Brisbane Roar will look to keep the slimmest of ACL dreams alive in Japan against FC Tokyo.
Date: Wednesday 2 May, 2012 Kick-off: 8.30pm AEST, 7.30pm local Venue: National Stadium
Head-to-head Played: 1 Wins: Tokyo 1, Brisbane 0
Previous encounter Brisbane 0, Tokyo 2, March 6, 2012
History: The two sides have met just once before, on matchday one of this season, with the Japanese side registering an impressive 2-0 at Suncorp Stadium. Normally so dominant in the Hyundai A-League, the Roar were outplayed by the J.League club, with goals on either side of the break to Yazawa Tatsuya and Hasegawa Ariajasuru giving the visitors a well-deserved win.
Form: Past five matches: FC Tokyo: WLWLL Brisbane: WDWLW
Summary of form: FC Tokyo have suffered a bit of a dip in form of late with just one win from their last four matches in the J.League and ACL. They suffered a shock loss to Alex Brosque's Shimizu S-Pulse in their most recent fixture on the weekend, leaving them ninth on the J.League ladder. The good news is they are unbeaten in their four ACL games with two wins and two draws and will seal progression to the knockout stage with a victory here.
The Roar come into this clash on the back of their sensational come-from-behind win to beat the Perth Glory in the Hyundai A-League grand final to seal back-to-back championships. With their domestic campaign now over it will be interesting to see how they handle the last two ACL group fixtures. Without a win from their opening four games of the competition, the Roar must win in Tokyo to keep their hopes alive heading into the final match.
Match Committee: The Roar will be fresh having not played in more than a week since their grand final triumph. While they have a fairly clean bill of health among the playing group, the big loss for Brisbane comes in the absence of coach Ange Postecoglou, who quit the club after the Hyundai A-League decider to join Melbourne Victory. Long-serving assistant Rado Vidosic has taken the reins and will be eager for the players to do well in his first match in charge. Tokyo will be close to full strength with all their big guns coming through the weekend's J.League clash unscathed.
Danger men: Lucas Severino - He may not be as quick as he used to be but the experienced striker is still a major weapon for the Japanese club. He is a proven scorer at ACL level and helped Gamba Osaka win the 2008 title against Adelaide United. Severino's strike partner Sota Hirayama will also need to be well-marshalled if the Roar are to pull off an upset here.
Besert Berisha - The Roar looked like slumping to a shock defeat in the grand final until Berisha popped up with two late goals to ensure Brisbane claimed the title. The Albanian has been prolific at A-League level but now it's time to show he can cut it at ACL level as well.
At the end of the day… A new era for Brisbane begins on Wednesday night and it will be fascinating to see just how the post-Postecoglou Roar shapes up.
Given Vidosic has been a part of the club set up since day one means there should be little disruption but every coach has their own ideas and way they want their team to play. It doesn't get much bigger for the new boss with a victory the only result the Roar can afford if they are any hope of making the next phase, but given they are on the road and coming back off the high of a grand final win means it won't be an easy task.
Indeed, just how much motivation and desire Brisbane have after notching back-to-back titles will be interesting, with some players possibly already looking ahead to post-season holidays.
Coming up against quality opposition like Tokyo it's vital that every single Brisbane player is at the top of their game if they are to come away with the win. Given the loss of Postecoglou and the possible grand final hangover, it's hard to see anything but a win for the home side in this one.