Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors were given a boost today when Lee Dong-Gook trained with team-mates, raising hopes of the star striker playing in the AFC Champions League final against Al Sadd.
Lee, who is top scorer in this year's Champions League campaign with nine goals, was ruled him out of the semi-final against Al Ittihad with a calf injury, putting the talismanic former Middlesbrough man in doubt for the final. However, the 32-year-old, who has been pivotal to Jeonbuk's free-scoring form this season and hit six against Japan's Cerezo Osaka over two legs in the quarter-finals, moved freely as he trained on Friday afternoon.
He will be desperate to play in Saturday's final at the Jeonju FIFA World Cup stadium, Jeonbuk's home ground where they have won all six matches on the road to the final. Jeonbuk have scored an impressive 31 goals this year as they close in on their second AFC Champions League title, after winning Asia's top club competition in 2006.
Coach Choi Kang-Hee had said he faced going into the final without the prolific Lee, who looked likely to join suspended duo Cho Sung-Hwan and Krunoslav Lovrek on the sidelines. However, it now appears Lee is in contention for the match - Asia's biggest club game of the season.
"We're also very strong at home and that will be a big edge for us," Choi, who led Jeonbuk to their 2006 win, told Yonhap news agency. "Unless we make mental mistakes we should be able to win the match."
Jeonju, a countryside city of 600,000 three hours drive from Seoul, is preparing for an influx of fans, with hotels fully booked and city centre bars braced for a party if Jeonbuk win. However, Qatari outfit Al Sadd are determined to wrestle the coveted trophy out of South Korean hands for the first time in three years following wins for Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma and Pohang Steelers.
Where Jeonbuk have been flamboyant, Al Sadd have struggled with goals, scoring just 15 in their campaign. Uruguayan coach Jorge Fossati has, however, warned against underestimating his team, who arrived in Korea late after an exhausting 16-hour journey.
"The teams that have made it to the final have earned their place," Yonhap quoted him as saying. "Jeonbuk is a very good team, and we must respect them. But they must also respect us."
Fossati will be boosted by the return of Mamadou Niang and Keita Abdul Kader, who escaped further bans for their roles in the brawl. The pair served one-match suspensions in the second leg against Suwon, which Al Sadd lost 0-1 but still scraped into the final 2-1 on aggregate.
The Qataris line up in the final as underdogs - they only qualified for the tournament proper after a play-off. However, their disciplined two-goal win in Suwon showed they are a side to be reckoned with as they bid to win a continental title for the first time since 1989.