April 09, 2015 12:34:46 UK
Western Sydney Wanderers have two weeks to try to get key players fit for the biggest game of their season.
Wanderers’ chances of qualifying for the Asian Champions League Round of 16 depend on them beating Japanese side Kashima Antlers in their next match in Parramatta on 21st April.
That would almost certainly take them into the second qualification spot in Group H, going into the final round of games on 5th May.
The key is not to lose any more in the meantime.
Tony Popovic’s side would have taken a huge step towards qualification and keeping the defence of their trophy alive if they had seen off FC Seoul, their rivals for second spot, at home on Tuesday.
But after Kerem Bulut gave them the lead, they conceded a second-half goal to Go Yo-Han and were held to a 1-1 draw.
Because the South Koreans managed the only away goal in the two games between the sides, that means if the two teams finish on the same points, FC Seoul will qualify.
Though their next opponents Kashima are bottom of the group, they became the first team to beat leaders Guangzhou Evergrande on Tuesday so they can’t be underestimated.
Socceroos defender Matthew Spiranovic has a chance of recovering from injury to face Kashima. Popovic is also crossing his fingers that Labinot Haliti and captain Nikolai Topor-Stanley will be able to soldier on.
“We’re hoping Spira (Spiranovic) will be back and maybe a couple more will be back. The key is not to lose any more in the meantime,” said the Wanderers coach.
“Nikolai was pretty much on one leg the whole game and has been for the last few games and that shows you what a champion he is that no one can notice that.
“You’ve got Labinot who’s got maybe a little hamstring complaint. You’ve got players coming back from injury and playing full games when they shouldn’t be. But they keep defying the odds, these players.”
Wanderers are 2.80 to win their next A-League match against Central Coast Mariners, who are 2.50 with the draw 3.25.
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