Preview: Tianjin Teda v Central Coast Mariners
Central Coast's first-up ACL performance may not have been inspiring, but to pick up a point in your first match in the continent's biggest club tournament is no mean feat and the Mariners will be looking to add to that in China on Wednesday.
Date: Wednesday March 18 Kick-off (AEST): 8.00pm local (11pm AEDT) Venue: Tianjin Teda Stadium TV coverage: Fox Sports 1 (Live)
Previous Results: Kawasaki Frontale 1, Tianjin Teda 0, Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium, March 11 Central Coast Mariners 0, Pohang Steelers 0, Bluetongue Stadium, March 11
Analysis: Central Coast's first-up ACL performance may not have been inspiring, but to pick up a point in your first match in the continent's biggest club tournament is no mean feat and the Mariners will be looking to add to that in China on Wednesday.
Lawrie McKinna has prepared his men for this clash by taking them to China two weeks ago for a tour which included two matches. Both resulted in defeats, but the lessons learned in those losses could be valuable in this match.
He has called on Dylan Macallister at the expense of Nick Rizzo, a sure sign he wants to use the Mariners' superior physical strength to create attacking chances. McKinna has said that he would settle for a draw, but that won't be the Mariners aim from the outset. A three-point result would set his team up well a third of the way through the group stage.
Tianjin comes into this match really needing a win after being sunk by a single goal by J-League club Kawasaki Frontale last week. It finished fourth in the Chinese Super League last season, qualifying for this tournament. That was its highest finish since being promoted in 1999.
The player most Australian fans will know is obviously on-loan striker Mark Bridge, who is currently contracted at Sydney and scored the winning goal against the Mariners when playing for Newcastle in the 2008 Hyundai A-League Grand Final. Bridge played 66 minutes last week and will likely feature again this week.
The other danger men would be Brazilian Eber Luis and former Roma midfielder Damiano Tommas. French defender Jean-Philippe Caillet makes up the international contingent while there are seven players with international experience with China, Yang Jun, Wang Xiao, Tan Wangsong, Hao Junmin, Wu Wei-an, Wang Xinxin and Cao Yang.
With the Chinese Super League not set to start until later this month, Tianjin don't yet look completely wound up, but will have benefitted from their match in Japan last week. The local crowd is sure to have a major say in this match with over 30,000 expected in the stadium built for a city of 11 million people.
The contrast between the urban landscapes of north-eastern China and the palm trees of Gosford's Bluetongue Stadium won't be lost on McKinna's men, but the pleasant weather expected will help them adapt.