Wanderers not giving up on Asian title defence

Western Sydney Wanderers will prepare for the new A-League season against Mt Druitt. (Getty) Source: Getty Images Asia Pacific

Champion Western Sydney Wanderers faces an uphill task trying to avoid crashing out of the AFC Champions League at the group stage but coach Tony Popovic has not given up hope of reaching the knockout rounds.

Western Sydney is bottom of Group H heading into Tuesday's showdown against pacesetter Guangzhou Evergrande in China, after the Australians suffered a late 2-1 loss at home to Kashima Antlers.

The matchday five defeat left Wanderers with five points, one less than Kashima Antlers and FC Seoul, and five adrift of Evergrande.

Popovic and Co. must beat Evergrande at the 58,000-capacity Tianhe Stadium and hope Kashima's meeting with Seoul ends in a draw if the Wanderers are to keep their title defence alive.

It will have to do it without striker Kerem Bulut, defender Yusuke Tanaka and midfielder Kearyn Baccus due to suspension.

"I never doubt any game that we can win, that will be no different (against Evergrande)," Popovic said after the club's loss to Kashima.

"If we doubted ourselves, we wouldn't have won the Champions League last year. We showed today how good we can be but we haven't been able to punish sides like last year.

"We go to Guangzhou, we have to believe we can win. A difficult task? Yes, of course."

Fellow A-League outfit Brisbane Roar also requires results to go its way if it is to progress from Group G on Tuesday.

A first-half goal from Andrija Kaluderovic helped Brisbane upstage Beijing Guoan 1-0 last time out, keeping the former's hopes alive.

Roar is third in the group with seven points, three behind Beijing and Suwon Bluewings.

Brisbane, which was eliminated from the A-League finals in week one on Friday, hosts lowly Urawa Reds requiring victory, and hoping Suwon trumps Beijing on the same day.

There is still plenty up for grabs in Group D, with only three points separating Nasaf, Al Ahli and Tractor Sazi.

Saudi Arabia's Al Ahli tops the group with 11 points, while Nasaf is four points behind, ahead of UAE's Al Ahli (five) and Tractor Sazi (four).

Tractor Sazi travels to UAE to play Al Ahli, while Nasaf hosts the group leader.

Group C is already decided as Al Sadd and Al Hilal, who will go head-to-head, prepare for the knockout stages, with Lokomotiv and Foolad playing to avoid finishing bottom.

On Wednesday, Gamba Osaka can seal its progression with victory over Group F leader Seongnam.

Buriram United - level on points with Gamba - hosts Guangzhou R&F.

In Group E, Jeonbuk Motors entertains Shandong Luneng, and leader Kashiwa Reysol makes the trip to winless Binh Duong.

Group B is set to go down to the wire, with leader Al Ain playing host to second-placed Naft Tehran, while Pakhtakor tackles lowly Al Shabab.

Bunyodkor is the only team in Group A without a chance of advancing, as Lekhwiya, Persepolis and Al Nassr fight for two spots.

Source Omnisport