Soccer-Muscat looks beyond Iniesta as Marinos target Asian Champions League progress


TOKYO (Reuters) - Yokohama F Marinos coach Kevin Muscat has no plans to tailor his tactics to deal with the presence of Spanish World Cup winner Andres Iniesta when the J1 League leaders take on Vissel Kobe in the Asian Champions League on Thursday.

Kobe coach Takayuki Yoshida has declared former Barcelona midfielder Iniesta, 38, fit for the game at Saitama Stadium but Muscat stressed he will remain focused on his own players going into the Round of 16 meeting.

"He's obviously had a very distinguished career, and it's not only Iniesta, they have some good individuals - like we have also - that can decide moments in the game," said former Melbourne Victory coach Muscat.

"We haven't done anything different for individual players, we prefer to focus on the collective and we prepare to focus on what we do.

"We tend to find when we focus on ourselves that we influence the game in the right ways."

That approach has already paid dividends for Muscat, with the Australian successfully steering the club through the group phase of the Asian Champions League while also taking Marinos five points clear in Japan.

Kobe, by contrast, have struggled throughout this campaign despite advancing to the last 16 of the continental championship for the second time in three seasons.

They are third from bottom in the domestic table and onto their fourth coach this year, with Yoshida taking over on an interim basis following the sacking of Miguel Angel Lotina in late June.

Atsuhiro Miura was coach when the teams met earlier in the season, with Marinos emerging 2-0 winners from that encounter in Yokohama and Muscat's side are favourites to prevail once again.

The knockout phase for the East region is being staged in a centralised hub in Saitama to mitigate the threat of COVID-19, with the ties being played over one leg.

Muscat said the venue did not enter into his thinking.

"I really don't focus on if we're at home, are we away, I focus on what we can control," he said.

"At the moment we cannot control the outcome tomorrow. The only thing we can control is our preparation and the preparations will control the performance.

"We've had a couple of days excellent preparation, now we're looking forward to performing in a way that we make the Marinos family proud."

(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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