Kawasaki Frontale host Western Sydney Wanderers on matchday four of the 2014 AFC Champions League at Todoroki Stadium on Tuesday April 1 at 9pm AEDT.
Played: 1, Wins: Frontale 0, Wanderers 1, Draws: 0
Wanderers 1-0 Frontale, March 19 2014
Past five matches:
Avoiding defeat would be a good result for the Wanderers, who sit second behind Ulsan in Group H. Tony Popovic's side are a point behind the South Korean leaders and three clear of Kawasaki Frontale. With a home match against lowly Guizhou Renhe to come, a point would be solid for the Wanderers. They enter the clash on the back of a 2-1 loss to Central Coast in the A-League, while Frontale are starting to find some form in the J.League. After a slow start to the campaign, Yahiro Kazama's men have won consecutive games to be sitting seventh. The Wanderers are third domestically, a point behind second place.
The big issue:
Frontale – can the team who finished third in the J.League last season take their momentum into continental competition? After a sluggish start to the campaign, they have claimed 4-0 and 1-0 wins over Tokyo and Nagoya Grampus respectively. The latter victory was the more impressive against a Nagoya side who sit sixth in the league. The strike partnership of Yu Kobayashi and Yoshito Okubo has been prolific, with both scoring four times in the league this season.
Wanderers – if Popovic's men can return to the form that saw them keep four consecutive clean sheets. Just as it looked like the Wanderers had cut out the sloppy, uncharacteristic errors that saw them lose three straight games in all competitions, mistakes returned against the Mariners. They stood off Josh Rose for the opener before a poor pass in the middle third led to Bernie Ibini's 90th-minute winner. Western Sydney were exceptional defensively in their debut season and will be eager to return to that kind of form late in their campaign.
The game breaker:
Tomi Juric – the striker is likely to play an important role if given the opportunity away from home. If the Wanderers decide to sit deep, the 22-year-old will be a key in holding the ball up, drawing fouls and bringing his team-mates into the game. Juric may become isolated up front, but with his neat touch and ability to use his body, the Wanderers could utilise him to maintain possession.
Prediction: Frontale 0-0 Wanderers
A goalless draw would be a fine result for Western Sydney and they have shown their ability to keep clean sheets often in the past month. Popovic can set them up to play on the counter-attack if required and would take another low-scoring affair if possible. They have claimed consecutive 1-0 wins and while another would be a massive result, a draw would be handy.