FOOTBALL: Wanderers coach Tony Popovic believes his team can record a 2-0 win over the defending J-League champions tonight, and create history by advancing through to the quarter-finals of the Asian Champions League.
The Western Sydney outfit will take on Sanfrecce Hiroshima at Pirtek Stadium, and will need to win by that margin because it lost the first leg away, 3-1.
The Wanderers will be buoyed by another big home crowd as it attempts to become the first Australian team to make the last eight of ACL, on its first attempt.
"The game's long - it's 95 minutes. You don't need to score in the first minute, and as long as we stick to our structure and our game plan, we've got belief that we can score two goals at any time against any opponent,"
Popovic said. "We'll go in with that mind frame."
This game could be the last professional match in Australia for star import Shinji Ono if the Wanderers do not advance.
Journeyman utility Dean Heffernan also told APN before the A-League grand final, which the Wanderers lost 2-1 in a thriller to the Roar, that this could also be his last season.
"We'd love him (Ono) to go out on a high, as well as some of our other players. A bit like the whole season, we probably need to defy the odds to go through," Popovic said. "But the only person that wouldn't be surprised (with a 2-0 win) would be me.
"With this group of players that we've got, they keep producing week after week."
Only Wanderers players Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Mark Bridge will miss tonight's clash with injury.
With an average of 2.06 goals per win and clean sheets in 75% of home wins this season, the numbers show qualification is within the Wanderers' reach.
This is what has kept Popovic's men motivated, despite a heartbreaking 2-1 A-League grand final loss.
That was followed by a 3-1 defeat to Sanfrecce
Hiroshima in the first leg of the tie, last week.
"No. It's been quite easy (to stay motivated). Credit to the players, and it shows the belief the players have," Popovic said.
"We lost in a one-off game in a grand final, but it's been a very good year.
"And the players have shown in training since we've come back that they're looking forward to this game.
"Whoever goes out (to play) will be well prepared, and go in with a mindset of going through in this tie."
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