The Central Coast Mariners’ AFC Champions League campaign will end at Central Coast Stadium tomorrow night, with the yellow and navy determined to close the chapter on their maiden Asian experience with three points against Chinese challengers Tianjin Teda.
The Central Coast Mariners- AFC Champions League campaign will end at Central Coast Stadium tomorrow night, with the yellow and navy determined to close the chapter on their maiden Asian experience with three points against Chinese challengers Tianjin Teda.
The Mariners will take on the might of the current Chinese Super League (CSL) highflyers without ace forward trio Dylan Macallister, Nik Mrdja and Matt Simon, who have each been ruled out due to shoulder, hamstring and knee concerns respectively.
Despite their three noteworthy absentees, the Mariners will be represented by a line up eager to put the club-s recent run of outs to bed with what would be a historic victory in Asia-s premier and most prestigious club competition.
Nigel Boogaard and Matthew Osman return from suspension – the latter of which for the final time ever in Mariners colours before linking with new Hyundai A-League club Gold Coast United, while National Youth League graduates Matthew Lewis, Nathan Sherlock and Brady Smith could each feature off the bench at some stage.
Tianjin arrived on the Central Coast early on Sunday morning and will be represented by a squad that is capable of notching its second AFC Champions League 2009 victory – a squad that includes Chinese international striker Zhang Shou and Australian import and traditional Mariners adversary Mark Bridge.
Key imports Damiano Tommasi, Jean-Philippe Caillet and Eber Luis have remained in China to assist Tianjin with their ongoing CSL charge that sees the northeast Chinese club placed third after nine rounds.
“It-s a very important game for us to win,” said Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna.
“We-ve been on a bad run and have been unfortunate in a few games, so there-s a big push for us to win the game and end the season on a high before having a break and coming back for the new Hyundai A-League season.
“The boys are hungry for a victory and we-re looking forward to the game.”
Tomorrow-s clash will be the second time the Mariners have met Tianjin and the fifth time the Mariners have met Chinese Super League opposition, with the remaining three occasions in friendly fixtures at home or abroad.
The Mariners- previous meeting against Tianjin resulted in a 2-2 draw, which is the most positive outcome from any of the Mariners- matches against Chinese opposition, which also includes back to back defeats in China earlier this year against Jiangsu Sainty (2-1) and Shandong Luneng (2-0).
The Mariners- first experience against Chinese opposition was in North Queensland in mid-2006, where the yellow and navy suffered a 2-1 loss at the hands of Changchun Yatai in a pre-season tournament ahead of the Hyundai A-League 2006/07 season.
In total, the Mariners- flirtation with Asia has yet to yield a win for McKinna-s charges, who will take on an Asian club side in an official or non-official fixture for the ninth time tomorrow night.
“We keep getting reminded that we-ve not won this year and we-ve come close a few times – the main thing is to get a victory tomorrow night,” said McKinna.
“We-re playing for pride now, we hope that everyone will perform the best that they can for themselves, for the club and for the supporters, that-s the main thing.”
Central Coast Mariners Squad
1. Matthew Nash (gk), 2. Andre Gumprecht, 3. Shane Huke, 4. Pedj Bojic, 5. Bradley Porter, 6. David D-Apuzzo, 7. John Hutchinson, 8. Dean Heffernan, 10. Adrian Caceres, 15. Andrew Clark, 16. Nigel Boogaard, 17. Matthew Osman, 18. Alex Wilkinson, 20. Danny Vukovic (gk), 21. Ahmad Elrich, 22. Nick Rizzo, 23. Adam Kwasnik, 25. Nathan Sherlock, 26. Brady Smith, 27. Matthew Lewis *two to be omitted
The Mariners will return to their Central Coast Stadium home for Match Day 6 of the AFC Champions League to face the challenge of Chinese Super League heavyweights Tianjin Teda on Tuesday, 19 May. Kick off is at 8pm.
Tickets for this match are on sale from Ticketek outlets, from the Ticketek website – www.ticketek.com.au, or via phone on 132 849.