Preview: Melbourne Victory v Kawasaki Frontale
Melbourne Victory's AFC Champions League campaign has lurched from one disaster to the next and anything less than a win in Wednesday's clash against Kawasaki Frontale at Docklands Stadium will have Ernie Merrick's team eliminated after just four games.
Date: Wednesday March 31 Kick-off+: 7:30pm AEDT (7:00pm local) 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 31
Kawasaki Frontale: (Currently fourth in Group E) Seongnam Ilhwa 2, Kawasaki Frontale 0, Kawasaki Frontale 0, Tancheon Sports Complex, February 23 Kawasaki Frontale 1, Beijing Guoan 3, Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium, March 9 Kawasaki Frontale 4, Melbourne Victory 0, Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium, March 31
Analysis: Melbourne Victory's AFC Champions League campaign has lurched from one disaster to the next and anything less than a win in Wednesday's clash against Kawasaki Frontale at Docklands Stadium will have Ernie Merrick's team eliminated after just four games.
The competing demands the Hyundai A-League final series and the ACL have proved beyond this talented Melbourne side, who have been unable to back-up well in short periods of time. While they had five days between domestic commitments and ACL duties in the opening match against Beijing, the other two encounters have taken place just three and two days after finals matches against Sydney.
The performances have got worse and worse as the tournament has progressed, losing 1-0 to Beijing, 2-0 to Seongnam and then 4-0 to Kawasaki. Now it faces an eight-day turnaround against last year's J-League runners-up, needing to reverse that horrible result from last week to be any hope of squeaking through to the next round.
They regain inspirational skipper Kevin Muscat for this match after he was unable to back up in 72 hours from a Grand Final which went to extra time and penalties. Leigh Broxham misses through suspension, while Tom Pondeljak is still sidelined through injury. Marquee striker Archie Thompson will miss the rest of 2010 with a knee injury.
With that in mind, Melbourne will rely more heavily on its depth with youngsters Matthew Foschini, Mate Dugandzic and Aziz Behich likely to see game time, while Mitch Langerak will resume his duties between the posts.
The efficient way in which Kawasaki put three past Melbourne in the first 21 minutes last week will have Merrick mindful of the need for more attentive marking in defence. Brazilian Renatinho destroyed Melbourne down the right hand side and will be confident he can make inroads again.
The one positive is that Kawasaki will be without North Korean striker Chong Tese, who is suspended for this match. Kengo Nakamura and Juninho remain sidelined meaning Tsutomu Takahata is likely to stick with a similar line-up as last week.
Kawasaki is coming off a 0-0 draw in the J-League on the weekend, drawing with second placed Shimizu S-Pulse. That match has a few players worried, with Chong Tese quoted as saying the performance was very uncharacteristic for the usually free-flowing Kawasaki.
But given Kawasaki bounced back from a 4-0 J-League loss to hammer Melbourne last week, Victory will not be paying a lot of heed to that result. Kawasaki is still in a poor position in the table and needs another win in this match if it is to get back on track for qualification.
For Melbourne, this is its very last stand. The proud club would be greatly displeased with the current look of the table and even if a spot in the round of 16 is beyond it, there is still a huge amount of pride at stake.
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,
Kawasaki Frontale squad: 1.Eiji Kawashima, 2.Hiroki Ito, 3. Hideki Sahara, 4. Yusuke Igawa, 5. Jun Sonoda, 6. Yusuke Tasaka, 7. Masaru Kurotsu, 8. Takanobu Komiyama, 9. Chong Tese, 10. Juninho, 11. Vitor Júnior, 13. Shuhei Terada, 14. Kengo Nakamura, 15. Takuro Yajima, 16. Jumpei Kusukami, 17. Kosuke Kikuchi, 18. Tomonobu Yokoyama, 19. Yusuke Mori, 20. Junichi Inamoto, 21. Takashi Aizawa, 22. Yuji Kimura, 23. Kyohei Noborizato, 24. Yu Kobayashi, 25. Yuki Yoshida, 26. Hidenobu Takasu, 27. Shunsuke Ando, 28. Rikihiro Sugiyama, 29. Hiroyuki Taniguchi, 34. Renatinho