Hyundai A-League clubs’ ACL preview

The AFC Champions League enters MD 3 in the group stage. The three Hyundai A-League teams need to get some points on the board but that will be far from easy.

Kashima Antlers vs Brisbane Roar

Tuesday night 

After the 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Ulsan Horangi in Korea Republic, things are not about to get any easier for John Aloisi and his men as they face another long trip north.

Kashima is the most successful Japanese team of all time and won its eighth J.League title in 2016 before going on to enjoy the FIFA Club World Cup in December. 

Kashima progressed all the way to the final and then gave a good account of itself against Real Madrid.

Results so far in 2017 have been mixed. There was a solid 2-0 win over Ulsan Horangi at home and then a defeat to Muangthong United of Thailand in the group. 

In the J.League, there is a feeling that Kashima has yet to really get going with the team from Ibaraki looking solid rather than spectacular. 

Dimitri Petratos challenges for the ball against Brisbane Roar skipper Matt McKay.

New goalkeeper Kwon Sun-tae, signed from Asian champs Jeonbuk Motors of South Korea, has picked the ball out of the net just once in three games.

The central defensive partnership of Gen Shoji and Naomichi Uedais as good as it gets in Asia and with veteran midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara still appearing in midfield, there is plenty of experience in the line-up. 

Mu Kanazaki, a star of the Club World Cup, adds some spark further up the pitch too.

Adelaide United v Jeju United

Wednesday night 

Jeju is going well this season and, in a second ever appearance in the competition, wants a debut in the knockout stage.

The islanders, who finished third last season, have won both of their games in the K-League so far this campaign and are coming off the back of a comfortable 3-0 win over Ulsan at the weekend.

Lee Chang-min was on the scoresheet once again to add to the spectacular goal he got against Gamba Osaka in the second round of matches in the AFC Champions League.

That long-range effort helped United to a 4-1 triumph in Japan that got the continental campaign back on track. It was a fine performance and result at the home of the 2008 champion.

That was after the one blemish of the year so far, the 1-0 home loss to Jiangsu Suning in extremely windy conditions. The Chinese team took the three points thanks to a last minute strike from Ramires.

Adelaide United fell to a 2-1 loss to Jiangsu Suning in the ACL on Wednesday night.

It was a game a dominant Jeju should have won but the team just could not find a goal, hitting the woodwork twice.

Jeju is full of confidence but knows the trip to Adelaide will be tough. 

Coach Cho Sung-hwan mentioned squad rotation after the win over Ulsan and there may be a couple of players rested. 

That could give Australian defender Aleksander Jovanovic a first start of the season.

FC Seoul v Western Sydney Wanderers

Wednesday night

This is a crucial encounter between two teams that have lost both of their games so far in the group. Another defeat will almost certainly end any hopes of progressing to the knockout stage.

This is not exactly a journey to the unknown for Tony Popovic and his men. 

The Australians knocked the Koreans out at the semi-final stage in 2014 on their way to the title. They were back in 2015 in the group stage for a dour goalless draw.

Last year Seoul, finalist in 2013, shed its defensive skin and went goal crazy and reached the last four once again. 

Since that defeat, at the hands of fellow Koreans and champion Jeonbuk Motors, Seoul has lost prolific striker Adriano to China.

Results so far in Asia have been poor. 

There was a 1-0 loss at home to Shanghai SIPG on the opening day. The reds and blacks had plenty of possession against the Chinese but lost to a spectacular strike from Brazilian striker Hulk.

Western Sydney Wanderers were humbled 5-1 by Shanghai SIPG in the ACL overnight.

Then there was a 5-2 loss to Urawa Reds a week later that could have been worse as it was 5-1 at half-time. It was however, a dire defensive performance

It is still early days in the league but the team picked up a first win of the season on Saturday, a 1-0 victory at Gangwon FC, who play at the Ski-jumping stadium that will be used at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

Old warhorse Dejan Damjanovic got the goal to show that the Montenegrin marksman still has what it takes.