Adelaide United may have to sacrifice gun striker Sergio van Dijk for Thursday's AFC Champions League qualifier against Indonesian side Persipura in order to solve their defensive crisis.
Adelaide United may have to sacrifice gun striker Sergio van Dijk for Thursday's AFC Champions League qualifier against Indonesian side Persipura in order to solve their defensive crisis.Coach John Kosmina admits he could be forced to alter his provisional 27-man squad, handed in last week, for a tournament they were confirmed entrants of two months ago. A decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Friday, however, reinstated Persipura in the competition despite them being part of a rebel league not recognised by the Asian Football Confederation. A knockout match will thus take place on Thursday between the two clubs with the winner gaining entry into the competition. But such is the political confusion around the situation, Adelaide could still take part in the tournament even if they are defeated - meaning Thursday's game could end up being for nought. United also have concerns on field, as Milan Susak's transfer to Chinese club Tianjin Teda - made official over the weekend - means the Reds currently have an alarming shortage of players who can play at centre-half.
Qantas Australian Under 23 duo Daniel Mullen and Antony Golec are absent while Jon McKain is injured, leaving Nigel Boogaard and Levchenko as United's likely central defensive pairing for Thursday.
The problem is Levchenko was not named in Adelaide's preliminary squad for the competition last week as he missed the heartbreaking three-foreigners-only cut.
It is believed that United will be forced to abide by AFC rules for Thursday's tie, which means no more than three visa players and one AFC member nation player can be in their squad.
With Levchenko only playing at the moment to fill the gap at the back, one of the three players who originally earned a Champions League call-up ahead of him - van Dijk, veteran fullback Cassio or midfield holder Pancho Usucar - will have to make way if Kosmina selects him as expected.
After Adelaide's 2-1 win on the Gold Coast on Sunday, the Reds boss suggested the Ukrainian is likely to get a taste of continental action after all.
"That's something we'll have to consider because we don't have the availability of Daniel Mullen or Antony Golec," he said.
"That's why Lev's playing at the moment, but I think in the last two games he's done enough to say we could probably use him," he said.
"That's a decision we'll have to make tomorrow. As far as I know we are allowed to use him. That'd mean I'd have to change something.
"It could be Serge, because he hasn't scored for a couple of weeks. It could be Pancho because he hasn't played much in the last few weeks.
"It might be Cassio because he had a bad throw in the last minute of the game," Kosmina teased.
Van Dijk, who had little impact in the triumph over bottom-placed Gold Coast, was confident the club has the requisite depth to beat Persipura and qualify for the Champions League.
"It's going to be a hard decision," he said when told Kosmina could drop him for the match.
"I think we have the players who can fill out those roles that are missing, they can still do the job. We have a good chance to win it, with all respect to the opponent."