Victory aim to ‘shape history’ against Gamba Osaka

Melbourne Victory are looking to “shape history” when they take on Gamba Osaka in Japan on Wednesday, with the Hyundai A-League powerhouse aiming for a maiden away win in the ACL.

In 12 previous trips in the ACL, Victory have claimed four draws and been defeated eight times.

But with Gamba having failed to win in their first three competitive games of 2016, the reigning Australian champions could hardly be in a better position to end their continental drought. 

ACL preview: Gamba Osaka v Melbourne Victory

And after the confidence-boosting win on matchday 1 over Shanghai SIPG in Melbourne last week, Victory will take the field in good spirits at the J.League club’s new ground Suita City Football Stadium. 

Besart Berisha celebrates his match-winning penalty against Shanghai SIPG.

While Victory coach Kevin Muscat insisted he’s not going “to bother too much” about Gamba’s results, he made it clear his team believe they can win. 

“We can shape history here; the mentality’s been that,” Muscat told reporters from Osaka on Tuesday.

“Looking back, it’s documented the results and how hard it is to travel… but we’ll focus on what’s going to give us the best chance of winning the game rather than focusing on the best chance of them not winning it.”

Victory have faced Gamba four times previously in the ACL and have never won, with their best result a draw in their most recent meeting in May 2011 – Muscat’s last professional match.

Gamba started their 2016 campaign on February 20 when they lost the Japanese Super Cup 3-1 to Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

The Emperor’s Cup winners then drew their ACL opener at Suwon Bluewings and lost 1-0 at home to Kashima Antlers on Sunday.

Gamba Osaka.

Muscat arrived in Japan earlier than his squad to watch that match and argued Gamba showed enough to make him wary, while he believes they will be even stronger on Wednesday.

“I’m not going to bother too much about [Gamba’s] actual results,” the Big V’s coach said.

“What I’ve seen, they’re a very good team. Very technically balanced and gifted, and very disciplined within their structure.”

Against Kashima, Gamba coach Kenta Hasegawa selected just four players who started against Suwon. 

Muscat expects the likes of attacking midfielders Takashi Usami and Hiroyuki Abe, plus striker Patric to return to the starting XI versus Victory.

But Gamba will be without experienced central defender Daiki Niwa, who broke his collarbone against Kashima.

Hasegawa’s team have only scored one goal in three games so far this term, but the 50-year-old coach believes they will come good up front.

Gamba Osaka boss Kenta Hasegawa.

“It’s always difficult to come up with the goals at this time of the year,” Hasegawa reportedly told the Japan Times.

“Also, we’ve played Hiroshima, Suwon and Kashima so far, and they’re not easy teams to score against.”

In the J.League last season, Gamba finished third but were the fifth best attacking team with 56 goals, well behind champions Sanfrecce (73) and second-placed Urawa Red Diamonds (69).