The Central Coast Mariners have completed their final training session at the Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium ahead of Tuesday’s highly anticipated return AFC Champions League 2009 fixture at the home of the Group H and perhaps tournament favourites – Kawasaki Frontale.
The Central Coast Mariners have completed their final training session at the Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium ahead of Tuesday-s highly anticipated return AFC Champions League 2009 fixture at the home of the Group H and perhaps tournament favourites – Kawasaki Frontale.
The Mariners arrived in Kawasaki on Saturday evening and have quickly adjusted to their new surrounds in the southern outskirts of the Japanese capital, where they have been greeted by mild weather conditions ideal for football that will underscore their second monumental challenge against a regional heavyweight.
Pedj Bojic and Matt Simon have returned from suspension to boost the Mariners- chances – replacing Ahmad Elrich and Nik Mrdja who have remained on the Central Coast due to illness and injury respectively.
Kawasaki-s exceptional showing at Central Coast Stadium a fortnight ago was again apparent in the domestic J.League on Saturday, where Jong Tae-se, Hiroyuki Taniguchi and Juninho – all goal scorers against the Mariners previously, inspired Kawasaki to a come from behind 3-1 triumph at home over Omiya Ardija.
With top spot in Group H and a potential home match in the Round of 16 on the line, Kawasaki are expected to field a full-strength eleven determined to net a potentially tournament defining three points against a Mariners side equally as desperate for the points on offer.
“After the last game I said that they were probably the best team that we-ve played against, but we-ve got to be a lot tighter in defence, from the front to the back and we need to take our chances,” said Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna.
“We-re going to make a few changes, because we have to, and boys that have been doing well at training will have their opportunity now – we have to be tight, play as one unit all over the park and hopefully take a chance or two.”
The Kawasaki Frontale gallery of stars will again be headlined by midfielder playmaker and Japanese international Kengo Nakamura – one of five players that found the back of the net at Central Coast Stadium a fortnight ago.
Nakamura-s previous experience against Australian opposition included a start against the Qantas Socceroos at the 2007 AFC Asian Cup quarter final in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Nakamura was substituted in the second half of extra time in a match that was won 5-4 on penalties by the Japanese, who triumphed over an Australian side that featured former Mariners stars John Aloisi and Michael Beauchamp.
Kawasaki-s DPR Korea national team representative and ace striker Jong Tae-se is again tipped to win a place at the tip of Kawasaki-s explosive attacking sector that also includes standout Brazilian pair Juninho and Vitor Junior, the former of which has netted an amazing 135 goals from 201 J.League appearances.
With three games to play in Group H, the Mariners are not so much in a position of needing point to remain in contention, but more so of the realisation that to take anything from tomorrow-s fixture will be of potentially immense value when the first stage of the AFC Champions League 2009 concludes in mid-May.
“If we can get anything from this game tomorrow it will be a huge bonus for us and pick us back up,” said McKinna.
“After being beaten 5-0, the boys have been pretty down but we have to get a bit of pride back in our performance.
“We have to take pride in our performance on Tuesday, which will set us up for our last two Group H games, get our confidence back, get confidence in each other and, after a humiliating defeat, show the Japanese that we can play.”
Central Coast Mariners Squad
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, 11. Dylan Macallister, 15. Andrew Clark, 16. Nigel Boogaard, 17. Matthew Osman, 18. Alex Wilkinson, 19. Matt Simon, 20. Danny Vukovic (gk), 22. Nick Rizzo, 23. Adam Kwasnik, 30. Andrew Redmayne (gk)
The Mariners- inaugural AFC Champions League campaign will continue at the Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium on Tuesday, 21 April, when the yellow and navy will again face Kawasaki Frontale. Kick off is at 8pm AEST.
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.