Brisbane Roar will have to play their final three AFC Champions League group stage matches without a visa player replacement for injured leading scorer Henrique.
Striker Jean Carlos Solorzano, the club’s second top scorer (six goals), looms as the obvious cover for Henrique (eight goals), but the Costa Rican will have to bide his time before getting a taste of AFC Champions League action.
Under Asian Football Confederation rules, the Roar can only apply for an injury replacement for Henrique, who had a full knee reconstruction last week, if they advance from the current Group Stage of the Champions League to the knockout Round of 16 in May.
Henrique has played in all three of the Roar’s AFC Champions League games so far this campaign as one of the club’s permitted three visa players. The others are German Thomas Broich and Serbian Andrija Kaluderovic.
The Roar leave Brisbane tonight for South Korea where they will play Suwon Samsung FC on Wednesday (8.30pm kick-off Brisbane time).
The two sides, which drew 3-3 at Robina Stadium on 18 March, are locked in second place in Group G on four points behind undefeated leaders Beijing Guoan (nine points).
After Suwon, the Roar then plays Beijing away (21 April) before hosting Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds (5 May) in the final Group Stage match.
Roar Head Coach Frans Thijssen concedes Wednesday night’s game could be pivotal to his side finishing in the top two and advancing to the Round of 16 playoffs.
“With Beijing so far ahead, the rest of the group is tight and anything could happen,” Thijssen said.
“This game looms as our toughest so far, but we have to get something out of it so we are not relying on other results to advance.
“Suwon are a strong, physical team and we expect them to attack us from the start.”
Solorzano was highly effective on the left wing in the Roar’s stunning 6-1 Hyundai A-League win over Central Coast Mariners on Thursday night and Thijssen agreed he would have been handy to attack Suwon on the break on Wednesday.
But because of the AFC rules that require the Roar to stick to the three visa players they nominated at the start of the competition, the Brisbane squad heading to South Korea contains only four strikers – Kaluderovic, Dimitri Petratos and teenagers Brandon Borrello and Shannon Brady.
International marquee Thomas Broich, who played 45 minutes against Central Coast in his return from an ankle injury, will also travel to South Korea and could play up front instead of midfield.
Goalkeeper Michael Theo, who has been sidelined for a month with a quad tear, is fit again and comes back into the travelling squad.
Courageous defender Jade North, who rushed back from a groin injury to play the last two games as the Roar struggled to cover for having eight players out through injury and international duty, will be left at home to rest and continue his rehab.
Fellow defender Daniel Bowles comes into the Roar’s AFC Champions League squad for the first time, missing the earlier games through illness, while youngster Devante Clut, who scored twice against Suwon on Match Day Three, is rewarded with his first Champions League overseas trip.
The squad includes midfielder Steven Lustica, who netted a hat-trick in the romp against the Mariners, but he is battling for Starting XI selection against Socceroo Matt McKay who returns to the squad along with fellow international representatives Luke DeVere, James Donachie (under 23s) and Corey Brown (under 23s).
Thijssen confirmed Solorzano would head to Adelaide later this week to link with the Roar squad which flies on Thursday from South Korea to South Australia, via Singapore, for their Hyundai A-League Round 25 clash with the Reds next Saturday night.
The Roar squad is: Goalkeepers - Jamie Young, Michael Theo; Defenders - Luke DeVere, Jack Hingert, James Donachie, Shane Stefanutto, Corey Brown, Daniel Bowles; Midfielders - Matt McKay, Luke Brattan, Thomas Broich, Steven Lustica, Devante Clut, Adam Sarota; Forwards - Andrija Kaluderovic, Brandon Borrello, Dimitri Petratos, Shannon Brady.