This match is far too important for Central Coast to be dropping points and expect Graham Arnold's freshened up outfit to take advantage against tiring Chinese opposition.
Date: Wednesday, April 3 2013 Kick-off: 7pm AEDT Venue: Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford
Head-to-head: First meeting
Form: Past five matches:
Mariners: WWWLL Guizhou Renhe: WDDLL
The Game: Central Coast and Guizhou Renhe are the two bottom sides in Group H and, given this encounter marks the halfway point of this stage, a win is a must - particularly for the Mariners. Graham Arnold's men will travel for two of their last three matches so a strong result at home is crucial on Wednesday night.
The Mariners had the luxury of resting some of their key players in the final round of the A-League as they secured a 2-1 win over the Melbourne Heart. With almost 19-20 relatively fresh players to choose from, anything but a victory against the Chinese outfit should be considered a failure this time around.
Guizhou Renhe got their first win of the Chinese Super League season on Friday, with former Wolfsburg star Zvjezdan Misimovic showing his value. They will miss defender Wu Wei and midfielder Qu Bo because of injuries and are a tiring side. Bosnia and Herzegovina international Misimovic will have travelled to three continents in 12 days, but Guizhou are aiming for at least four points from their two clashes against the Mariners.
The big issue: Mariners - Central Coast need to start producing their A-League form in continental competition and this is a huge chance for the Mariners. This is the third time the Mariners have been in the AFC Champions League and they are aiming for just their second win. They have the quality and are defensively strong, but must take their chances when they come and get their visitors attacking them to create more opportunities on the counter-attack.
Guizhou Renhe - the fitness of their tiring stars could be decisive, especially with what will be a growing reliance on Misimovic. The attacking midfielder played in Bosnia's 3-1 win over Greece in their UEFA World Cup qualifier on March 22 before returning to China, where he scored in Guizhou Renhe's 2-1 victory against Wuhan Zall. A trip to Australia could be asking too much.
The game breaker: Zvjezdan Misimovic - Arnold had no hesitation in talking up the 30-year-old during his pre-match press conference on Tuesday. Misimovic has enjoyed spells at Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg and Galatasaray throughout his career and with that history, he is sure to show his class against most opponents in Asia. He scored in their last league match and how he responds to a tough run of fixtures could decide how much of an impact he has in Gosford.
Prediction: Mariners 2-1 Guizhou Renhe. This match is far too important for Central Coast to be dropping points and expect Arnold's freshened up outfit to take advantage against tiring Chinese opposition. Guizhou Renhe undoubtedly have the quality to break open the Mariners defence but Central Coast have regularly shown they are prepared to scrap and fight for three points. Arnold's compact outfit need a win and the coach knows as much, meaning they should keep their AFC Champions League campaign alive with a victory.