ACL preview: Victory v Gamba Osaka

Good news for a Victory who are needing a win on Tuesday night, as @JohnnyDuerden reports the J-League strugglers are likely to play an experimental side at AAMI Park.

Gamba Osaka arrive in Australia to take on Melbourne Victory on Tuesday desperate to get away from their new Kansai home.

The Suita Stadium only hosted its first J.League game at the end of February but as beautiful as the arena undoubtedly is, it has been the opposite of a happy hunting ground for the 2008 AFC Champions League winners.

Gamba have lost their last five league games at the stadium, leading to whispers of curses. 

The 1-0 loss at home to Kawasaki Frontale saw the team booed off the pitch, an increasingly common occurrence. It is ironic that playing in a bigger capacity arena means that more supporters can see the team lose.

In total, Gamba has won just once at home this season and drawn just one of the other seven. That came against Victory back in March. 

Victory celebrate a goal against Gamba Osaka on Matchday 2.

What was seen then as a good point by the Australians may now be regarded as two dropped given the subsequent Japanese form.

While there is time in the league to recover from these results, there is not time in the AFC Champions League and defeats at home to Shanghai SIPG and Suwon Bluewings mean that Osaka are out of the running.

The focus has already turned to the J.League. With the competition split into two stages, Gamba can, despite an indifferent start, win the second stage and then enter the end of season play-offs.

In Asia, there are few positives to take. 

An injury to centre-back Daiki Niwa robbed the team of authority at a crucial time and a physical presence at the back. 

Keisuke Iwashita has also been injured and his experience and defensive nous has also been missed. The 29 year-old could well make the trip down under as he looks to get some of his match sharpness back.

Surprisingly, veteran midfielder Yasuhito Endo has been pretty much an ever-present in both the J.League and the AFC Champions League despite being 36.

It was expected that the 2008 competition winner would be rested a little. It has not happened, suggesting that the powerhouse is still overly-dependent on its aging legend.

And with star attacker Patric and Takashi Usama , prolific in recent seasons, struggling in front of goal, it just hasn’t happened for the club.

“It obviously has not been the campaign we wanted,” said coach Kenta Hasegawa. “We have to use the experience we have gained to come back stronger in the future.”

Victory defender Mattieu Delpierre rises highest to win a header against Gamba Osaka.

It’s good news for Kevin Muscat. While Melbourne sits level on six points with Suwon Bluewings, the Hyundai A-League team has the better head to head record with the Korea Republic powerhouse. 

A win ensures that the Victorian powerhouse make it through.

Hasegawa acknowledged after the latest loss in the J.League that he will not be bringing his strongest team to Australia.

Takashi Usami was unlikely to make the trip even before catching a Kawasaki elbow in the face and there will be plenty of fresh-faced Gamba youngsters getting some game time on the pitch, eager to impress.