PETALING JAYA: He won the European Cup twice and the World Cup once in a space of four years and was the lynchpin of the indomitable “tiki-taka” Spanish team.
Football genius Andreas Iniesta, nicknamed The Illusionist for his magical skills, is the man most coaches will be worried about.
But Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) coach Benjamin Mora is aware of the threat of the Spaniard’s other Vissel Kobe teammates too.
The Southern Tigers take on the Japanese side today in their AFC Champions League (ACL) Group G opener at the Misaki Park Stadium today.
The J- League side are making their debut in the continental competition after defeating Kashima Antlers in the Emperor’s Cup final on Jan 1 and are also fresh from winning the Japan Super Cup by edging Yokohama F. Marinos 3-2 in a shootout after a 3-3 draw on Feb 8.
Mora admitted that his side, like Vissel, are still newcomers to the ACL and are looking forward to learn from the J-League side.
“We know what the J-League represents in the Asian continent and world football, we look up to them. Vissel are making their first appearance and we are in the second year here… we are both new teams in the competition so it will be a good game for us, ” said the Mexican coach in the pre-match press conference.
“We will have to up our standard, Vissel are doing well in the last few years by bringing in good players like Iniesta… we are still a small team and we are learning and we will do our best.”
“It’s impossible to contain a player like Iniesta, he has been unstoppable for years but he’s in the final years of his footballing career… we know he can finish things in a blink but if we can be compact in defence, we can get try to stop him but we are actually thinking more about stopping Vissel as a team.
JDT made a commendable debut in the competition last year with a home win over Japanese giants Kashima Antlers. They then drew at home against Gyeongnam FC of South Korea but finished bottom of the four-team Group E with four points after six matches.
Mora said the experience in the ACL last season and their growing consistency will be his team’s key strength.
“I think football is about being consistent and performance. This team have worked together for quite long, our game as a collective unit is good… we don’t rely on one or two players to get the results, we bank on collective effort to win matches, ” said the 40-year-old coach.
“We had a great pre-season, we played seven matches to practice and polish situations which we need to… if we can do it during the match, we can get a positive result.”