Having lost their place in the group stage, Brisbane Roar now have to overcome Buriram United in a tough trip to Thailand in order to progress
|By GOAL AUSTRALIA
Bunmathan, Chuthong, Barba, Suree Sukha
Hirano, Surat Sukha, Chappuis, AmpaipitakwongSantana, Jerkovic
Franjic, Jurman, North, Stefanutto
Lustica, BrattanNichols, Nijland, Brich
Despite winning last season's A-League grand final, Roar were controversially stripped of their place in the group stage following a decision by the AFC to reduce the number of tournament entries for Australian teams to just one automatic and one qualifying spot.
With Central Coast Mariners taking the automatic berth as A-League premiers, Brisbane have been forced to travel in the midst of their domestic campaign to Thailand, while Buriram are preparing for the start of the Thai Premier League season.
Buriram have not played a competitive match since November, when they defeated Ratchaburi Mitphol in the Thai League Cup final and Army United in the Thai FA Cup final to secure a qualifying place in Asia's premier club competition.
But Attaphol Buspakom's men will be determined to improve on last year's Champions League campaign, when they were ousted in the group stage despite making a perfect start.
Buriram accounted for Japan's Kashiwa Reysol before beating China's Guangzhou Evergrande to go top of Group H, but failed to hold on for a place in the knockout stage after losing their four remaining games.
Brisbane, meanwhile, are a mere shadow of the team that dramatically came from behind to beat Perth Glory in last season's A-League decider and will need to be at their best against a team eager to return to the Asian spotlight.
Roar, eighth on the A-League ladder following a 2-1 loss to Sydney FC on Sunday, are showing glimpses of improvement under interim coach Mike Mulvey, who can use the Champions League as a platform to land the job on a permanent basis.
Under Ange Postecoglou and later Rado Vidosic, Brisbane failed to win a match in the group stage of last season's Champions League, providing a golden opportunity for Mulvey - with a Roar record of three wins, five losses and one draw - to strengthen his coaching credentials.
But the Roar face an uphill battle in what promises to be a challenging encounter in typically hot and humid conditions at Buriram Stadium.
Opened in 2011 at a reported cost of AU$13million, Buriram Stadium has a capacity of 24,000 and will provide a hostile environment for the visiting Roar.
Buriram have host of foreign talent for Brisbane to contend with, including former Racing Santander defender Osmar Barba, French striker Goran Jerkovic and Japanese winger Kai Hirano.
Barba is set to take the captain's armband, with attacker and regular leader Suchao Nutnoom likely to miss through injury.
Thailand midfielder Jakkraphan Kaewprom misses for the same reason, but fellow international team-mates in former Melbourne Victory defender Surat Sukha, Theeraton Bunmathan and Jirawat Makarom will be key for the hosts.
Pulling the strings is Puspakom, who led BEC Tero Sasana to the Champions League final in 2003 and Krung Thai Bank to the group stage in 2008.
Brisbane, however, have a strong squad of their own and will back themselves to return to Australia with a berth in the Champions League main draw.
They will miss their own captain in Matt Smith through injury, while vice-captain Shane Stefanutto has been battling illness but has traveled with the Roar.
New Dutch signing Stefan Nijland has made a positive start to his Roar career, and will need to provide support to key striker Besart Berisha if Brisbane are to find the goals to progress.