A fearless Perth Glory enter uncharted territory on Tuesday night as they make their AFC Champions League debut against FC Tokyo.
After their opening match against Shanghai Shenhua last week was postponed due to the Coronavirus outbreak, Glory make their ACL bow against the Japanese heavyweights.
Glory had a bye in the Hyundai A-League last weekend meaning they’ve had a full 10 days to prepare for their debut in Asia’s premier club competition.
And Popovic admits there’s an air of excitement and confidence amongst his squad heading into the clash at the Ajinomoto Stadium.
“We need to embrace it and we need our fans to embrace it and enjoy it. We also need to go there, play without fear and put on a good performance,” Popovic said on Glory’s official website.
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"It’s quite clear in the way that they’ve been training that the players are excited.
"Beating Wellington in our last Hyundai A-League game was important before we had a break from the league.
"You can see that the confidence is there among the players and they’re looking forward to the fantastic challenge of playing against an excellent team from Japan."
While the J-League season is yet to get underway, FC Tokyo began their ACL campaign last week with a draw against Ulsan Hyundai.
The Japanese giants finished second in their domestic competition last season – behind Ange Postecoglou’s Yokohama F.Marinos – and possesses a star-studded squad.
As well as a number of full Japanese internationals, Brazilian attacking duo Diego Oliveira and Leandro are a threat, while Lebanese international Joan Oumari is a rock at the back.
"They’re strong and obviously they were top of the league for a long time [last season]. They have an established team that’s been together for three years now,” Popovic said of FC Tokyo.
"Their style is very dynamic. They are a very mobile team and the Japanese league in general is played at a very high pace.
"That’s something we’ll have to adapt to, but that’s the challenge of the Champions League.
"You’re up against sides in major competitions that have the resources, the budgets and calibre of foreigners that I don’t believe any A-League team could probably afford.
"So that’s normal and that’s what you expect in the Champions League. It’s a great chance for us to showcase ourselves and for these players to show what they can do."
Following Tuesday night's match, Glory return home to play Brisbane Roar in the Hyundai A-League on Saturday afternoon.
Brisbane Roar v Perth Glory
Saturday, 22 February
Kick-off: 4pm local, 5pm AEDT