Preview: Kawasaki Frontale v Melbourne Victory

Both teams have lost their first two matches meaning there is a six-point gap between second and third. The loser from this encounter will find it close to impossible to qualify as one of the top two teams on the group.

Date: Tuesday March 23
Kick-off (AEDT): 9:00pm AEDT (7:00pm local)
Venue: Kawasaki, Todoroki Stadium, Japan

Previous Asian championship appearances::
Kawasaki Frontale:
2007: AFC Champions League Quarter Finals
2009: AFC Champions League Quarter Finals

Melbourne Victory:
2008: ACL Group Stage

This Campaign:
Melbourne Victory:
Beijing Guoan 1, Melbourne Victory 0, Beijing Workers Stadium, February 23
Melbourne Victory 0, Seongnam Ilhwa 2, Docklands Stadium, Melbourne, March 9

Kawasaki Frontale:
Seongnam Ilhwa 2, Kawasaki Frontale 0, Kawasaki Frontale 0, Tancheon Sports Complex, February 23
Kawasaki Frontale 1, Beijing Guoan 3, Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium, March 9

Both Kawasaki Frontale and Melbourne Victory desperately need a win in this match if they are to keep Group D rivals Seongnam and Beijing in sight.

Both teams have lost their first two matches meaning there is a six-point gap between second and third. The loser from this encounter will find it close to impossible to qualify as one of the top two teams on the group.

For Melbourne, its task has been made all the more harder with just a three-day break between its Hyundai A-League Grand Final loss to Sydney and this match. That encounter went to 120 minutes plus penalties, leaving Melbourne to rush off on the night of the game for a flight to Japan.

The significant injury to come out of the Grand Final was Archie Thompson’s ruptured anterior cruciate ligament which has robbed Melbourne of its marquee player until at least the start of next year. It-s a devastating blow for a team which has relied on Thompson’s spark for the past five years.

Veteran Tom Pondeljak was ruled out of both the Grand Final and this match with a hamstring injury, while the ability of veteran trio Rody Vargas, Kevin Muscat and Grant Brebner to back-up after 120 minutes on Saturday is questionable. They will be assessed on the day of the game.

Melbourne has several youngsters in its squad of 18 who played either a minor or no part in Saturday’s match. Mate Dugandzic has been drafted in for Thompson, while Matthew Foschini and Aziz Behich should also be fresh. Striker Nik Mrdja missed the GF through suspension, but will play here.

Melbourne’s last trip to Japan for an ACL game back in 2008 saw the visitors lose 2-0 to eventual tournament winners Gamba Osaka, however it will have more confidence against Kawasaki, who have struggled both in the ACL and the J-League.

Its most recent J-League clash saw it lose 4-0 to Yokohama Marinos, but it did win its opening two matches and currently sits seventh on the table. Three of Kawasaki’s imports are from Brazil, Vitor Junior, Juninho and Renatinho. The former pair have yet to play this season, but Renatinho has scored twice in the J-League this season.

The other import is North Korea’s best player Chong Tese, who has scored 41 goals in over 100 appearances for the club, including a double in the recent win over Josh Kennedy’s Nagoya Grampus.

Kawasaki’s playmaker Kengo Nakamura, a regular for the Japanese national team, who scored the last time Frontale played against an Australian side (Kawasaki won 5-0 against Central Coast) is currently out with a broken jaw.

That’s a bonus for Melbourne, but it faces a huge task to turn the devastation of Saturday night into ACL redemption on Tuesday.

Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Mitchell Langerak (Gk), 2.Kevin Muscat (C), 3.Mate Dugandzic, 5.Surat Sukha, 6.Leigh Broxham, 8.Grant Brebner, 11.Marvin Angulo, 12.Rodrigo Vargas, 13.Nathan Elasi, 16.Carlos Hernandez, 17.Matthew Foschini, 19. Evan Berger, 20.Glen Moss (Gk), 21.Robbie Kruse, 22.Nick Ward, 23.Adrian Leijer, 25.Aziz Behich

Kawasaki Frontale squad:
1. Eiji Kawashima, 2. Hiroki Ito, 3. Hideki Sahara, 4. Yusuke Igawa, 5. Jun Sonoda, 6. Yusuke Tasaka, 7. Masaru Kurotsu, 8. Takanobu Komiyama, 9. Chong Tese, 10. Juninho, 11. Vitor Júnior, 13. Shuhei Terada, 14. Kengo Nakamura, 15. Takuro Yajima, 16. Jumpei Kusukami, 17. Kosuke Kikuchi, 18. Tomonobu Yokoyama, 19. Yusuke Mori, 20. Junichi Inamoto, 21. Takashi Aizawa, 22. Yuji Kimura, 23. Kyohei Noborizato, 24. Yu Kobayashi, 25. Yuki Yoshida, 26. Hidenobu Takasu, 27. Shunsuke Ando, 28. Rikihiro Sugiyama, 29. Hiroyuki Taniguchi, 34. Renatinho