Preview: Melbourne Victory v Kawasaki Frontale
Melbourne's ACL campaign hangs on a knife edge and anything less than a win in Wednesday night's match against Kawasaki Frontale will mean that Victory's hopes of making the second round are all but dashed.
Date: Wednesday March 31 Kick-off+: 7:30pm AEDT (7:00pm local) Venue:Docklands Stadium
This Campaign: Melbourne Victory: (Currently fourth in Group E) Beijing Guoan 1, Melbourne Victory 0, Beijing Workers Stadium, February 23 Melbourne Victory 0, Seongnam Ilhwa 2, Docklands Stadium, Melbourne, March 9 Kawasaki Frontale 4, Melbourne Victory 0, Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium, March 31
Kawasaki Frontale: (Currently fourth in Group E) 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 Kawasaki Frontale 4, Melbourne Victory 0, Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium, March 31
Analysis: Melbourne's ACL campaign hangs on a knife edge and anything less than a win in Wednesday night's match against Kawasaki Frontale will mean that Victory's hopes of making the second round are all but dashed.
Tight scheduling and a couple of tough road trips have seen Melbourne go through the first three matches without a win. In fact, Melbourne is the only team in the whole competition, which features Asia's leading 32 clubs, yet to score a goal.
To have put in three disappointing performances in succession is very unlike Melbourne, but it was clear that the pressure of balancing Hyundai A-League final commitments and the ACL took its toll.
With the Hyundai A-League out of the way, the focus is firmly on the continental club championship and getting revenge against Kawasaki Frontale, who defeated Melbourne 4-0 last week.
In that match, Brazilian Renatinho took a liking to the left side of Melbourne's defence and cut Melbourne apart. He set up the first goal, won the free kick for the second and then delivered a great strike for a third goal inside 21 minutes.
At that point, the match was all but over and Melbourne competed well in the second half only to give up a goal and a red card in the final minute.
Leigh Broxham picked up the red and will miss this match, but skipper Kevin Muscat returns to boost the side. Marvin Angulo is likely to start, while Mitch Langerak should resume duties between the posts.
With those changes, and some home advantage, Melbourne can turn things around. Kawasaki is missing its influential North Korean striker Chong Tese while midfielder Kengo Nakamura and striker Juninho remain sidelined.
Kawasaki's form in the J-League has been mixed, losing 4-0 two weeks ago before a 0-0 home draw on the weekend which drew criticism from within the playing ranks.
The key for Melbourne will be cutting Renatinho out of the game and preventing needless free kicks and corners. With more run in their legs after a week off, Victory should be then able to free themselves up to play their own game and put some pressure on the visitors' defence.
Carlos Hernandez will be looking for an improved game and he and Robbie Kruse need to work well together if Melbourne is any hope of turning things around and re-igniting a stalling ACL campaign.
Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Mitchell Langerak (Gk), 2.Kevin Muscat (C), 3.Mate Dugandzic, 5.Surat Sukha, 8.Grant Brebner, 9. Nik Mrdja, 12.Rodrigo Vargas, 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, 26.Marvin Angulo
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