Melbourne Victory’s AFC Champions League campaign continues this week, with the boys in blue headed to Japan for Match Day 4.
Melbourne Victory-s AFC Champions League campaign continues this week, with the boys in blue headed to Japan for Match Day 4.
Victory will take on Japanese side Yokohama F. Marinos for the second time in the 2014 campaign, fresh from a 1-0 win over the J-League outfit in Melbourne at AAMI Park on Match Day 3.
On that day, it was Kosta Barbarouses- early goal that was the difference. Victory defended well and despite having the lesser of possession on the night, were impressive in the win.
Barbarouses won-t be in Japan, having picked up his second yellow of the Asian Champions League campaign meaning the New Zealand international will serve a one-match suspension.
Chilean international Pablo Contreras will likewise miss through suspension, the defender also picking up his second yellow in the last outing against Yokohama.
Kevin Muscat-s men face a tough match at the Yokohama International Stadium and selection for both teams will be a big part of the build up to this match.
Yokohama sit bottom of the Champions League group having just one draw from their three matches and will find it tough to progress, while Victory sit third, equal on points with second placed Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and behind only on goal difference. Jeonbuk will play Chinese powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande on this match day and if the favourites, Guangzhou, take all three points, second spot in Group G will be Victory-s with a win, or a draw.
Key Players: Missing from the clash in Melbourne, former Celtic and Japan national team icon, Shunsuke Nakamura could make an appearance in this home fixture. Nakamura, who also wears the armband, was named J-League player of the year in 2013, showing that at even 35-years-of-age, he has plenty to offer his side.
Centre-back Yuji Nakazawa also missed the trip to Melbourne and doesn-t often lose one-on-one duels with opposing attackers. He has been a big part of the Japan national side and will be a big inclusion should he return for Yokohama.
The coach: Yashurio Higuchi has been a big part of the Yokohama F. Marinos history both as a player and a manager.
Higuchi played his first professional football as a youngster for Yokohama-s youth side, forcing his way to the senior line up. Injury saw his career end early and it was then Higuchi decided to become a coach. He took on the top job at Montedio Yamagata, Omiya Ardija and Yokohama FC.
Prior to the 2012 J-League season, Higuchi was given the top job and managed to steer his team into fourth position in his first year, before seeing even better performances from his side that saw them finish runners-up in 2013 and secure automatic Asian Champions League qualification.
How Yokohama F. Marinos qualified: It was direct qualification for Yokohama in this year-s Champions League, as runner-up in Japan-s J-League in 2013.
This 2014 campaign will be Yokohama-s third in the AFC Champions League, having played in the group stages in 2004 and 2005.
No stranger to success, Yokohama have won the J-League three times (1995, 2003 and 2004) as well as six Emperor-s Cups.
Yokohama F. Marinos v Melbourne Victory Match Day 4: AFC Champions League Wednesday, April 2, 9:30pm (AEDT) Live and exclusive on Fox Sports Yokohama International Stadium, Tokyo Twitter: #YOKvMEL