Antonis in clear over ACL fears

“After a comprehensive review with the club’s medical team, including an MRI, there is good news as Terry has thankfully been cleared of a structural injury to the knee.

“Terry is still sore but his discomfort has eased dramatically and he’ll now commence treatment and a rehabilitation program.

“We’ll carefully manage his progress but are hopeful to see him back on the park soon.”

Antonis will only be able to watch from afar as his teammates attempt to salvage Victory’s stuttering Asian Champions League campaign.

Kevin Muscat’s team have lost their opening two ACL games – 3-1 at home to South Korean club Daegu and then 2-1 to Sanfrecce Hiroshima in Japan after a late goal.

Tomorrow night they face former ACL champions Guangzhou knowing that a defeat will see them eliminated at the group stage of the tournament yet again.

Goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas, who was forced to miss the 2-1 loss to Sydney in which Antonis was injured, has travelled with the group to Guangzhou and is expected to play.

Antonis’ injury is a major blow to Muscat’s plans. The midfielder, who has been capped by Australia, is a key part of his side in the centre of the park and is versatile enough to play at the back if required.

The group is intriguingly poised. Daegu have been the surprise package, winning not just in Melbourne but also against Guangzhou, whom they defeated 3-1.

Guangzhou beat Sanfrecce in their opening game, so if they beat Victory and Daegu can get three points in Japan, the pair will be set to progress to the knockout phase.

If Victory can win, or even secure a point, they will still stay alive, but their task is an uphill one after the two defeats – as former Socceroo James Troisi acknowledged.

“In the past we have got results against teams like this, including Guangzhou, but we definitely need a result here,” Troisi said. “But being away from home and in hot and humid conditions like this, it’s going to be very difficult.”

Troisi said that Victory’s daunting travel schedule – they had little sleep on Saturday night before getting up early in Sydney to travel to China – meant there were some tired and sore bodies when they landed on Sunday night. “Playing 90 minutes on a surface like that was is not ideal,” he said.

Michael Lynch is The Age’s chief soccer reporter and also reports on motor sport and horseracing

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