Football 3 years ago

Wanderers favourites in ACL opener

  • Wanderers favourites in ACL opener

By Derek Royal

Regardless of the result of Saturday’s clash against Adelaide United, Western Sydney Wanderers will start as favourites when they arrive in Japan next week for their Asian Champions League opener against Kashima Antlers. With the Japanese side currently in pre-season mode and desperately short of match fitness, the Wanderers have the opportunity to complete a smash and grab mission to kick-start the defence of their continental title.

Presently in the middle of a disastrous A-League season with just one win from 15 matches and sitting in last place on the table, defending their ACL title could be just the tonic the Wanderers need to regain their mojo.

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By comparison, Kashima, who qualified for the ACL after finishing third in last season’s J-League, haven’t played a competitive match in months, while their domestic campaign isn’t due to start until early March.

Wanderers coach Tony Popovic on Thursday named his 30-man squad for the ACL, and while he’s not looking beyond the opening game in Japan, fans will be praying the red and blacks can at least begin their campaign on a positive note. The more optimistic of the Wanderers fan base will be looking a bit further ahead, hoping their side can create yet another piece of history by winning back-to-back titles, a feat that, while unrealistic at this stage of the season, would certainly terminate memories of the club's abysmal results in the A-League.

Not since Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad were crowned Asian club champions in the 2004 and 2005 seasons has a team won back-to-back titles and despite the Wanderers’ current domestic woes, the ACL offers the reigning champions the opportunity to start afresh and to play themselves into form in what is a completely different beast to domestic football.

The Wanderers enjoyed proving their detractors wrong when they did the impossible last season. A positive start in Japan would certainly be a step in the right direction. 

The Wanderers’ opening AFC Champions’ League match against Kashima Antlers is being played in Japan next Wednesday, 25 February.

WANDERERS’ AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SQUAD 2015:

1. Ante Covic (GK)

2. Shannon Cole

3. Yusuke Tanaka

4. Nikolai Topor-Stanley

5. Brendan Hamill

6. Antony Golec

7. Labinot Haliti

9. Tomi Juric

10. Yojiro Takahagi

11. Brendon Santalab

12. Nikita Rukavytsya

13. Matthew Spiranovic

14. Kerem Bulut

15. Yianni Perkatis

16. Jaushua Sotirio

17. Romeo Castelen

18. Iacopo La Rocca

19. Mark Bridge

20. Dean Bouzanis (GK)

23. Jason Trifiro

25. Sam Gallaway

30. Thomas Heward-Belle (GK)

31. Alusine Fofanah

32. Daniel Alessi

33. Nick Kalmar

35. Kearyn Baccus

36. Liam Youlley

37. Jonathan Aspropotamitis

38. Steve Kuzmanovski

39. Shayne D’Cunha

 

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