Facing J.League opposition might not inspire confidence for the Mariners, but they showed their determination in their ACL opener and will be a good challenge for Nagoya
Facing J.League opposition in the AFC Champions League has not been a happy experience for the Central Coast Mariners.
In their only previous campaign, in 2009, the Mariners shared a group with Kawasaki Frontale, and were humbled 5-0 at home by the Japanese club before falling 2-1 in the return match.
The Mariners are cut from different stuff this time around, though 2011 J.League runners-up Nagoya Grampus are a proven performer in continental competition.
Central Coast are not in the most convincing of form, having thrown away a 10-point lead atop the A-League table to bring the race to the Premiers Plate with Brisbane Roar to the final week of the regular season.
They have claimed just two wins in nine matches, but showed plenty of tenacity in March 6's scoreless draw with Tianjin Teda in China to open their ACL group stage on a positive note.
Nagoya, meanwhile, were held 2-2 by K-League side Seongnam Ilhwa in their first group match. They won their J.League opener, but lost on Saturday to FC Tokyo.
The Mariners should have virtually a full-strength side to choose from, but coach Graham Arnold may elect to shuffle his side ahead of Sunday's tricky trip to meet the Wellington Phoenix with the Premiers Plate on the line.
It may mean roles for fringe players Trent McClenahan, Trent Sainsbury, Troy Hearfield or Adriano Pellegrino at Gosford as Arnold tries to keep his squad fresh.
Nagoya's XI is likely to feature Australia international striker Josh Kennedy, but fellow forward Keji Tamada and midfield duo Jungo Fujimoto and Naoshi Nakamura are in doubt because of injury. Tamada, however, did feature against FC Tokyo.