A guide to the Wanderers’ AFC Champions League Final second leg

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If you’ve been living under a rock since February this year or you’ve finally realised that the AFC Champions League is not the same thing as the Asian Cup, this guide is perfect to get you up to speed on the Wanderers final game of the Champions League.

The Western Sydney Wanderers will be taking on Al-Hilal in the final away leg, as the Wanderers have already played their home leg last weekend. (If you’ve missed it, the matchreport can be found here).

The game will be held in Al-Hilal’s stadium King Fahd that is located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and holds a massive 70,000 people.

The Wanderers’ journey to the AFC Champions League final has certainly been tumultuous as the group stage provided mixed results, with their first game at home against Ulsan Hyundai, a loss, threatening to write them off for the remainder of the competition.

Yet the club bounced back, topping the leaderboard in the group stage and consequently enabling them to progress into the Round of 16, which is known as the knockout stages, taking on Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

The team from Western Sydney barely scraped through into the Quarter Finals and their next challenge was against Guangzhou Evergrande.

One of the club’s greatest tests in its short history was against Guangzhou Evergrande, a club with an expected worth that is 40 times that of the Wanderers and the games were 40 times more entertaining than originally anticipated.

The home leg provided a red card and a World Cup-winning coach running on the field to debate with the referee whilst the away leg provided bus crashes led by Evergrande fans and some serious tensions between both clubs’ fanatical supporters.

Despite this, the Wanderers continued to proceed in the AFC Champions League to the Semi Final stage with the belief of the players to achieve the impossible transcending onto the thousands that came to support the club on and off the field.

The Wanderers then faced FC Seoul with the away leg a nil-all draw, setting the perfect scene for the home leg. This was when the Wanderers led a triumphant 2-0 win that continued their run into the final.

Many could probably argue that this continued the Wanderers “fairytale” journey, but kid you not, it was not a fairytale; rather, it has been the sheer determination of the players, staff and supporters that has enabled the team to determine their place in the final – not just luck.

The first game was without question a wake-up call for the squad as this was their first ever qualification into the tournament and quite a severe loss which has ultimately provided them with the improvement required to reach this stage of the competition.

The Wanderers’ journey in the AFC Champions League final as of this coming Sunday at 4.30am has almost exceeded 10 months, with the club acknowledging both players past and present that have enabled the club to reach this point in the competition.

Their final opponent, Al-Hilal, is known in its domestic league as “The Boss” and the “Blue Wave” and hold outstanding records obtaining 40 domestic titles, six Asian Championships and seven Arab and Arabian Gulf Championships.

The club has also been ranked as the Asian club of the 20th century, but this will certainly place a tremendous amount of pressure for the supposed favourites of the Champions League to succeed, with the Wanderers simply just having to prove themselves once more.

Past trophies mean practically nothing on the day of a final and with the Wanderers holding a 1-0 lead from their home leg, it will be interesting to see what will occur in the away leg.

Whether you like or loathe the Wanderers, there is definitely a sense of hope clouding around Australian football for the Wanderers to become the next Asian Champions, with even some Al-Hilal rival fans wishing for the Wanderers to finally take out some silverware from the final – but not many.

What is your prediction for the AFC Champions League final? Tweet us at @TheFootballSack and let us know!

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Jessica Csaszar
Jessica joined the team for 2014 covering Western Sydney Wanderers in the Westfield W-League and Hyundai A-League.

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