Adelaide United FC goes into its AFC Champions League match against Gamba Osaka with a firm belief it can make it two wins from as many starts in the competition.
Adelaide United FC goes into its AFC Champions League match against Gamba Osaka at Hindmarsh Stadium tomorrow night with a firm belief it can notch up its first victory over the J-League giants and in turn make it two wins from as many starts in the competition.
In what is a replay of the 2008 AFC Champions League Final, which saw Gamba crowned champions after a 5-0 aggregate win, the Japanese club with resources and a budget that Adelaide United could only dream about, returns to Hindmarsh for the first time since that deciding 2nd leg encounter back on November 12, 2008.
Three and a half years on and the Reds have a chance to reverse the result, something captain Eugene Galekovic thinks is not beyond the realms of possibility.
Part of Galekovic-s optimism stems from the Reds- exceptional start to the competition after they defeated Uzbek league champions Bunyodkor away from home in Match Day 1, while in contrast Gamba fell 3-0 at home to the Pohang Steelers.
While Galekovic is smart enough to know these results mean nothing once the teams run out tomorrow night, he indicated there is a feeling amongst United-s squad that this is an opportunity to strike.
“Gamba is a great team but they-ve been struggling a little bit so we-re confident…we-re playing at home, they are coming here and they only arrived yesterday, so we know we can win this game, we-ve just got to put things in place and if we can play good football then we give ourselves a chance,” Galekovic said.
Under their new Brazilian Coach Jose Carlos Serrao and with a host of new players in the squad, Gamba could appear to still be adjusting to these changes in personnel, but the Reds remain wary of how dangerous a threat they pose and know there is a reason the J-League club has featured in the past four years of the AFC Champions League.
“The history of Gamba over the last six years, how consistent they are, not only in this competition but their domestic competition, they-re a very established line up,” Adelaide United-s registered coach for the AFC Champions League, Luciano Trani, said at the official pre match media conference.
“I know they-ve had some changes this season and they-ve lost their last three games, but they are a team that has got talented individuals.”
The Reds enter the game off the back of a 1-0 loss to the Central Coast Mariners in Gosford last Saturday, but Galekovic does not believe there will be any problem with fatigue after the short turnaround.
Galekovic, who missed the 2nd leg of the 2008 ACL Final because of suspension, also re-emphasised the need for the Reds to produce a similarly stringent defensive performance to the one they displayed against Bunyodkor.
“We-re feeling alright. We-ve been looking forward to this game since we played Bunyodkor and coming off a win over there, the boys really want to get two wins on the trot,” Galekovic said.
“We-re going to have to be at our best against top Asian clubs and to win the game we have to either keep a clean sheet or stay very tight at the back.”
United will welcome Cassio back after the Brazilian missed the match with the Mariners due to calf soreness, while midfielder Fabian Barbiero is also available as the four game suspension he received from his red card against Perth Glory on March 1 does not include the AFC Champions League.
Iain Ramsay is the only injury concern, the fleet-footed winger in a race against time to prove he has recovered from a couple of heavy knocks to the leg that saw him substituted in the 50th minute against the Mariners.
Despite playing away from home, Trani expects Gamba to come out attacking from the outset considering their first up loss, meaning much could depend on how the Reds weather the storm and handle the pressure as they aim to become the first Australian club to taste success over Gamba.
“We believe that if you-re going to play Gamba, you-ve got to believe you can win,” Trani said.
“We believe that if we-ve got our patterns of play that we-ve been working on and create a few of those openings that we came up with against Bunyodkor and Brisbane, if we can just keep on maintaining our discipline, I-m sure it will hold us in good stead.”
One Gamba player the Reds know all too well is talented midfielder Yasuhito Endo. Such is his skill and popularity, the Japanese international has been referred to by some as the David Beckham of Japanese football.
Endo scored the winner when Gamba defeated the Reds 1-0 at the 2008 FIFA Club World Cup in the sides- last meeting, but Trani says the Reds have not singled out Gamba-s number seven, as they have an array of players, including a dangerous Brazilian strike duo, that will need to be stopped.
“If you want to go and man mark him (Endo), it takes one of our key players out of a vital space and we don-t want to do that,” Trani said.
“Obviously we want to be mindful of him but at the same time we want to keep our structures.”
AFC Champions League 2012 - Match Day 2 Adelaide United FC (AUS) v Gamba Osaka (JPN) Tuesday 20 March 2012, Hindmarsh Stadium Kick-Off: 7.30pm ACDT Referee: Alzarouni Mohamed Ismail (UAE)
TV: Live and exclusive on FOX Sports Twitter: https://twitter.com/adelutd_fc (hash tag #ACLaumd2)
Adelaide United squad: 1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk) (c), 2.Osama MALIK, 3.Nigel BOOGAARD, 4.Jon McKAIN, 5.Daniel MULLEN, 6.CASSIO, 7.Zenon CARAVELLA, 9.Sergio VAN DIJK, 10.Dario VIDOSIC, 11.Bruce DJITE, 12.Antony GOLEC, 13.Ricardo DA SILVA, 14.Cameron WATSON, 15.Jacob MELLING, 17.Iain RAMSAY, 18.Fabian BARBIERO, 20.Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk), 21.Francisco USUCAR, 23.Evan KOSTOPOULOS