Preview: Melbourne Victory v Beijing Guoan
Melbourne's hopes of qualifying for the second round of the AFC Champions League rest on the 2008-09 Hyundai A-League champions getting all three points from Wednesday's home clash against Chinese Super League champion Beijing Guoan.
Date: Wednesday April 14 Kick-off: 7:30pm AEDT Venue: Docklands Stadium
This Campaign: Melbourne Victory: (Currently fourth in Group E) Beijing Guoan 1, Melbourne Victory 0, Beijing Workers Stadium, February 23 Melbourne Victory 0, Seongnam Ilhwa 2, Docklands Stadium, Melbourne, March 9 Kawasaki Frontale 4, Melbourne Victory 0, Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium, March 23 Melbourne Victory 1 Kawasaki Frontale 0 Docklands Stadium, Melbourne, March 31
Beijing Guoan: (Currently second in Group E) Beijing Guoan 1, Melbourne Victory 0, Beijing Workers Stadium, February 23 Kawasaki Frontale 1, Beijing Guoan 3, Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium, March 9 Seongnam Ilhwa 3, Beijing Guoan 1, Tancheon Sports Complex, March 23 Beijing Guoan 0, Seongnam Ilhwa 1. Beijing Workers Stadium, March 31
Analysis: Melbourne's hopes of qualifying for the second round of the AFC Champions League rest on the 2008-09 Hyundai A-League champions getting all three points from Wednesday's home clash against Chinese Super League champion Beijing Guoan.
The team have endured mixed fortunes since Beijing prevailed 1-0 at the Workers Stadium when the teams first met in February. Beijing went onto to defeat Kawasaki Frontale in its next match but has since lost home and away clashes against group frontrunner Seongnam Ilhwha to imperil its hopes of making the final 16.
Melbourne, meanwhile, endured a torrid start to its campaign, losing its first three matches, including a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Kawasaki, just three days after it has lost the Hyundai A-League Grand final in a penalty shootout. But hopes still remained for Melbourne, which managed to eke out a 1-0 win over Kawasaki in Melbourne the following week.
The means that Melbourne has three points, level with Kawasaki and three behind Beijing. Should it win its final two matches, it is a real chance of qualifying after being all but dead and buried after the disastrous result in Japan.
The star of the win which revived Melbourne's hopes a couple of weeks ago was goalkeeper Mitch Langerak, who pulled off several outstanding saves to secure all three points. Inspirational captain Kevin Muscat, who due to tough scheduling had only played a minor role in the campaign to that point, stepped up to convert the decisive penalty.
It's amazing how quickly things have turned around for Melbourne, which has now had two weeks to nurse any injuries it may have had. However, a virus has swept through the club, placing a cloud over both Nick Ward and Carlos Hernandez. Experienced midfielders Tom Pondeljak and Grant Brebner have hamstring injuries, while Robbie Kruse is struggling with a persistent ankle problem. Knee victims Archie Thompson, Billy Celeski and Matthew Kemp will be sidelined for some time yet.
The last time these two played, it was Joel Griffiths who proved the difference between the two sides. The former Johnny Warren Medallist is a crucial player for Beijing, and has scored four goals in seven games so far in 2010.
Beijing has played three games in the CSL so far this season, winning two and drawing one to currently sit fourth overall. The visitors' international contingent is made up of Brazilian Valdo, Scotsman Maurice Ross and Bosnian Darko Matic. Griffiths' brother Ryan was left out of the squad for the AFC Champions League and therefore can not participate.
A draw could be enough to all but secure Beijing's passage to the next round, but it will be looking for a win to make a sure thing of it.
Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Mitchell Langerak (GK), 2.Kevin Muscat (C), 3.Mate Dugandzic, 5.Surat Sukha, 8.Grant Brebner, 9. Nik Mrdja, 12.Rodrigo Vargas, 16.Carlos Hernandez, 17.Matthew Foschini, 19. Evan Berger, 20.Glen Moss (GK), 21.Robbie Kruse, 22.Nick Ward, 23.Adrian Leijer, 25.Aziz Behich, 26.Marvin Angulo
Beijing Guoan squad: 1. Zhang Sipeng, 2. Lang Zheng, 3. Wu Hao, 4. Zhou Ting, 5. Darko Matic, 6. Xu Liang, 7. Wang Changqing, 8. Yang Hao, 9. Du Wenhui, 10. Valdo, 11. Yan Xiangchuang, 12. Hou Sen, 13. Xu Yunlong (captain), 15. Tao Wei, 16. Huang Bowen, 17. Wang Ke, 18. Lu Jiang , 19. Wang Xiaolong, 20. Zhang Xinxin , 21. Yao Shuang, 22. Yang Zhi, 23. Ryan Griffiths, 24. Yang Yun, 25. Xue Fei, 26. Wang Hao, 28. Zhu Yifan, 29. Joel Griffiths, 30. Zhang Yonghai (vice captain), 31. Hu Qiling, 32. Yu Yang, 33. Maurice Ross