A-League cellar-dwellars can shine in Asia
FOOTBALL: Former Adelaide United vice-captain Lucas Pantelis believes Guillermo Amor's men can turn from domestic strugglers to Champions League slayers.
Pantelis, a dual Reds Champions League stalwart in 2007 and 2008, says playing without the baggage of a troubled A-League title defence will provide a telling boost against Gamba Osaka on Wednesday night at Hindmarsh.
"I think it has come at the perfect time for Adelaide," said Pantelis with Adelaide in bottom spot with three A-League wins entering its ACL opener.
"This A-League season hasn't gone to plan but the win against Newcastle Jets last Friday showed intensity and guys fighting for each other and I think that could be a good omen.
"Kim Jae-Sung and Baba have come in so there are some new players. Riley McGree and Jordan O'Doherty have been impressive.
"Contracts end in February, so players want new deals."
The ruthless axing of playmaker Marcelo Carrusca means Adelaide will swap their preferred possession style for the counter-attacking strategy that delivered a 2008 final ACL appearance against Gamba.
"Without Marcelo, to me it tells me they will potentially go for the defensive style of football," predicted Pantelis.
Amor will have noted how playing beautiful football resulted in a 1-2 ACL qualifying loss to Shandong Luneng last February.
Pantelis recalled how Aurelio Vidmar's pragmatic approach worked wonders during Adelaide's incredible 2008 march through Asia.
"Counter attack has worked in the past in Asia. These teams are good technically but they can get caught out," he said.
"I think Guillermo learnt last year when they got knocked out. He brought in that Barcelona philosophy and fell short. He has obviously seen footage of Asian teams. The club is in a position where results matter."
Gamba toppled Malaysia's Johor Darul Ta'zim 3-0 in the playoffs to fill the final spot in Group H alongside Adelaide, South Korea's Jeju United and former Chelsea star Ramires' Jiangsu FC.
Skipper and three-time Japan World Cup player Endo is a familiar foe having scored in the 2008 decider against Adelaide in Osaka.
"It's a group of death for everyone. They are in pre-season but are our Asian rival, we have played them so many times," Pantelis said.