Hyundai A-League clubs Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC will both be looking to register their first wins of the group stage with matchday two of the AFC Champions League on this week.
After home matches to kick-off the 2019 tournament last week, Victory and the Sky Blues are on the road preparing for tricky tests in Japan.
Victory the target in Hiroshima
Victory are first in action, on Tuesday night, as they take on Besart Berisha’s Sanfrecce Hiroshima in Group F at the Hiroshima Athletic Stadium.
While Berisha was not included in Sanfrecce’s ACL squad, the Big V will come up against some star-studded opposition in the shape of last season’s J-League runners-up.
Both sides suffered first-up defeats a week ago, with Victory beaten 3-1 by Korean outfit Daegu, and Sanfrecce losing 2-0 against Chinese giants Guangzhou Evergrande.
That losing start adds extra weight to this encounter, even so early in the competition.
If Victory are to pick up their first three points of the ACL, they will need to overturn a horror away record in Asia. Kevin Muscat’s men have not won away from home in the ACL in their last 18 games.
They do have an ace up their sleeve in marquee man Keisuke Honda, who returns to his native Japan to play his first club match there since leaving Nagoya Grampus in 2007.
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Honda, who received a rock-star welcome when Victory arrived in Japan on the weekend, will be determined to make his mark and kick-start Victory’s ACL campaign.
While the Big V were given the weekend off from Hyundai A-League duties, Sanfrecce picked up their first win of the J-League season, a 1-0 away triumph over Cerezo Osaka.
Full Frontale assault for Sydney
Meanwhile, last season’s J-League champions, Kawasaki Frontale, are the next opponents of Sydney FC, 24 hours after Victory’s game.
The Sky Blues were held to a goalless draw at home by Ulsan Hyundai last week, but their performance at a windy Jubilee Stadium probably deserved more.
And while the hosts will start warm favourites on Wednesday night – with the likes of Brazilian striker Leandro, and Japan internationals Hiroyuki Abe and Yu Kobayashi in their side – Steve Corica’s players head into their Group H challenge with no fear.
Sydney FC did not lose any of their away games in the ACL group stage in 2018 and will relish the hostile atmosphere inside the Todoroki Athletics Stadium.
If they are to succeed, though, they will need to be a little more clinical in front of goal than they were last Wednesday when they were guilty of missing a host of excellent chances.
Like Victory, the Sky Blues have had a full week to prepare for this clash, while their hosts played in the J-League on Sunday, fighting out a 2-2 draw against Ange Postecoglou’s Yokohama F.Marinos.
Kawasaki have drawn all three of their J-League matches so far this season, while they lost 1-0 to Shanghai SIPG in their opening ACL match a week ago.
1. Matthew Acton, 2. Storm Roux, 3. Corey Brown, 4. Keisuke Honda, 6. Leigh Broxham, 7. Kenny Athiu, 8. Terry Antonis, 9. Kosta Barbarouses, 10. James Troisi, 11. Ola Toivonen, 13. Birkan Kirdar, 14. Thomas Deng, 15. Raul Baena, 16. Josh Hope, 17. James Donachie, 19. Rahmat Akbari, 20. Lawrence Thomas, 21. Carl Valeri, 23. Jai Ingham.
1. Andrew Redmayne, 2. Aaron Calver, 3. Ben Warland, 4. Alex Wilkinson, 6. Joshua Brillante, 7. Michael Zullo, 8. Paulo Retre, 9. Adam Le Fondre, 10. Milos Ninkovic, 11. Daniel De Silva, 13. Brandon O'Neill, 14. Alex Brosque, 16. Reza Ghoochannejhad, 17. Anthony Caceres, 18. Jacob Tratt, 20. Alex Cisak, 21. Mitchell Austin, 22. Siem De Jong, 23. Rhyan Grant, 24. Cameron Devlin, 25. Joel King, 27. Jerry Skotadis, 28. Marco Tilio, 30. Tom Heward-Belle, 31. Luke Ivanovic, 32. Jordi Swibel, 33. Liam McGing, 34. Patrick Scibilio, 37. Hamish Lamberton.
What they said
Melbourne Victory attacker Kosta Barbarouses
“We actually looked through some of the footage from [Victory’s first game] and there were lots of positives to take out of it.
“If you’re not getting the wins that you want, you’ve got to take positives from the situations. We’ll work our way through it, like we always do.
“We’re working hard, that’s not going to change. We’re too good to not get back into winning ways and I’m sure we will sooner rather than later.
“We want to build on that and get better from there, execute [and] finish off our build-up play. We can do some damage [in Japan] and kick-off our Champions League campaign.”
Sydney FC skipper Alex Brosque
“A lot of the boys have played in the ACL in the last couple of years so they know what to expect, especially from Japanese teams.
“What style of football they play, how quick they are, how sharp they are and [how] technically gifted.
“We have fared quite well against them in the past, so I think we know we definitely have nothing to fear and we’re actually looking forward to it.”
How to watch
You can watch Victory’s clash against Sanfrecce Hiroshima on Fox Sports 505 with kick-off at 9pm AEDT on Tuesday.
Sydney FC’s trip to Kawasaki Frontale is on Wednesday night, kicking off at 9pm AEDT, also on Fox Sports 505.