Wanderers not satisfied with simply making final

Mateo Poljak of the Wanderers celebrates scoring a goal during the Asian Champions League semi final match against FC Seoul.
Mateo Poljak of the Wanderers celebrates scoring a goal during the Asian Champions League semi final match against FC Seoul.

IT'S WIN or bust for Tony Popovic and the Western Sydney Wanderers as they head into the Asian Champions League final first leg with Saudi Arabian Al-Hilal.

The Wanderers have played in the two A-League grand finals and lost them both.

Coach Popovic is determined that will not happen again with the first leg at a packed Pirtek Stadium tonight followed by the return in Riyadh next week.

For the coach, there's no such thing as a fairytale without the silverware to show for it.

"We don't want to be a club where you look back and say, you made the final - well done," Popovic said. "But you didn't produce when it mattered.

"We want to produce really well in these two games and you know then you have a chance.

"From the moment we started as a club, we had high ambitions."

The Wanderers will be the first Australian club to take the ACL crown if they can achieve a victory over the two legs, but Popovic said his players were ready for the huge task in front of them.

"I'll have no fear looking in their eyes," he said. "I know they're ready.

"I believe they were successful just entering the competition; that in itself was a fantastic story.

"But these players are not satisfied with that. They're not satisfied with just playing in the group stages - they wanted more.

"They're not satisfied with the round of 16 - they wanted more; same as the quarter-final; same as the semi.

"While I'm extremely proud of the group, we're here to win the final. Our only focus is to be champions."

Al-Hilal, owned by Saudi royalty, is considered by FIFA as one of Asia's greatest teams and has two Asian titles from a proud 50-year history. It plays in the Saudi Premier League and holds 55 official championships.

Since its founding in 1957, it has obtained a record of 40 domestic titles.

Their style will present a unique challenge to the Wanderers, which has faced only east Asian teams from China, Japan and South Korea so far during their ACL campaign.

Captain Nikolai Topor-Stanley denied the Wanderers were nervous approaching such a landmark event.

"Nervous is a strong word. We're excited," he said.

"Clearly, this is a huge match for us and Australian football."

Western Sydney striker Brendon Santalab will be given up until the last minute to prove his fitness.

Santalab strained his hamstring in last weekend's A-League derby loss to Sydney FC .

Al-Hilal coach Laurentiu Reghecampf has one injury concern, with Saud Kariri spending Thursday night in hospital with a throat infection.





Pirtek Stadium,

6.30pm (AEST)

Topics:  a-league asian champions league football tony popovic western sydney wanderers

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