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Rojas wary of predicting Melbourne Victory's AFC Champions League chances

Doha: Melbourne Victory departed for Qatar on Thursday with their New Zealand international Marcos Rojas refusing to predict how well his team can perform when they finally resume their 2020 AFC Champions League campaign next week.

The Australian side, who qualified for the group phase by defeating 2018 champions Kashima Antlers in the playoffs, have already played twice in Group E, kicking off their campaign with a 1-0 win over Chiangrai United before slipping to a narrow loss at the hands of FC Seoul.

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But, with much changing since those games in February and March as new coach Grant Brebner took charge and with significant turnover in the playing staff, Rojas was not prepared to make any forecasts regarding how Victory will play come November 24.

“It’s difficult to say,” he said. “As a footballer you’re not going to go into a game and not try to win it. But to say what’s realistic is to try and predict the future.

“We’ll guarantee that we’ll be working hard to come together as a team, we’ll be working hard on our philosophy and it’s a great challenge against very good teams, very good players that will really test us as footballers and how we come together as a team.

“I think that will be the main realistic challenge and the approach that we should take is forming that. Results will be very difficult to come by but we’ll see how we go.”

Melbourne’s first game after the resumption will be against Beijing FC, with the teams meeting against three days later in their return fixture. Brebner’s team then take on Chiangrai United before facing off against FC Seoul in their final group fixture.

The four-time A-League champions come into the tournament having not played a competitive match since the middle of August having endured a torrid domestic campaign that saw them finish in 10th in the 11-team league.

But, since Brebner was handed the task of leading the team full time, Melbourne have made a number of astute signings, including former Wigan Athletic winger Callum McManaman and ex-Derby County midfielder Jacob Butterfield.

Several of the recent acquisitions will only meet their new team mates on arrival in Doha and Rojas admitted one of the biggest challenges facing Melbourne will be seeing how long it takes for the line-up to form into a cohesive unit.

“We’ve got a team that needs to gel together, and gel together pretty quickly in regards to the games coming up,” he said. “We’ve a lot of new players coming in that have been here and have started the training. So it’s an exciting feel to the squad, but it will take a little bit of time and a little bit of work to put that all together."

“It will be difficult and it might show out there on the pitch, but you get used to that as a footballer. It’s almost like you meet someone and say: ‘Hey, how are you?’ ‘Alright, you? Good’, and then you go out on the training park and football is a universal language and you understand the game.

“The only thing there won’t be will be the connections that you form over time having played together for periods of games. That will take some time, it’s not going to happen, it’s not all going to click during this tournament but we’ll get to know each other a bit better and then hopefully by the time we hit the A-League afterwards we’ll be running smoothly.”

Rojas is in his third stint with Victory and, having been named the A-League’s Young Player of the Year while with the club in 2013, he believes Brebner has the ability to restore the club’s glory days and to ensure Victory play with the confidence they displayed in the past.

“When I played my best football here it was when we played that kind of football as a team and he’s definitely looking to bring that back, so it does remind me of some of the previous years,” he said.

“And that’s why I’m really looking forward to it, because I know how that worked for me personally and also the team and the type of football we played. It was very exciting to watch.”

Photos: Melbourne Victory FC

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