Aussies face Asian Cup make-or-break week

by AFP on Apr 18, 2011

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Australian hopefuls Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC are facing a make-or-break week as they bid to ignite their flagging AFC Champions League campaigns.

As the pool stage passes the halfway mark, Melbourne, with just one point, will look to build on their vital away draw against China's Tianjin Teda when they entertain the Group E table-toppers.

Sydney have a difficult trip to Shanghai Shenhua as they try to climb into the reckoning in Group H, a week after their first home loss in the continental championship.

Injury-hit Sydney's heavy 3-0 defeat to Kashima Antlers came in an emotional match last week that was rescheduled after Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami last month.

"Everyone is worried about the players and their families. That's why we came early here to try to be separated and try to not allow the problem to interfere in our performance," said Kashima coach Oswaldo Oliveira.

"The players feel the problem over there but this problem is too big, a simple victory will not change anything.

"We came to do our job. We are professional but our heart is still very weak about what's happened in our country."

Sydney coach Vitezslav Lavicka will welcome back Socceroos playmaker Nicky Carle after a hamstring strain, while captain Terry McFlynn returns from suspension for Tuesday's match in Shanghai.

But the Sky Blues remain without injured defender Stephan Keller and forward David Williams as they embark on a series of three straight away fixtures.

"We all have to pull our weight in this one. It's do or die for us and them," Carle said, according to Australia's Daily Telegraph.

Coach Lavicka said it was vital for Sydney to pick up points against Shanghai, who are also languishing after two draws and a defeat from three games.

"We've played three games in a row at home and we've only got two points but we won't give up the current situation," Lavicka said.

"We'll still try to pick up points away, especially now in China."

Melbourne relied on retiring captain Kevin Muscat for the equaliser in this month's 1-1 draw in Tianjin, and the two-time A-League champions will hope to continue their resurgence under caretaker coach Mehmet Durakovic on Wednesday.

Tianjin will miss skipper and goalscorer Marko Zoric, who is suspended over a dangerous tackle, for the trip to Melbourne, where they are looking to extend their group lead.

On Tuesday, Kashima host South Korea's Suwon Bluewings in Group H, and Group F leaders FC Seoul take on Japan's Nagoya Grampus.

On Wednesday, Iran's Piroozi Athletic play Uzbek outfit Bunyodkor, and Japan's Gamba Osaka face Jeju United of South Korea.

Elsewhere, Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal warmed up for their Group A clash with Al Jazira by clinching their 10th domestic Crown Prince Cup. Fellow Saudis Al Ittihad and Iran's Sepahan are the only teams with a maximum nine points.

Teams are split into eight groups of four with knockout stages to be played later in the year.