ACL preview: Pride at stake for Sydney, Victory in Asian finale

Attritional seasons are drawing to a close in very different styles for Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory but the sun has not yet set on 2018/19, with one final match still to play for each club in the AFC Asian Champions League.

Off the back of a gruelling 120 minutes of ultimately successful Grand Final football on Sunday, Sydney FC need to go again against Japanese outfit Kawasaki Frontale on Tuesday evening.

Melbourne Victory, who on Monday announced the departure of long-term servant Kevin Muscat, will seek to heal some of the wounds sustained in their 6-1 Hyundai A-League Semi Final mauling against the Sky Blues eight days ago when they welcome Sanfrecce Hiroshima to AAMI Park.

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Sydney FC Champions

Sydney FC v Kawasaki Frontale

Tuesday 21 May, 8pm (AEST), Netstrata Jubilee Stadium

Steve Corica’s men will need to ice up after a gruelling Grand Final in Western Australia on Sunday night.

Although the Sky Blues only trail Shanghai SIPG by three points in Group H, AFC tie-breaking rules mean the head-to-head record takes precedence ahead of goal difference. Therefore, Sydney are already eliminated before a ball is kicked in Round 6.

Three points for Corica's troops in Kogarah will mean they avoid the group wooden spoon. Kawasaki Frontale are only one point behind the second-placed Shanghai, so an away win will give the J-League outfit every opportunity of progressing to the knockout rounds.

Alex Brosque
Alex Brosque: A final farewell on Tuesday evening?

Whether Corica will send out a full-strength team remains to be seen, although it seems unlikely given the energy expended by his first-choice XI in Perth.

If he does, it could be a final swansong for Sky Blues icon Alex Brosque before his boots are permanently hung up.

Frontale took bragging rights in the reverse leg in Japan with a 1-0 win thanks to a late goal from winger Manabu Saito.

How it stands

Opta Widget: Sydney FC

Melbourne Victory v Sanfrecce Hiroshima

Wednesday 22 May, 8pm (AEST), AAMI Park

For Melbourne Victory, it’s a chance to say a proper goodbye to long-serving pair Kevin Muscat and inspirational skipper Carl Valeri when Sanfrecce Hiroshima come to town on Wednesday.

The retiring 34-year-old Valeri’s Hyundai A-League Finals Series farewell was something of a damp squib, with Muscat introducing the 52-cap Caltex Socceroo 68 minutes into their Semi Final against Sydney FC, with Victory already 5-0 down.

An opportunity for Victory fans to pay their tributes to Valeri, and vice versa, will be much deserved, while they will also get to serenade their multiple trophy-winning coach one final time. 

Kevin Muscat and Carl Valeri ahead of matchday 6 of ACL in 2019
It could be an emotional night in Melbourne on Wednesday, as Victory fans say goodbye to Kevin Muscat (left) and Carl Valeri

Farewells may also be in order for playmaker Keisuke Honda, who could also be seen in Victory's colours for the final time. 

Victory have collected a solitary point from their Asian campaign so far – from a 1-1 draw with Guangzhou Evergrande on matchday four. They went down 2-1 in the reverse fixture in Hiroshima, with marquee star Honda scoring in his homeland.

How it stands

Opta Widget: Group