Returning striker Sergio van Dijk believes home support and Adelaide United’s previous AFC Champions League experience will count for plenty in next week’s do-or-die play-off in the ACL.
The Reds face Chinese power Shandong Luneng at Coopers Stadium on Tuesday night, the winner to book their spot in the tournament’s group stage.
After leaving Adelaide just over three years ago, van Dijk is back in the Reds jersey on an ACL-only deal.
United has competed in the ACL four times previously – making it to the final in 2008 – and van Dijk believes that experience will hold them in good stead in this sudden-death encounter
“I’m confident,” the 33-year-old told reporters on Wednesday. “From experiences before in the Champions League with Adelaide, I think Australian teams have a chance because of the physical way of playing.
“Also, the possession play has improved over the last years over here, having the home crowd, maybe the hot weather for the opponent as well, I think that can work in our favour. It’s a one-off game and with the backing of our home crowd I’m sure we can do well.”
Van Dijk was a huge fan favourite with the Reds fans in his two season with the club between 2010 and 12, scoring 25 goals in 55 appearances.
While he won’t get to play in the Hyundai A-League for the Reds this season, van Dijk admits he’s been impressed with the standard of the competition since he’s been back in Australia.
“It’s quicker, possession play is better and the quality of the players is higher than before,” the Indonesian international said.
“That’s what the A-League is all about, improving every year.
“I think I can [settle straight back into the team]. There’s a couple of guys I played with before, [Bruce] Djite, [Marcelo] Carrusca and they’ve helped me fit in the team. It’s been going very well.”
If Adelaide don’t beat Shandong, van Dijk’s time at the club will be short-lived, although he refused to rule out staying with the Reds for next season, but his preference is Asia.
The Reds finalised their squad this week, with Isaias, Carrusca and Sergio Cirio winning the three import positions.
Italian Iacopo La Rocca and Spaniard Pablo Sanchez were the unlucky players to miss the cut.