AFC Champions League Group G Preview

The Mariners have a really tough task ahead of them and with their second ever Asian Champions League campaign clashing with their pursuit of A-League glory, their depth will be tested.

Central Coast Mariners

How they got here: 2010-11 A-League runners-up. ACL history: Second appearance. Best finish: The Gosford club failed to pick up a win in their only continental appearance to date in 2009, when they were drawn with Kawasaki Frontale, Pohang Steelers and Tianjin Teda.

Key players: Matt Ryan - If Ryan is not one of the best young goalkeepers in the world, then he can't be far off. The Mariners will be counting on continued heroism from their teenage shotstopper, who would be very wealthy if he had a dollar for every time he saved Central Coast's bacon.

Mustafa Amini - The ACL will be Amini's swansong with the Coast before he heads off to Germany to join giants Borussia Dortmund. Coach Graham Arnold will want one final push from their playmaking prodigy to give the Mariners something to remember him by.

Tianjin Teda

How they got here: 2011 Chinese FA Cup winners. ACL history: Third appearance. Best finish: Teda made the Round of 16 in the 2011 edition of the Champions League, but were bundled out 3-0 by eventual champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

Key players: Milan Susak - The former Brisbane and Adelaide centre-half recently joined the Chinese club, and there's no doubt he'll form a crucial part of their defence. Susak has proved himself to be a cool head at the back and will be very familiar with the Mariners, which will be an advantage when the two clubs lock horns.

Sjoerd Ars - Pacy Dutch striker Ars is on loan with Tianjin Teda from Bulgarian side Levski Sofia, having made the move to China earlier in February. He comes to the club with a good scoring record at former sides Omniworld, Go Ahead Eagles, Roosendaal and Zwolle, and will no doubt play a major role in Teda's ACL run.

Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma

How they got here: 2011 Korean FA Cup winners. ACL history: Fifth appearance. Best finish: Seongnam won the 2010 AFC Champions League, beating Iranian club Zob Ahan 3-1 in the final.

Key players: Sasa Ognenovski - Late-blooming Socceroo Ognenovski has enjoyed a wonderfully successful spell in Korea since leaving Adelaide United. Voted the AFC Asian Footballer of the Year and Champions League MVP in 2010, 'the Ogre' might be 32 but he's in career-best form and has shown no signs of slowing down.

Everton Santos - The 25-year-old Brazilian striker is a new addition to Seongnam's ranks - well, officially at least. He spent last season in Korea on loan from French club Paris Saint-Germain, but spent most of his time there on loan. He did well at Seongnam, though, and is expected to feature heavily for them in the ACL.

Nagoya Grampus

How they got here: 2011 J. League runners-up. ACL history: Second appearance. Best finish: Nagoya have made two of the last three ACL tournaments, but their first appearance in 2009 was their best yet. The Japanese side went undefeated in the group stages but eventually fell to Al-Ittihad in the semi-finals, losing 8-3 on aggregate.

Key players: Joshua Kennedy - The man formerly known as 'Jesus' has been dominant since transferring to Nagoya in 2009. The towering marksman was not only the top scorer in Japan in both 2010 and 2011, he was one of the best players in the competition, period - as evidenced by his selection in the J. League's 'Best Eleven' in each year.

Marcus Tulio Tanaka - One of the best players Japan has ever produced, Tulio has been to the pinnacle of Asian club football before - in 2007, when he won the ACL with Urawa Red Diamonds. A marauding centre-back who loves to get forward and score, he's always a difficult player to mark.

Who will make it through: The Mariners have a really tough task ahead of them. With their second ever Asian Champions League campaign clashing with their pursuit of A-League glory, their depth will be tested. But when three of their best young players went to the Australian under-23 team, we already got a taste of what life under the pump would be like for Central Coast - and it's not good. They once held a near-unassailable lead at the top of the league, but that's been whittled away. A few weeks ago we would have fancied their chances because they were just playing so well, but their Asian adventure will be a massive challenge. Nagoya Grampus and Seongnam are both quality sides - regional powerhouses, perhaps - and the rise of Chinese football means Tianjin Teda can't be taken lightly either.