The Central Coast Mariners are primed and ready for Tuesday night’s AFC Champions League play-off qualifier against Chinese Super League outfit Guangzhou R&F at Central Coast Stadium.
A win will etch the Mariners into the record books as the first Australian side to feature in five AFC Champions League group stages and see the yellow and navy slot into Group F alongside Japan’s Gamba Osaka, South Korea’s Seongnam FC and Thailand’s Buriram United.
Central Coast Mariners head coach Phil Moss says his team will deliver a grand final mentality to the clash, which is shaping up as a battle between two nations.
“We feel that we walk out on the pitch tomorrow night representing Australia, not just the Central Coast. It’s Australia vs. China tomorrow night and that’s the mentality we need to bring to the game,” Moss said.
After Friday night’s Hyundai A-League loss, the quick turnaround has been a welcomed addition to the club’s schedule who have temporarily re-focussed on a new challenge.
“The mood in the camp is very positive. It’s a different mindset, a different focus and a welcomed distraction from the A-League as well,” Moss said.
“It’s a grand final tomorrow night, so we’ve got a very positive mindset, a very aggressive mindset, we’re at home, so it’s up to us to dictate proceedings tomorrow night and make sure we give Guangzhou a really rough night,” Moss said.
Travelling to Gosford to face the Mariners will be a Guanzghou R&F unit, who qualified for the match with a 3-0 win over the Singapore Warriors FC last week.
R&F are managed by former Romanian international Cosmin Contra who replaced Sven-Göran Eriksson at the helm and will bring a number of high quality players to Central Coast Stadium – including two who featured at the recent AFC Asian Cup.
Guangzhou R&F’s left back Jiang Zhipeng featured in the group stage for the Chinese national team, while South Korean Jang Hyun-soo played all six of his side’s games – including a starting birth in the AFC Asian Cup final against Australia.
Like most successful football clubs across Asia - R&F have recruited some quality foreigners including new Spanish signing ‘Michel’ from Valencia and Moroccan international Abderrazak Hamdallah – who scored an impressive 22 goals in 22 Chinese Super League matches in 2014.
In true Mariners’ fashion, there are no signs of fear ahead the challenge presented by the Chinese side, with goalkeeper Liam Reddy excited for the chance to face up against a quality attacking line up.
“We know that they’re a quick team, a mobile team and it’s going to be a very physical game tomorrow. We’re looking forward to that and hopefully we can get the job done tomorrow night,” Reddy said.
Moss was confident that the in depth preparation and analysis around Guangzhou R&F could go a long way to booking the Mariners a place in Asia.
“We feel pretty educated on what they’re going to serve up tomorrow night. It’s a matter of stopping it, they’re mobile, they’re quick, they’re physical. We believe that if we stick to our game plan and we play it to the best of our abilities, we’re a good chance tomorrow night.”
Tickets for Tuesday night’s clash are available through ticketek.com.au or at the gates on match day for just $10 per person. NOTE only the eastern grandstand will be open for the clash against Guangzhou R&F.