Western Sydney Wanderers battle for Champions League survival in Seoul
Western Sydney Wanderers' AFC Champions League battle with FC Seoul will be about who wants a shot at the knockout phase more, playmaker Mitch Nichols predicts.
Because even at this this early stage, a third-straight defeat for either side will almost certainly spell a premature exit from the continent's premier tournament.
There are no illusions in the Wanderers' camp about their current ACL predicament.
Last in Group F, with no wins from two games, one goal scored and nine conceded has left the entire squad roundly dejected.
Nichols admits the rescue mission must start in Korea on Wednesday night against a second-last Seoul side with an equally barren points tally.
"We have zero points out of two games, so we really need to win and put in a really good performance to kick start that," said Nichols.
"Seoul haven't picked up a point either, so it's like a six-pointer if we can get the three points, and then kick on from there.
"They're in the same position as us so it's really going to come down to who's switched on and who wants it more."
The Wanderers have endured a vicious ACL campaign, highlighted by an opening 4-0 home loss to Urawa Red Diamonds followed by a 5-1 away battering by Shanghai SIPG.
At least that brutal fortnight is behind them, and Nichols said belief and energy had returned thanks to a rare 11-day turnaround afforded by the A-League's split round.
He knows a great deal less about Seoul than the SIPG of Hulk and Oscar fame -- the 27-year-old had not heard of one player before the team's video analysis session.
But Nichols did not presume to think the defending K-League champions would offer any easier a ride than the big-spending Chinese Super League heavyweights, who ran riot on a night dubbed the darkest in Australian club football as Brisbane simultaneously lost 6-0 to Ulsan Hyundai.
He said criticism was "probably justified," but also urged some realism.
"When you look at the money other countries are spending on football, we have to be a bit realistic and realise what we're competing against," he added.
"One player at Shanghai is triple the A-League's combined salary cap for all teams.
"The amount of money they're putting into their youth academies, their clubs and coaching, we're a long way off that.
"We have the talent there but we are so far behind in our football set-up.
"But we're obviously going up there to compete, and we need to show some fighting spirit and put a bit of pride back in Australian football."