Match Preview: A-League high-flyers meet in AFC Cup Zonal Final

Central Coast Mariners face the biggest test of their AFC Cup journey so far on Thursday evening, as they make the trip to Campbelltown to take on Macarthur.

Two of the A-League’s form clubs are battling for the title of ASEAN Zone Champions, and a place in the Inter-Zonal Semi-Final where Indian club Odisha FC are waiting for a two-legged clash.

READ MORE: AFC Cup Knockout Stage: Explained

๐Ÿ† AFC Cup Journey so far

The Mariners advanced through Group G with four wins, one draw and one loss, finishing a point ahead of Malaysian outfit Terengganu, who crashed out of the competition despite going unbeaten in the group (3 wins, 3 draws).

A 1-1 draw with Terengganu on Matchday five at Our Paradise, put pressure on the Marinersโ€™ tricky trip to the Phillipines on Matchday 6, but Jacksonโ€™s side held their nerve and ran out 3-0 winners against Stallions Laguna to book their place in the Zonal Semi-Final.

Phnom Penh Crown were our opponents in the first knockout round last week and a Ryan Edmondson hat-trick off the bench, after Jing Reec’s first half opener, saw the Mariners cruise to a 4-0 win against the Cambodian Champions.

The Bulls made it through with five wins from six, but were pushed all the way by Phnom Penh who took it to the final day before falling to a surprise defeat against Myanmar’s Shan United.

Macarthur also cruised through their Zonal Semi-Final, beating Sabah 3-0, making them the only side in the competition to have scored more goals (26) than the Mariners (25).

๐Ÿ†š Macarthur

This is the Mariners second meeting with the Bulls this season, after they ran out 2-1 winners in Mark Jackson’s first A-League match at Our Paradise. Valere Germain opened his account for the season and Kearyn Baccus doubled Macarthur’s lead before Brian Kaltak pulled one back for the Mariners in extra time.

Macarthur are quietly enjoying a strong season under Mile Sterjovski, going somewhat under the radar despite sitting fourth on the ladder, a dramatic improvement from last season’s bottom place finish.

Prior to this weekend’s 2-1 defeat at home to league leaders Wellington, the Bulls had been on an eight game unbeaten run.

The addition of experienced French striker Germain has no doubt played a part, he is the Bulls’ top scorer in the A-League with 10 and the focal point of their dangerous front three, between pacey wingers Raphael Borges and Jed Drew.

Drew was on target twice as they defeated Sabah, taking him level with Germain on four goals in the AFC Cup.