There's a match on Thursday night down at Hindmarsh, and it's important.
Date: Thursday 16 February 2012 Kick-off: 8.00pm AEDT, 7.30pm local Venue: Hindmarsh Stadium
How we got here: Confused? So are we. But there's a match on Thursday night down at Hindmarsh, and it's important. The winner should qualify for the 2012 AFC Champions League - we say should because such is the political confusion, Adelaide could still go through regardless of the result.
This year Australia was given an extra half-spot in the prestigious continental tournament, meaning that Adelaide were meant to play a qualifier to earn their place in the tournament anyway after finishing third last season. But after the withdrawal of Chinese side Liaoning Whowin and a ruling that Persipura, who are part of the rebel Indonesia Super League, were ineligible, Adelaide looked to have done a Steven Bradbury and simply cruised their way in.
But Persipura appealed that decision and took their case all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and they granted them permission to take part in this hastily-organised play-off match. This is despite them being part of a league which is not officially recognised by the Asian Football Confederation, the governing body who are organising the Champions League. After even further drama over the past few days - this time with visas and customs - Persipura finally landed in Adelaide at around midday on Wednesday, and so it's game on.
History: Adelaide United have never faced Indonesian opposition before. While they were part of the 2007, 2008 and 2010 Champions League tournaments, at no point were they drawn to play a team from our northern neighbours. However, Sydney were - in 2007, they took on Persik Kediri twice, losing 2-1 away and then winning 3-0 at home. We know from Adelaide's previous runs in the Champions League that they are capable of dealing with foreign threats.
However, Persipura are not your run-of-the-mill south-east Asian minnows. Domestically, they are regarded as one of the strongest teams in Indonesia. They were winners of the Super League in 2008-09 and 2010-11, and were runners-up in 2009-10. They've been to the Champions League before. However, they were tonked 5-0 (Kashima Antlers), 8-0 (Jeonbuk) and 9-0 (Changchun Yatai) in their away ties in their 2010 appearance. But then again, they beat Changchun in the reverse tie. The point is, to treat Persipura Jayapura as pushovers would be the wrong approach.
Form: Past five matches: Adelaide: LDLLW Persipura: DWWDL
Summary of form: Adelaide have not really been going great guns in the A-League. Only on Sunday did they break a seven-game winless stretch with a 2-1 triumph on the Glitter Strip. In near-monsoonal rain, the Reds did just enough to overcome an injury-hit Gold Coast side who fielded a number of unknown and unheralded youngsters. They did well for the first half, but eventually the guile and experience of Adelaide's older heads became a factor and they won thanks to goals from Bruce Djite and Dario Vidosic. The finals are still alive for Adelaide, but only just.
Persipura sit in second place at the moment on the Indonesia Super League ladder, with seven wins, three draws and three losses from their 12 matches to date this season. They've been in reasonable form of late, with two wins over Persiram Raja Ampat and top-placed Sriwijaya, but went down to Persija 1-0 in their last outing, which was on Tuesday February 7.
Match Committee: With only three foreigners allowed to play in this match for United, midfielder Pancho Usucar has been sacrificed for makeshift defender Evgieny Levchenko. Usucar was originally part of Adelaide's ACL squad, which was handed in a couple of weeks ago, and the Ukrainian was heartbroken to find he wasn't part of it. But because of the Reds' shortage of players at the back, Levchenko will get a taste of continental action on Thursday after all.
With Jon McKain injured, Antony Golec and Daniel Mullen away with the Olyroos and Milan Susak having transferred to China, 'Lev' will play centre-half alongside Nigel Boogaard. Adelaide's other injury concerns surround third-string goalkeeper Paul Izzo (back) and utility Spase Dilevski (groin), who are both some weeks away from resuming.
It is believed Persipura will play without two if its own imports - Liberian international midfielder Zah Rahan Krangar and defender Bio Paulin from Cameroon - after they reportedly had their visa requests turned down.
Danger men: Dario Vidosic - The Reds marquee man continues to perform despite being linked to a return to Brisbane Roar on an almost daily basis. None of it seems to bother Vidosic, who was at his crafty best on the Gold Coast and even chipped in with a goal himself, from a stunning long-range free kick. Sure, the wet weather and the woodwork might have helped him find the net but the fringe Socceroo has proved his technique and movement is a class above in the A-League.
Boaz Solossa - Pacy, skilful forward Solossa looms as one of Persipura's biggest wildcards for Thursday's match. The 25-year-old club captain has a reputation as a goal machine for the reigning ISL champions and has also enjoyed a fruitful spell for his national team with six goals in 23 appearances. His last goal came against South American powerhouse Uruguay, although the 7-1 result was not in Indonesia's favour.
At the end of the day… This match might have been arranged in farcical circumstances, but its importance cannot be understated for Adelaide. The club's diehard fanbase has fallen in love with the Champions League in the past and they'd enjoy nothing more than to have another crack at it this year. The question is whether they can palm off the challenge of Persipura Jayapura. The Indonesian side are well-organised and will be competitive - they didn't win the league last year for nothing. But they landed in SA barely 24 hours before the game after a long-haul flight and are without two of their star imports. With United likely to field a settled back four this week after Levchenko was cleared to play, it's certainly difficult to see the visiting side controlling the match. The Reds have the players, the structure and the home ground advantage. Adelaide should not take Persipura lightly, but their best is certainly good enough to win.