Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat has labelled the club’s AFC Champions League game against Gamba Osaka as its own grand final.
Victory will progress to the Round of 16 for the first time in the club’s history if it beats Gamba on Tuesday, May 3 at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.
Anything less and it will have to rely on the result of the other Group G match between Suwon Bluewings and Shanghai SIPG to secure qualification.
Victory recorded a 1-1 draw away to Gamba on Match Day 2, with the Japanese side consigned to last place in the group, regardless of the outcome of the final game.
“It’s a grand final for us,” Muscat said.
“Rather than look back, the games in the group are gone and we’ve got to focus on (the Gamba) game because it is in our hands.
“We’ll carefully consider what we do over the next 12 or 13 days, in terms of our recovery and preparation.
“One thing is for certain, we’ll be working back from the Gamba game and we’ll have everyone available and in the best possible condition they could be at this time of the year.”
Aside from momentary lapses in concentration, Muscat was pleased with his team’s overall performance in its 3-1 loss to Shanghai SIPG on Tuesday night.
Victory travelled to China as the only undefeated team in Group G and, despite controlling large portions of the match, it was ultimately undone by defensive errors.
Shanghai SIPG scored two goals in quick succession just before half-time and extended its lead from the penalty spot in the 65th minute, before substitute Jesse Makarounas scored late for the visitors.
“We basically handed them a lead off a set-piece and followed up with another error which gives them a two-goal lead, which in turn gives us a mountain to climb,” Muscat said.
“But overall in terms of the football, eliminate those errors and I can’t fault the group.
“I thought we executed a game plan well, and the pleasing thing was we went right to the death.
“We’ve watched and analysed all their games at home and I dare say we created a lot more chances than teams have previously.
“When it was 0-0, for long periods of that first 37 or 38 minutes we were the better team that created the better chances and we should’ve taken the lead.
“But ultimately, away from home, it wasn’t the performance we were looking for.”
Tickets for Victory’s match against Gamba are available by clicking here.