April 23, 2015 12:52:40 UK
Coach Tony Popovic isn’t down-hearted however high the odds are stacked against Western Sydney Wanderers qualifying for the Asian Champions League knock-out phase.
Wanderers 2-1 defeat at home to Japanese side Kashima Antlers on Tuesday left them bottom of Group H and knowing their fate is out of their hands.
Popovic’s side, who have won just one of their five games so far, will see the defence of their trophy come to an end in two weeks unless they can beat Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande away from home.
Even then, they will only qualify for the Round of 16 if the other two teams in the group, Kashima and FC Seoul, draw their game in Japan.
If that prospect wasn’t tough enough, Wanderers will have to go to China without three of the players who played against Kashima at Pirtek Stadium.
Defender Yusuke Tanaka, striker Kerem Bulut and midfielder Kearyn Baccus all picked up yellow cards which will see them suspended for the group finale.
Popovic, though, believes his team can defy the odds to get grab the second qualification spot in the group.
“I never doubt any game that we can win, that will be no different (against Guangzhou),” he said. “We go to Guangzhou, we have to believe we can win.
“If we doubted ourselves, we wouldn’t have won the Champions League last year. We showed (on Tuesday) how good we can be but we haven’t been able to punish sides like last year.”
Popovic conceded that losing three more players “doesn’t help when you’ve got a small squad,” but added: “We’ll just try and get a few bodies back and make sure that we give ourselves a chance over there.”
The more immediate priority for Western Sydney is to win their final A-League game against Perth Glory on Saturday, where they are 2.10 to end a disappointing domestic campaign on a high note.
Wanderers are 4.00 to beat Perth by a one-goal margin.
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