Preview: Sydney FC v Kashima Antlers

This looms as a vital clash with the winner to significantly boost their chances of finishing in one of the top two spots.

Date: Wednesday April 13 Kick-off: 8:00pm AEST Venue: Sydney Football Stadium Television: Live and exclusive on Fox Sports 1

Head-to-head Never met

The road to the ACL Sydney FC: 2010 A-League champions Kashima Antlers: 2010 Emperor's Cup winners

History These two sides met in the group stage in 2007 with Sydney taking the honours. The Sky Blues won in China thanks to goals from Steve Corica and Ufuk Talay while the return match at the SFS finished all square.

Recent form: Sydney FC: AFC: Sydney FC 1, Shanghai Shenhua 1, SFS AFC: Sydney FC 0, Suwon Bluewings 0, SFS HAL: Melbourne Heart 2, Sydney FC 2, AAMI Park HAL: Sydney FC 2, Wellington Phoenix 0, SFS HAL: Newcastle 1, Sydney FC 1, EnergyAustralia Stadium

Kashima Antlers: AFC: Suwon Bluewings 1, Kashima Antlers 1, Suwon J-League: Kashima Antlers 3 Omiya 3, Kashima AFC: Kashima Antlers 0 Shanghai Shenhua 0 , Kashima

Selection Sydney have lost influential midfielder Nicky Carle to a hamstring injury in a huge blow to their chances. Carle was the Sky Blues' best against Shanghai Shenhua and scored the vital equaliser in the 1-1 draw. The 29-year-old's creativity will be a big loss for the home side. Skipper Terry McFlynn is also still unavailable through suspension, while defender Sebastian Ryall is also in doubt.

It's been a solid start to the ACL for Kashima whose campaign has been jolted by the natural disasters that rocked Japan. The Antlers have been held to two draws in their opening two games and it's likely there will not be too many changes to their usual system and tactics for this match.

Danger Men Bruno Cazarine - Has struggled to have the impact he would have liked in the first two games and becomes a crucial player ion this match in Nicky Carle's absence.

Mitsuo Ogasawara - The veteran skipper and midfielder is the lynchpin for the Antlers. A former international and J-League MVP, he has spent much of the past month helping out in his former hometown, which has been devastated by the earthquake.

Analysis This might only mark the halfway mark of the group stage but it's getting to point where anything but a win for Sydney FC will make it extremely difficult for them to progress to the knockout phase. The Sky Blues will play their last three matches on the road and will need to get as many points on the board as possible before facing their tricky away fixtures. With that being the case the loss of Carle is a devastating one as not many other players in the Sydney squad have the ability to unlock the defence like the Socceroos midfielder can. Much will fall on the shoulders of the lively David Williams and Brazilian striker Bruno Cazarine to create goal-scoring opportunities.

Both sides come into the match with little football under their belts, with just one game each between them in the last month. While Sydney overcame that problem in their clash with Shanghai last week, the Antlers should pose more of a threat for the home side. Like many of the Asian clubs in this competition, they have a good mix of local based players with a sprinkling of imports in the attacking third. Brazilian duo Carlao and Gabriel are the two that Sydney will need to watch closely if they are to stop the visitor's goal-scoring threat.

With both clubs on two points - three behind leaders Suwon - this looms as a vital clash with the winner to significantly boost their chances of finishing in one of the top two spots. Given the Antlers have their final three matches at home they will be more than happy with a draw in this one. With that in mind, and the absence of Carle for Sydney, it wouldn't be a shock to see the sides share the points in this one.

SQUADS Sydney FC Liam Reddy, Sebastian Ryall, Stephan Keller, Hirofumi Moriyasu, Brendan Gan, Stuart Musialik, Bruno Cazarine, Nicky Carle, David Williams, Shannon Cole, Terry McFlynn, Kofi Danning, Mark Bridge, Ivan Necevski, Scott Jamieson, Matthew Jurman, Dimitri Petratos, Joel Chianese, Jared Lum, Blake Powell, Nathan Sherlock, Rhyan Grant, Dylan Mitchell, Luke Austin, Andrew Durante.

Kashima Antlers Sugiyama Tetsu, Daiki Iwamasa, Alex, Nakata Koji, Araiba Toru, Nozawa Takuya, Osako Yuya, Motoyama Masashi, F. Gabriel, Shinzoh, Kohrogi, Masuda Chikashi, Aoki Takeshi, Takuya Honda, Carlao, Masahiko Inoha, Shibasaki Gaku, Hitoshi Sogahata, Daigo Nishi, Shoji Gen, Toma Takefumi, Endoh Yasushi, Koyano Kenji, Umebachi Takahide, Doi Shoma, Sato Akihiro, Tashiro Yuzo, Yagi Naoki, Ogasawara Mitsuo