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Uncertain road into Asia


The draw for the 2008/9 Asian Champions League was made early this week and the Australian representatives in the competition Melbourne victory and Adelaide United at last got to know the teams they will have to fight out to reach the next round.

This will be the second time for Adelaide and so the experience from last season will give them some bit of advantage especially against teams from countries they played the last time around. Adelaide has been paired against Chinese champions Changchun Yatai, Korean Republicís Pohang Steelers and Vietnamese champions Binh Duong.

Victory will play its first Asian champions league match on March 12 against the South Korean side Chunnam Dragons. I think this is the second tough side in the group for Victory and so I think this match will give some indicators as to how the campaign may go.

The first away match for Victory will be against Thailand's Chonburi FC. Chonburi FC will also be the last team to visit the Dome on May 21. I think its good to finish with what I think is a winnable match because if you need a win to advance you could possibly get the win.

The biggest match will possibly be against Gamba Osaka at the Dome on the 9th of April. I think this is the strongest side in this group and I am happy to see that Victory will face them first at home before playing them in their own backyard two weeks later.

The Asian Champions League is a tough competition because only the group winners proceed to the next round and its the end of road for the other three teams. So a team basically pays heavily for any slip-ups and I am hoping that by that by March Ernie Merrick would have got some reinforcements especially having an attacking midfielder who can supply the strikers because so far this season the team has just been so defensive minded without doing a good job at it anyway and also creating very few scoring opportunities.

Also another factor that makes it tough for A-League teams is that all the first round matches are played in the A-League off-season and this is not a good thing at all. The A-League off-season is unusually very long and I hope that in future it could be shortened somehow and so that some of the matches can fall into the normal season. This will only when the number of matches or teams is increased.

With Victory's season having gone pear shaped, Victory's only chance to be playing in the competition next season would be to win it and thats very unlikely.

clive
If the Melbourne slump in form continues, this Asian adventure could be an embarrassment for Australian soccer. Merrick has to work hard to get the team on the right track before March if he wants the team not to finish at the bottom in the group. He needs a Fred type of player to get Allsop scoring again.
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Wes
Clive, while the team will most probably finish at the bottom in the A-League, I think they will avoid that position in the Asian CL.
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Perry
I think the Asian champions league matches have come at the right time because if Merrick fails to deliver in these six matches then he should be replaced in time for season 4. The current rout cannot be allowed to continue and spill over into season 4, I certainly have had enough of this clueless play.
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Wes
I will hope for the best Perry and hope that somehow Victory will play better especially when they know that it may be a while before re-appearing in this competition. And if the team doesn't do well I will not surprised to see a new coach at the helm come August 2008.
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mbareboy
...the A'league doesn't prepare the teams that well for the Asian excursion. Either the league should introduce knockout competitions, or bring more teams in.

Of course you don't want to bring in teams that are not ready, that fail, but changes with Wellington Phoenix show there are a number of ways out there that can be explored. Too few games mean that if you get even the smallest of knocks and take say three weeks to recover, it means you miss a significant chunk of the season, players have to be in top form and free from injuries in a short league format...

.there is just no space to breathe and try out strategies
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Wes
Good point there on the number of games. I think 21 games were good to start with and the matched need to be increased either through extra teams or possibly playing each other four times whatever is easy to implement. Extra team would be my preferred option but I still would like to see the teams play each other four times. In the Scottish Premier League they have 12 teams and play each other four times plus they have the CIS Cup plus the Scottish Cup during their season. Maybe something to copy down here.
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