Preview: Kawasaki v Central Coast
This is perhaps the Mariners' greatest challenge in their short history and the performance they put in at the Todoroki Stadium will most likely define the rest of their campaign.
Kawasaki Frontale v Central Coast Mariners Date: Tuesday April 21 Kick-off (AEST): 8:00pm AEST (7pm local) Venue: Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium TV coverage: Fox Sports 3 (Live)
Results so far:
Kawasaki Frontale: Kawasaki Frontale 1 Tianjin Teda 0, Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium, March 11 Pohang Steelers 1, Kawasaki Frontale 1, Pohang Steelyard, March 18 Central Coast 0, Kawasaki Frontale 5, Bluetongue Stadium, April 8
Central Coast: Central Coast 0, Pohang Steelers 0, Bluetongue Stadium, March 11 Tianjin Teda 2, Central Coast 2, Tianjin Teda Stadium, March 18 Central Coast 0, Kawasaki Frontale 5, Bluetongue Stadium, April 8
Analysis: Central Coast coach Lawrie McKinna is known for his honesty. So when he described the Mariners 5-0 loss at home to Kawasaki two weeks ago as the worst in his time at the club, we knew that he was genuinely shocked by his side's performance against the J-League outfit.
Unlike league football, where you can quickly move on against other teams, the format of the ACL means McKinna must face his demons again on Tuesday when his side travels to Japan to try and get some payback against an almighty Kawasaki team.
The general consensus is that the contrast in standards between the quality of J-League and A-League clubs is that the Japanese teams' best is far superior to that of the Australian team's best. Nowhere was that more evident than in the way Kawasaki took apart Central Coast in Gosford.
With a smattering of international stars, including North Korean star Jong Tae-se, who has scored three goals in his past four games, and local hero Kengo Nakamura, plus a couple of very capable Brazilians in Juninho and Vitor Junior, they simply look to have too much firepower for the Mariners to stop.
Vitor Junior and Nakamura relished the space afforded to them at Bluetongue and McKinna would be looking to play shutdown football this time around, a method of play which hasn't been usually associated with the Mariners. Pedj Bojic and Matt Simon come in with Ahmad Elrich and Nik Mrdja staying at home, but there are likely to be a few other tactical changes as well.
The Mariners looked solid is drawing their opening two matches but the fact remains that if you include their A-League campaign, they haven't won a game in 2009. That's six losses and two draws in their past eight competitive games, during which time they have scored six and conceded 19.
The side seems sadly lacking in confidence and McKinna has called for them to show some pride when they come up against a cock-a-hoop Japanese outfit which won 3-1 in the J-League on the weekend to move up to tenth on the table.
This is perhaps the Mariners' greatest challenge in their short history and the performance they put in at the Todoroki Stadium will most likely define the rest of their campaign. A heavy loss will all but eliminate them, but a draw will keep them in the running, and resurrect the confidence that was sorely lacking during the drubbing they received two weeks ago.