Carney: A-League teams able to compete with Asian clubs

Xavi, Al Sadd head coach expects a tough game with Al Nassr

Only one Australian club has ever won the AFC Champions League, but Sydney FC midfielder David Carney believes that could soon change.

Carney will turn out for Sydney FC against Urawa Red Diamonds on Wednesday as they look to book their spot in the knockout stages for the first time. It’s a far cry from wining the tournament, but Carney believes that the success of the Sky Blues and Melbourne Victory in this year’s competition is a positive sign for Australian football.

The 32-year-old, who turned out for Sydney when they first played in the continental competition in 2007, feels that the standard of football in Asia has improved since then, and that Australia is making that step up too.

That’s reflected in the fact that Sydney top a group that contains reigning champions Guangzhou Evergrande of China, three-time winners Pohang Steelers and Urawa.

“Overall the game’s a lot quicker now and Asia’s become stronger… it’s credit to Sydney FC and the way we’re playing, and shows the A-League itself is amongst Asia’s elite,” he told reporters.

Graham Arnold’s side may have big hopes for their campaign, but they first must focus on getting past Urawa on Wednesday.

Urawa eased to a 2-0 victory when the two teams met in February, and while Carney concedes that the Japanese outfit are much more disciplined in comparison to when he faced them back in 2007, the year in which they won the AFC Champions League, he is confident that his side can rise to the challenge this time around.

“Urawa Reds have got their discipline in place – they’ve always had that,” he said. “Their foreigners are obviously good, but the whole squad are very disciplined and very well-structured. They’ve got players everywhere.

“Tactically from a defensive point of view they overload their wingers, though they do give you a bit of room in the attack so hopefully we can exploit them there.”