Central Coast missed a golden chance to join Kashiwa Reysol on three points on the opening matchday, adding importance to Wednesday's clash in Japan for the Mariners
|By GOAL AUSTRALIA
Kim C, Suzuki, Kondo, MasushimaBarada, Otani, Leandro, Domingues, Tanaka, Kudo
CENTRAL COAST MARINERS
Bojic, Sainsbury, Zwaanswijk, RoseMontgomery, Hutchinson, McGlinchey
Kashiwa got their AFC Champions League campaign off to a perfect start with a 1-0 victory over Chinese outfit Guizhou Renhe and sit on top of the group.
The Mariners, meanwhile, had to settle for a 0-0 draw with Korean team Suwon Samsung Bluewings in their campaign opener, after Nick Montgomery failed to convert a late penalty.
A victory for either team in this clash will deliver top spot of the group a third of the way into the group stage of the tournament, so motivation in both camps will not be low.
Both sides are coming off disappointing losses in their domestic leagues, with Central Coast succumbing to Sydney FC 2-0 and Kashiwa Reysol receiving a 3-0 thumping from FC Tokyo, and will be desperate to turn it around on Wednesday.
For most of the A-League season, the Mariners have been a well-organised and hard-working side and Kashiwa will have to be wary of their preference to attack from out wide and their propensity for starting attacking moves from defence.
But can the Mariners recapture that winning feeling? The defending A-League premiers have failed to win any of their last three matches in all competitions - including consecutive domestic losses.
Graham Arnold's men enjoyed a seven-match undefeated run prior to their current slump, which has cost them top spot in the A-League and delivered a huge blow to their aspirations of back-to-back Premiers' Plates.
How many changes Graham Arnold will elect to make to his XI - given he is juggling a domestic title push remains to be seen.
Daniel McBreen remains the leading scorer of the A-League with 15 goals but, like his team, the veteran has been out of form recently and has failed to find the back of the net in his last three outings.
The 35-year-old has shown on many occasions this season how dangerous he can be with a hat-trick and three doubles to his credit, and the Mariners will greatly benefit from a fired-up McBreen in Japan.
But the Mariners - particularly with McBreen firing - are a quality side and there are few better stages on which to get that winning feeling back than in the Champions League.
Kashiwa got off to a flyer in the ACL with a vital away win against Guizhou Renhe but the challenge for them now is to capitalise on that performance by banking another three points in front of their home fans against Central Coast.
Kashiwa has done all the hard work early by travelling to China and claiming a victory but a lot of that good work will be undone if they fail back that up with another triumph on Wednesday.
Newly-signed striker Cleo has not taken long to prove his worth to the side since crossing from Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande, scoring three goals from his first three games with the club - including the winner against Guizhou Renhe and a brace in their J.League victory over Kawasaki Frontale.
The Brazilian is in hot form and will need to be contained, otherwise he could decide yet another match.