ACL Preview: Ventforet Kofu v City

In the midst of an away trip that sees us play three games in eight days across three countries, Melbourne City will return to the pitch on Wednesday night.

Ventforet Kofu away in Tokyo is up next on the agenda in a clash which is set to be the pivotal contest to decide Group H in the AFC Champions League.

Here are a few of the major talking points heading into our penultimate group stage match.

Shaping the group

Just two matches remain in the group stage of this year’s ACL competition and we’re right in the mix to progress to the Round of 16 for the first time in Club history.

Wednesday night will see a top-of-the-table matchup, with your City boys currently sitting second on the table behind Kofu – equal on points and goal difference but having scored one less goal.

The top team from each group automatically qualifies for the knockout stages as well as the three (out of five) top-ranked second-placed finishers in the East Region. This means that a win for either side could be enough to seal qualification to the next stage.

Credit: AFC Champions League

A draw on Wednesday may also put City in a good position to progress with a home fixture against Zhejiang (who we defeated 2-1 away) to come on the final matchday, but the only thing on Aurelio Vidmar and his team’s minds come Wednesday will be three points.

The long-awaited return of Mat Leckie?

We’ve all been crying out for the return of Mat Leckie, the star City winger having now been sidelined for over two months after sustaining an injury while on national team duty prior to the start of the A-League Men’s season.

A setback delayed his return by a few extra weeks after he initially seemed to be making great progress in his recovery.

After a few big weeks on the training pitch building up his load, the wait now looks to be over with Leckie travelling to Tokyo on Sunday to link up with the squad.

Whether it’s from the first whistle or as an impact substitute off the bench, it’s a return that would be welcomed with open arms for our 2022/23 Player of the Year.

One thing is for certain… all eyes will be on the team sheets an hour before kick-off on Wednesday night.

Turning the chances into goals

We enter our midweek Champions League clash off the back of a disappointing 1-0 loss away to Wellington, but it’s a result that could’ve seen us walk away with a point – if not three.

Hamza Sakhi was just inches away from his first City goal with a blistering free kick not long before half time. On the other side of the break, Leo Natel almost had his with a close-range effort that was millimetres away on the follow-up after some pinball on the goal line.

Jamie Maclaren had a second half penalty saved with young gun Ben Mazzeo firing the follow-up over the bar – so there were certainly more than enough chances to get something out of the game.

As the cohesion between the squads builds with more and more time spent under our new Head Coach in Vidmar, we’ll be hoping to see more of these chances converted into goals.

Our home clash against Kofu was one of our first competitive matches this campaign and saw a Jamie Young masterclass in goal as we played out a scoreless draw.

Match Details

AFC Champions League: Matchday 5
Ventforet Kofu v Melbourne City FC
Thursday 30 November, 9:00pm KO (AEDT)
Japan National Stadium, Tokyo
Watch live on Paramount+