Reds chase Round of 16 berth

Reds chase Round of 16 berth

Adelaide United are boosted by the return to fitness of midfielder Dario Vidosic for Wednesday’s visit of Uzbekistan champions Bunyodkor with the 2008 runners-up one win away from a place in the last 16 of the AFC Champions League.

Adelaide scored a last gasp winner against Pohang

Vidosic missed the dramatic 1-0 home win over Korea Republic’s Pohang Steelers two weeks ago, which lifted the Reds three points clear of the K-League side and Bunyodkor at the top of Group E with two games remaining.

But Vidosic featured prominently on Thursday as Adelaide beat local side White City 7-0 as coach John Kosmina looked keep his charges sharp following the completion of the A-League season at the end of March.

“After the game he seemed OK and he had some really good moments where he accelerated and knocked a couple of long balls in, and for me it’s not just about the running, it’s about the kicking,” said Kosmina.

“Kicking is probably more damaging for hamstrings than the running is, so he loaded up OK and there’s a good chance he might start on Wednesday.”

Adelaide beat Bunyodkor 2-1 in Tashkent at the start of the campaign and have moved within touching distance of a place in the last 16 for a third time in three appearances after reaching the 2008 final with further wins over Japan’s Gamba Osaka and Pohang.

“We don’t want to go to Japan in just over two weeks chasing a result because as much as Gamba are bottom of the group at the moment, playing in front of their home crowd they’ve certainly got a lot to play for apart from pride, so it becomes not imperative I suppose, but we’d prefer not to go to Japan needing three points to get through,” added Kosmina.

“The team has been smooth. We had a bit of a hiccup in Pohang a couple of weeks ago but that’s behind us and I think we rectified that. The thing is now to maintain that consistency and take it into next Wednesday night.”

Bunyodkor will be without defender Artyom Filiposyan through suspension as the current joint Uzbek League leaders look to extend their unbeaten streak to four games in all competitions.

Elsewhere, Al Jazira are the only side to have secured qualification for the last 16 and the UAE Pro League side can secure top spot in Group A and home advantage in the next round with victory over 2011 AFC Cup winners Nasaf.

Unbeaten Al Jazira top the table by four points from Qatar’s Al Rayyan, who travel to Tehran to face third place Esteghlal with the Iran Pro League side just a point further off the pace.

In Group B, unbeaten two-time champions Al Ittihad can secure passage to the Round of 16 for a third time in four years with a point against Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor in Tashkent, while a fourth win in five game will secure top spot for last year’s semi-finalists.

Al Ittihad will be without defender Mishal Saeed through suspension, while midfield duo Dilshod Sharofetdinov and Oybek Kilichev are ruled out for Pakhtakor, who could qualify with victory in Tashkent should Baniyas lose to Qatar’s Al Arabi.

Finally, Japan’s FC Tokyo and Korea Republic’s Ulsan Hyundai need just a point against Australia’s Brisbane Roar and China’s Beijing Guoan respectively to qualify from Group F.

FC Tokyo and Ulsan top the table by six points, with Brisbane travelling to Japan and Beijing entertaining the K-League side knowing they must win to keep their chances alive ahead of the final round of fixtures later this month.

World Sport Group

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