our] physical condition is better after training in the Middle East, mental condition is good after the quarter-final win,” he said.

“We did not come here just to play good game, we came here to get through to the final.”

Seoul’s coach Choi was full of praise for both Popovic and the Wanderers, claiming the A-League club’s ability to score on the road was of particular concern.

While the South Korean media tried a number of times to get Choi to say he had expected to face Evergrande in the last-four, the 41-year-old argued Western Sydney “deserved” to have reached the semi-finals.

“Popovic is a very talented coach with a fabulous career,” Choi said.

“They [the Wanderers] have great balance and a stable defence, so I think they’re well deserved to reach the semi-finals.

“Also, they have players who can score in away matches. They have some injuries and suspensions but they play as a team. So we don’t look down on them and we’ll try to play our football.”