Preview: Central Coast v Nagoya Grampus

These two sides have never faced off before, but the Mariners know full well Japanese teams are capable of.

These two sides have never faced off before, but the Mariners know full well Japanese teams are capable of. In the 2009 AFC Champions League, they took on Kawasaki Frontale twice and were given a footballing lesson on both occasions. < br/>< br/>

Destroyed 5-0 at home in their first match, Central Coast did a little better when they travelled to the Land of the Rising Sun, but were easily held off 2-1.

Last year's Hyundai A-League runners-up might fancy their chances a bit better this time around, although Nagoya Grampus, who finished second in the J.League last season, will be a massive challenge.

Date: Wednesday 21 March, 2012 Kick-off: 7.30pm AEDT, 7.30pm local Venue: Bluetongue Stadium

Form: Past five matches: Central Coast: LDDLW Nagoya: DWL

Summary of form: Central Coast only have themselves to blame for the predicament they're in. A few months ago their maiden Hyundai A-League premiership looked a foregone conclusion.

Now it'll go down to the last day of the season, purely because they've been unable to do away with the nagging challenge of second-place Brisbane.

With just two wins from their last nine starts, they look a little shaky on paper but their 1-0 win over Adelaide on the weekend was a much-needed settler.

Now with a win on the final day of the regular season, they can ensure a place in Asia in 2013, as well. Right now, though, they'll be looking to build on the scoreless draw they earned away to Tianjin Teda in their first match.

Nagoya Grampus' start to 2012 has been somewhat mixed. After three matches, they've got a draw, a win and a loss next to their names.

On matchday one of the ACL, they were held 2-2 at home to Sasa Ognenovski's Seongnam, but backed up three days later with a victory over Shimizu S-Pluse to kick off the new Japanese league campaign.

Unfortunately, a week later, they fell 3-2 to newly-promoted side FC Tokyo, with Luis Danilson Cordoba sent off late in the game after earning his second yellow card.

Match Committee: Graham Arnold has a full squad to pick from, which is quite fortunate given the workload his club will be faced with over the coming weeks, but there's a few injury clouds hovering over Nagoya.

International forward Keji Tamada and midfield pair Jungo Fujimoto and Naoshi Nakamura were all taken off against Shimizu because of second-half injuries. Only Tamada backed up the next week against Tokyo.

Danger men: Mustafa Amini - Here's a big test for a young lad tipped for big things. The talented attacking midfielder is bound for Borussia Dortmund next season but he's been a little quiet of late. If he's ever going to step up to the next level, he has to start standing out in the big games. The quality of continental play might actually suit his game, so let's wait and see.

Josh Kennedy - The move from Germany to Japan has clearly paid dividends to Kennedy, who has to be considered one of the most prolific scorers in Asian football. The Socceroo finished as top scorer in the J.League for the past two campaigns, and just three games into Nagoya's 2012 seasons he's already got two goals to his name this year - both penalties, one in the league and one in the ACL.

At the end of the day… This match will be a terrific yardstick for the Central Coast. The Mariners are now considered one of most formidable sides in Australian football, and it's true they've come on in leaps and bounds over the past two years. But how much better are they, really? We'll find out on Wednesday.

The last time the Gosford club welcomed a Japanese team to Bluetongue Stadium, they were swept aside with ease. Surely they'll do better this time, right? Standing in the way is Nagoya Grampus, themselves a powerhouse of its own nation's domestic competition.

They are yet to set the world on fire this year, but in fairness they're only three games into their season. Is that an advantage for the Mariners, who by rights should be streets ahead in terms of match fitness? Or will Nagoya outclass Central Coast, just like FC Tokyo did in Brisbane? We'll find out on Wednesday.