Andres Iniesta to miss Vissel Kobe's AFC Champions League group stage campaign

Vissel Kobe will be without talismanic playmaker Andres Iniesta for their AFC Champions League 2022 group stage campaign through injury. Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

Vissel Kobe's bid to salvage their season with a strong showing in AFC Champions League 2022 has been dealt a blow, with captain Andres Iniesta to miss the entire group stage through injury.

Vissel are remarkably winless in ten J1 League matches so far this season, with their only victory in all competition coming in a 4-3 extra-time triumph over Melbourne Victory in the ACL qualifying playoffs last month.

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With their league campaign already in tatters as they sit bottom of the table, Vissel will be looking for more joy on the continental stage but will now have to do it without talismanic playmaker Iniesta.

The Spanish legend has been an influential figure since joining the club in 2018 after ending his 16-year, 674-game spell with LaLiga giants Barcelona and helped the Japanese side win their first-ever silverware with an Emperor's Cup triumph just a year later.

Nonetheless, as Vissel kick off their ACL campaign belatedly on Tuesday in Buriram, Thailand after sitting out Match Day 1 due to the withdrawal of Shanghai Port in Group J -- which now only features three teams -- it has been confirmed that Iniesta will not take any part in the next four games as he has remained behind in Japan to recover from an unspecified injury.

"I'm sorry that I cannot be with my teammates in Thailand to play in the group stage," announced the Spaniard on social media.

"I am convinced that we will reach our objective. In the meantime, I will continue working to be back at 100 per cent."

Iniesta is not the only import that Vissel will be without in Tuesday's clash with Kitchee of Hong Kong, with Brazilian striker Lincoln also missing through injury.

Kitchee are currently top of Group J following a 1-0 win over Thailand's Chiangrai United on Saturday.