Hernandez returns for Chunnam challenge

Costa Rican international Carlos Hernandez will make a welcomed return from injury when Melbourne Victory faces Korea Republic’s Chunnam Dragons on Match Day 5 of the AFC Champions League 2008 at Gwangyang Football Stadium this Wednesday (kick off 8pm AEST).

Costa Rican international Carlos Hernandez will make a welcomed return from injury when Melbourne Victory faces Korea Republic-s Chunnam Dragons on Match Day 5 of the AFC Champions League 2008 at Gwangyang Football Stadium this Wednesday (kick off 8pm AEST).

Hernandez, who was sidelined with a strained medial ligament after a training mishap in February, will make his first appearance in Asia-s premier club competition, with Victory Coach Ernie Merrick set to use the attacking midfielder off the bench.

"Carlos has got through two tough training sessions this week," Merrick said.

"He-s only about 70 per cent fit, but he-ll play some part in the game because his injury is completely healed, so now it-s more a case of getting him match fit.

"The more game time he can get, the better, so he-ll definitely come off the bench at some stage."

Hernandez is the only addition to Victory-s travelling party, with Socceroos midfielder Leigh Broxham suspended from the Chunnam clash after receiving two cautions in two separate matches.

Victory commenced its lengthy journey to the Korean city of Gwangyang on Sunday morning, with the team forced to spend a night in Seoul before boarding a flight on Monday morning to Yeosu, where it travelled by bus to Gwangyang.

Merrick hinted that Qantas Young Socceroos striker Nathan Elasi is set to make his competitive debut against Chunnam, while Socceroos midfielder Tom Pondeljak is likely to be promoted to the starting 11 after his first appearance off the bench against Japan-s Gamba Osaka almost two weeks ago.

"We-ll probably play Nathan Elasi from the start and Tom Pondeljak is up to about 75 per cent fit now, so he-ll probably start as well," Merrick said.

"We-ve scored six goals so far in the AFC Champions League, three from Danny Allsopp and the other three from defenders with Kevin Muscat from the penalty spot and Rodrigo Vargas from set pieces.

"We-re still trying to get our strikers and midfielders in goal scoring mode.

"Nathan has been training particularly well and is scoring lots of goals when we play 11-a-side matches amongst ourselves, so it-s a good opportunity for him to see if he can take the next step up."

Victory was mathematically ruled out of reaching the Knockout Stage of the AFC Champions League 2008 after its 2-0 loss to Gamba, though Merrick said the side is determined to improve ahead of its friendly against Italian giant Juventus FC at Telstra Dome on Friday, 30 May.

"We-ll be playing to win the game and we want to finish on a high note.

"Despite the long Hyundai A-League season and then preparing again and staying fit for the AFC Champions League, you would never believe it, because the attitude at training is very upbeat and enthusiastic.

"The boys are highly motivated to finish off the AFC Champions League on a high note and the icing on the cake before their four week break is to play against a fantastic team like Juventus."

Chunnam, which played out a 2-2 draw against Thailand-s Chonburi FC in its most recent AFC Champions League fixture, has the slimmest of chances of progressing to the Knockout Stage and must win its final two Group Stage games to stay alive.

Victory defeated last year-s Korean FA Cup winners 2-0 at Telstra Dome in the club-s historic first AFC Champions League match and will look to record its second win of Asia-s premier club competition in Gwangyang.

Chunnam, which currently sits third on the Group G ladder, is also searching for its second win and heads into Wednesday-s match following a thrilling 3-3 draw against FC Seoul on Saturday, which saw all six goals netted in the second half.

The match will be broadcast live and exclusively on Fox Sports 1 Viewer-s Choice from 8pm AEST, with a replay to follow immediately after the final whistle at 10pm AEST.

Victory will return to Melbourne for its final AFC Champions League 2008 fixture against Chonburi at Telstra Dome on Wednesday, 21 May.

Tickets for the match against Chonburi, as well as Victory-s blockbuster friendly against Juventus on Friday, 30 May, are available from any Ticketmaster outlet, by calling 136 100 or through ticketmaster.com.au.

AFC Champions League 2008 - Group G
Chunnam Dragons (KOR) v Melbourne Victory (AUS)
Wednesday, 7 May 2008
Kick off 7pm local (8pm AEST)
Gwangyang Football Stadium, Gwangyang

(Both teams will name a squad of 18 players 90 minutes before kick off)

Chunnam Dragons: 1.CHA Kiseok (gk), 2.KIM Jinhyun, 3.PARK Jiyong, 4.JUNG Inhwan, 5.KWAK Tae Hwi (Captain), 6.Jasenko SABITOVIC, 7.KIM Chiwoo, 8.KIM Taesu, 9.SONG Jung Hyun, 10.Adriano NEVES PEREIRA, 11.Sandro Hiroshi PARREAO OI, 12.LEE Sangil, 13.LEE Yunpyo, 14.BAEK Seungmin, 15.JEONG Kyungho, 16.LIM Kwan Sik, 17.LEE Junki, 18.Victor Simoes DE OLIVEIRA, 19.JU Kwangyoun, 20.KO Kigu, 21.YEOM Donggyun (gk), 22.KIM Seongjae, 23.YU Jino, 24.CHO Min Hyuck (gk), 25.LEE Hyuro, 26.JEONG Junyeon, 27.LEE Sang Yong, 28.CHO Beomseok, 29.CHANG Donghyok, 30.YOO Hongyoul

Melbourne Victory: 1.Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (Captain), 4.Steven PACE, 6.Steve PANTELDIS, 7.Matthew KEMP, 9.Daniel ALLSOPP, 11.Nathan ELASI, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13.Kaz PATAFTA, 14.Adrian CACERES, 15.Leandro LOVE, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 19.Evan BERGER, 20.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 21.Sebastian RYALL, 22.Nick WARD, 24.Billy CELESKI, 25.Tom PONDELJAK

TV: Live and exclusive on Fox Sports 1 Viewer-s Choice (broadcast commences at 8pm AEST, replay commences at 10pm AEST)