Preview: Adelaide United v Kashima Antlers
Adelaide United has had close to four months to enjoy the feeling of becoming an AFC quarter-finalist but finally faces reality when it tackles the Kashima Antlers on Wednesday night.
Date: Wednesday, September 17 Kick-off: 7pm local (8pm AEST) Venue: Kashima City Stadium TV coverage: Fox Sports 1 (Live)
Previous results: Pohang Steelers 0 Adelaide United 2, Pohang Steelyard, March 12, 2008 Adelaide United 0 Changchun Yatai 0, Hindmarsh Stadium, March 19, 2008 Binh Duong 1 Adelaide United 2, Binh Duong Stadium, April 9 2008 Adelaide United 4 Binh Duong 1, Hindmarsh Stadium, April 23, 2008 Adelaide United 1 Pohang Steelers 0, Hindmarsh Stadium, May 7, 2008 Changchun Yatai 0 Adelaide United 0, Changchun City Stadium, May 22, 2008
Krung Thai Bank 1 Kashima Antlers 9, Chulalongkorn University Stadium, March 12, 2008 Kashima Antlers 6 Nam Dinh 0, Kashima City Stadium, March 19, 2008 Kashima Antlers 1 Beijing Guoan 0, Kashima City Stadium, April 9, 2008 Beijing Guoan 1, Kashima Antlers 0, Feng Tai Stadium, April 23, 2008 Kashima Antlers 8 Krung Thai Bank 1, Kashima City Stadium, May 7, 2008 Nam Dinh 0, Kashima Antlers 4, My Dinh Stadium, May 21, 2008
Analysis Adelaide United has had close to four months to enjoy the feeling of becoming an AFC quarter-finalist but finally faces reality when it tackles the Kashima Antlers on Wednesday night. The Antlers go into the clash as overwhelming favourites but the Reds more than deserve their chance in the second round.
Adelaide won four of its first five games in Group E and needed only a draw in its away clash against Changchun Yatai to qualify. It scratched out a 0-0 result against the Chinese side despite some anxious moments in the final minutes of the contest.
Coach Aurelio Vidmar was disappointed with his side's 0-1 result against Melbourne Victory in the A-League on the weekend but has brought his entire senior squad over to Japan for the clash. He has some tough decisions to make on some underdone players.
Midfielder Diego has overcome a hamstring strain but has played just 22 minutes this season while Cassio has shrugged off a calf injury but a run in the Youth League is the extent of his preparation. Vidmar will be keen to use both players, who've performed well in the Champions League before, but could find they are not up to the game's tempo.
The visitors would be more than happy with a draw and could be pinning their hopes on their experienced defensive players. They've conceded just two goals in four Hyundai A-League games this season and let through just two goals in its six Champions League Group E matches.
Eugene Galekovic, Ang Costanzo, Sasa Ognenovski and Scott Jamieson have been solid but they'll need plenty of support if they are to stop a dangerous Kashima.
The Antlers has shown they can pile on the goals, having scored an amazing 28 times during their group games. They'll be keen to keep that scoreboard ticking against the South Australian side.
Since their last group game, their form in the J-League hasn't been dominant and they've lost three of their past six games. But it's hard to gauge whether tough clashes in Japan's highly-rated domestic competition compare to a clash against an underdog like Adelaide.
Classy midfielders Mitsuo Ogasawara and Masashi Motoyama should give their side the edge and they, along with their team-mates, will be looking to crush United's spirit before the return leg at Hindmarsh Stadium on September 24.