Preview: Gamba Osaka v Melbourne Victory

These two teams played twice during Melbourne’s inaugural AFC Champions League campaign in 2008.

Date: Tuesday March 1
Kick-off: 7:00pm local, (9:00pm AEDT)
Venue: Expo 70 Stadium, Osaka
Television: Live and exclusive on Fox Sports 2
Live Match Centre:

Played 2: Wins: Gamba Osaka 2

Previous Meeting
Gamba Osaka 2, Melbourne Victory 0, Osaka, April 2008

How they made it
Gamba Osaka: 2010 J-League runners-up
Melbourne Victory: 2010 A-League runners-up

These two teams played during Melbourne’s inaugural AFC Champions League campaign in 2008. Their first match at Docklands was a pulsating encounter which ended 4-3 in the Japanese team’s favour. Victory led 1-0 and then 3-2, with Danny Allsopp getting a brace, but Gamba found a last-minute winner through their Brazilian, Lucas.

Two weeks later the teams met again in Japan with Masato Yamazaki scoring a brace as Gamba won 2-0, officially ending Melbourne’s hopes of topping the group and getting through. Gamba Osaka would go on to beat Adelaide in the final that year.

Past five matches:
Gamba Osaka:
No matches in 2011

Melbourne Victory:
Gold Coast United 1, Melbourne Victory 0, Skilled Park
Adelaide United 2, Melbourne Victory 1, Hindmarsh Stadium
Melbourne Victory 2, Newcastle Jets 0, Etihad Stadium
Melbourne Victory 2, Gold Coast United 0, AAMI Park
North Queensland Fury 0, Melbourne Victory 3, Dairy Farmers Stadium

Decisions for Ernie
Neither Grant Brebner nor Carlos Hernandez travelled to Japan. One of Matthew Kemp or Surat Sukha will play after both recovered from injuries. It will be the first time that Danny Allsopp, Archie Thompson and Robbie Kruse have started in the same team. New arrival Isaka Cernak is likely to come off the bench.

Behind Enemy Lines
Gamba Osaka have a new-look team, and so it is hard to assess how exactly they will line-up.

Our Hero
Inspirational veteran Kevin Muscat returns for his farewell campaign and will be extra fired up to have an impact in his first match in five weeks.

Danger Man
Yasuhito Endo – A former Asian Player of the year, Endo is a brilliant player who has been a mainstay of the Japanese national team for many years. He is brilliant from set pieces and a wonderful distributor of the ball. Melbourne will have their hands full with him.

Why we will win
A first-up crack at one of the biggest clubs in Asia looms as a huge challenge for Melbourne Victory, but having completed their domestic duties, they have had plenty of time to focus on upsetting Gamba Osaka.

This is a battle of two sides very much at the opposite ends of their preparation cycles. Gamba are yet to start their J-League campaign and have several new faces, including Adriano, who arrived from cross-town rivals Cereza Osaka, where he scored 14 goals last season. Integrating these players into the set-up for this match will have been a big challenge for coach Akira Nishino.

He has a couple of world quality players in the team, including Endo and Akira Kaji. Both of these players can turn defence into attack in the twinkling of an eye and their speed will be one of the main factors Melbourne have to combat. Takashi Usami is a teenage dynamo who will also cause plenty of worries, while Adriano is a typically talented Brazilin J-League striker.

Melbourne have their own strength in attack, with Allsopp, Kruse and Thompson up front. Marvin Angulo, who was in superb form late in the A-League season, will lend support. So there is plenty of firepower to respond to the home side. The question is whether the defence can do the job.

With Muscat returning, it is sure to be well-organised, while Adrian Leijer is likely to be given the role of picking up the dangerous Gamba attacking midfielders. The full backs will also be busy ensuring that the home side don-t get too much joy down the flanks.

Ernie Merrick has said many times that Melbourne are a better side when team try to attack them, so with that in mind, you-d expect free-flowing football to ensue and plenty of entertainment. Victory’s better match conditioning could prove decisive.

Gamba Osaka
1. Yosuke Fujigaya, 2. Sota Nakazawa, 3. Kim Jong-Ya, 4. Kazumichi Takagi, 5. Satoshi Yamaguchi (vice-captain), 6. Takumi Shimohira, 7. Yasuhito Endo, 8. Hayato Sasaki, 9. Adriano, 10. Takahiro Futagawa, 11. Takashi Usami, 13. Kim Seung-Yong, 14. Shoki Hirai, 15. Hiroki Fujiharu, 16. Shohei Otsuka, 17. Tomokazu Myojin (captain), 18. Shota Kawanishi, 19. Kohei Kawata, 21. Akira Kaji, 22. Lee Keun-Ho, 23. Takuya Takei, 24. Kenta Hoshihara, 25. Shigeru Yokotani, 26. Yoichi Futori, 27. Hideo Hashimoto, 28. Shunya Suganuma, 29. Atsushi Kimura, 30. Tatsuya Uchida, 31. Kotaro Omori

Melbourne Victory:
1. Michael Petkovic (GK), 2. Kevin Muscat, 4. Petar Franjic, 5. Surat Sukha, 6. Leigh Broxham, 7. Matthew Kemp, 8. Grant Brebner, 10. Archie Thompson, 11. Marvin Angulo, 12. Roddy Vargas, 13. Diogo Ferreira, 14 Billy Celeski, 15. Tom Pondeljak, 16. Carlos Hernandez, 17. Matthew Foschini, 18. Danny Allsopp, 19. Isaka Cernak, 20. Sebastian Mattei (GK), 21. Robbie Kruse, 23. Adrian Leijer, 24. Luke Pilkington, 25. Luke O’Dea, 26. Nick Ansell, 27. James Jeggo, 30. Tando Velaphi (GK)