Throughout this year's AFC Champions League campaign, Adelaide United coach Aurelio Vidmar has remained an impassive figure. Despite losing the first leg of the final 3-0 a week ago, the former Socceroo captain is refusing to throw in the towel just yet, as his men head into Wednesday's second leg on home soil at Hindmarsh Stadium. "There is still every possibility that we can make it," the 41-year-old said. "In football, you never know what can happen."
There is certainly a history of dramatic comebacks in the competition. In only the second edition of the Champions League in 2004, a rampant Al Ittihad overturned a 3-1 first leg defeat by Korea Republic's Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, romping to a 5-0 away win in the return match to take the title. Only two years later, the same Saudi giants were on the receiving end of an equally stunning reversal, when they lost the quarter-final second leg 4-0 to crash out 4-2 on aggregate.
While Vidmar is urging everyone, including the supporters, to "pull their weight", his task has not been made easier by the suspensions of two of the team's key players, goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic and defender Angelo Costanzo, who each received a second booking in the 3-0 defeat to Gamba last week. Moreover, his side will have to play without young defender Daniel Mullen, who is figuring prominently in Australia's current campaign in the AFC Youth Championship in Saudi Arabia.
In a sense, the Asian title will be seen by many in Adelaide as merely an extra reward, since their historic march to the final has secured them a place at December's FIFA Club World Cup in Japan. Thus, the pressure is on Gamba Osaka, who have to progress to the global showpiece by winning the tournament.
In the meantime, coach Akira Nishino's outfit lost a crucial league match 3-1 to FC Tokyo on Saturday, a result which left them trailing leaders Kashima Antlers by seven points. With their hopes of winning the domestic title rapidly diminishing, they are left with few options but to strive for the continental trophy if they are not to finish the year empty-handed.
"The defeat by FC Tokyo won't affect out play against Adelaide," said Gamba midfielder Hideo Hashimoto, whose role alongside Tomokazu Myojin in the middle of the park will be vital if his side are to keep the hosts at bay. "We have a high level of confidence going into the game."
"I wish the final was already over, as the second leg won't be easy," said Nishino, warning his players not to underestimate the hosts. "I hope we can continue to play as well as we did in the first leg."