AFC Champions League opener provides fresh start for Reds

There is a feeling among Adelaide United’s squad that their opening match of the AFC Champions League 2012 against Bunyodkor at Jar Stadium in Tashkent is a chance to start afresh.

There is a feeling among Adelaide United-s squad that their opening match of the AFC Champions League 2012 against Bunyodkor at Jar Stadium in Tashkent is a chance to start afresh.

Situated 11,040 kilometres from home, the Reds have been able to forget about results, standings and the disappointment of being out of finals contention in the Hyundai A-League, at least temporarily, and instead think about proving themselves in a new competition.

Up against a Bunyodkor side that finished eight points clear of its nearest rivals in the Uzbek league last season to claim its fourth straight domestic title, the Reds go into the game as underdogs but there are enough reasons for them to feel somewhat optimistic of a good showing.

It may have been over three years ago and there has been substantial changes to both squads since, but Adelaide United defeated Bunyodkor 3-1 on aggregate over two legs in the Semi Finals of the 2008 AFC Champions League.

Captain Eugene Galekovic, Mark Birighitti, Fabian Barbiero and Daniel Mullen were part of the travelling party from the trip to Tashkent for that match back in 2008. While it may only amount to four players that are still in United-s squad today, the Reds have no shortage of current players who have taken the field in Uzbekistan before and know what to expect, but more importantly know what is required if Adelaide United is to return home with at least a point.

Seated alongside Adelaide United-s registered Head Coach for the tournament, Luciano Trani, in front of a packed media gallery at the official pre match media conference, Galekovic said the AFC Champions League has given the players a new lease of life.

“Playing in Uzbekistan is always a tough gig but a lot of the boys have been here before and we know what it-s about and we-re looking forward to it tomorrow night,” Galekovic said.

“We-re confident - we-ve been here a few days, we-ve enjoyed it and we-re looking forward to tomorrow. We-re on the world stage and we haven-t been on the world stage for awhile, so it-s a fresh start for everyone.”

“Obviously we-ve had a disappointing A-League season but we start from scratch and we-re keen to start tomorrow in a positive manner.”

Trani shares Galekovic-s optimism, although United-s meticulous planner and analyser is under no illusions about what kind of effort it will take, particularly defensively considering the Reds- worrying record of conceding goals in the A-League.

“If we get a result it will be a massive achievement for us,” Trani said.

“I think if we-re a well disciplined unit we give ourselves a chance of getting a result. Defensively we-ve got to be very sound and if we do that I-m confident we will take something out of the game.”

If Trani-s research on Bunyodkor is anything to go by, the Reds will need to be on their game defensively right up until the final whistle for good reason if they are to kick off their ACL campaign in a positive fashion.

“They (Bunyodkor) like to get forward, they-re a very fit team and they like to score goals in the last half an hour, in fact over 50 per cent of their goals last season were scored in the last 30 minutes, so obviously our players will have that in the back of their minds,” Trani said.

“But from our point of view it-s important that we know what their strengths are…but at the same time we believe there are also opportunities for us create a few openings tomorrow night.”

Sergio van Dijk and Francisco Usucar both got through United-s one hour familiarisation session and appear certain to be available, while also of interesting note is that the Reds could possibly go up against one of their countrymen, with Bunyodkor securing the services of Qantas Socceroo David Carney in the off season.

In the other Group E encounter, Japan-s Gamba Osaka will host South Korea-s Pohang Steelers at the Expo -70 Commemorative Stadium in Osaka.

AFC Champions League 2012 - Match Day 1 Bunyodkor (UZB) v Adelaide United FC (AUS) Tuesday 6 March 2012, JAR Stadium, Tashkent Kick-Off: 5.00pm local time (10.30pm ACDT) Referee: Andre El Haddad (Lebanon)

TV: Live and exclusive on FOX Sports Twitter: (hash tag #ACLaumd1)

Adelaide United squad: 1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk) (c), 2.Osama MALIK, 3.Nigel BOOGAARD, 4.Jon McKAIN, 5.Daniel MULLEN, 7.Zenon CARAVELLA, 9.Sergio VAN DIJK, 10.Dario VIDOSIC, 11.Bruce DJITE, 12.Antony GOLEC, 14.Cameron WATSON, 15.Jacob MELLING, 17.Iain RAMSAY, 18.Fabian BARBIERO, 20.Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk), 21.Francisco USUCAR

Bunyodkor squad: 1.Ignatiy NESTEROV (gk), 2.Akmal SHORAKHMEDOV, 4.Hayrulla KARIMOV, 5.Dilshod JURAEV, 6.Anvar GAFUROV, 7.David CARNEY, 8.Jovlon IBROKHIMOV, 9.Anvar RAJABOV, 10.Shavkat SALOMOV, 13.Lutfulla TURAEV, 14.Alibobo RAKHMATULLAEV, 15.Miraziz JALOLOV, 16.Artyom FILIPOSYAN, 17.Kamoliddin MURZOEV, 18.Slavoljub DJORDJEVIC, 19.Yannis MANDZUKAS, 20.Anvarjon SOLIEV, 21.Sardor RASHIDOV, 22.Victor KARPENKO, 23.Sakhob JUAEV, 24.Bahodir PARDAEV, 25.Nodir IBRAKHIMOV (gk), 26.Javlon MIRABDULLAEV, 28.Ruslan MELZIDDINOV, 29.Abdukakhkhor KHJIAKBAROV, 30.Kamoliddin TADJIBAEV, 33.Jan KOZAK, 35.Viktor MOCHALOV (gk), 45.Akbar TURAEV (gk)