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Iniesta threat won’t scare Victory in ACL

Melbourne Victory captain Josh Brillante says his side has nothing to fear from Spanish legend Andres Iniesta in their Asian Champions League play-off against Vissel Kobe.

The former Barcelona playmaker headlines an attacking Kobe side that will start warm favourites to secure a place in the ACL group stage with a win in Japan on Tuesday night.

How many minutes Iniesta plays remains to be seen, after he was used as a second-half substitute in Kobe’s home defeat to Kashima Antlers at the weekend.

But Brillante is well aware the 37-year-old doesn’t need much time to turn a match.

“Everyone knows Iniesta and the calibre of player he is,” the Victory skipper said.

“He’s a fantastic player on the ball and very smart, very clever, so he can be very dangerous.

“That’s one thing you have to be wary of and be focused not to give him too much time on the ball.

“But in saying that, we’re going to focus on our game and the way we play and be on the front foot.”

Iniesta scored Spain’s extra-time winner in the 2010 World Cup final win over the Netherlands and was a four-time European Champions League winner with Barcelona.

He admitted last month he would love to represent the Catalan club again before he retires.

But he has more pressing issues to tend to, with Kobe winless from their opening six J-League games this season.

A win on the continental stage could spark them into action and Victory coach Tony Popovic is wary of the threats posed by an opponent that finished third in the J-League last year.

“They’re very dangerous going forward,” Popovic said.

“They’re play quickly, very fast and their defensive line is very high, so they play a very aggressive style of football.

“I’m sure they’re not happy at the moment that they don’t have the results that they wish for but they certainly have our respect.”

Popovic was at the helm of Western Sydney Wanderers when they became the only Australian team to win the ACL in 2014.

The former Socceroos defender is eager to replicate that success with Victory.

“It’s an opportunity for us to put our club at the centre and forefront of Asian football,” Popovic said.

“That’s our focus. We come (to Japan) with confidence and we come here with respect for our opponent, but we can’t play with fear.”

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