Dickies' Asian bid rocked by injury to skipper O'Shea
Instant-Dict suffered a major setback yesterday when skipper Tim O'Shea was all but ruled out of their Asian Club Championship first round match against Jubilo Iwata.
O'Shea picked up a knock on his left knee in a collision with fellow defender Fung Ka-ki during training on Monday. The 31-year-old former Irish youth international shrugged it off and continued to train.
But his knee swelled up overnight and was so bad yesterday he was only able to do stretching exercises during a training session.
Instant-Dict coach Koo Luam-khen said O'Shea was unlikely to play a part in tonight's match at the Hong Kong Stadium.
'It is a big blow to us,' said Koo after training yesterday. 'It is very unlikely that O'Shea will play.
'We have an important league match against Yee Hope this Saturday. If we play O'Shea [tonight], we may lose him on Saturday night. We don't want to take the risk.
'We have not got too many players. We will be struggling and things could be very difficult.
'To make things worse, there is a huge gap between the standard of Japan and us. They were in the World Cup finals and we are nowhere in Asia.' Although Koo has not named O'Shea's replacement, it would appear his 5-4-1 formation leaves him little choice but to bring in Wong Chi-fai.
Current Hong Kong Footballer of the Year Dimitre Kalkanov will marshall the defence, where he will be joined by Fung, Wong, Chan Chi-kwong and Chan Hon-fai.
In the middle, China-born Hu Jianfeng will link up with ex-Hong Kong Footballer of the Year Tam Siu-wai, Tim Bredbury and winger Yeung Hei-chi, while former Leeds striker Ian Baird will play up front alone.
'We will certainly be more defensive without O'Shea,' Koo added. ' We are the underdogs, while Jubilo have the absolute advantage on paper. But things are not definite.' Jubilo are seeking to become the first Japanese side to lift the elite regional title since their league turned professional in 1993.
And the J.League champions have not taken the tournament as lightly as some of their domestic rivals have done in the past.
Most of their star players are here, including Brazilian international captain Carlos Dunga, Japanese international midfielder Hiroshi Nanami and defender Toshihiro Hattori.
Their starting lineup may also include young forwards Daisuke Oku and Naohiro Takahara, who both scored hat-tricks in their 6-2 victory over JEF United last weekend.
Although Jubilo play Yokohama Flugels in a league match on Saturday, coach Valmir Louruz said he would field his best side tonight.
'We are representing Japan in this important tournament. We will play our best players and try our very best to perform well and win,' said the Brazilian.
Both sides are also pleased with the new Hong Kong Stadium pitch.
'I had seen the pitch on television and it looked bad,' said Louruz. 'I was surprised to see it is now in good condition.'