In-form A-League leaders Central Coast are likely to prove a stern challenge for Suwon, who are fit following pre-season, but could be rusty
|By GOAL AUSTRALIA
CENTRAL COAST MARINERS
Bojic, Sainsbury, Zwaanswijk, RoseMontgomery, Hutchinson, McGlinchey
Ibini, McBreen, Sterjovski
Yang, Bosnar, Min, Kwak
Kim, Jong-Jin Park, Hyun-Beom Park, LeeOh, Ristic
The Central Coast Mariners open their 2013 Asian Champions League campaign with a home fixture against K-League outfit Suwon Bluewings in Gosford on Wednesday.
Both sides are in Group H – which also contains Japanese outfit Kashiwa Reysol and Guizhou Renhe of China – and will be keen to make a bright start to the tournament.
Central Coast are in strong form and top the A-League table thanks to a run that has seen them lose just two of their last 19 matches in the Australian top flight.
Despite losing Tom Rogic to Scottish giants Celtic in the January transfer window, the Mariners are having no difficulty scoring goals. With 43 strikes this season they are easily the A-League's most prolific side.
Daniel McBreen tops the A-League scoring charts with 15 goals while Bernie Ibini and Michael McGlinchey (six goals each) are always threatening.
A 6-2 thrashing of title rivals Melbourne Victory on Saturday will have done wonders for the club's confidence as they approach the meeting with the Koreans, who start their domestic campaign this weekend with a clash against local rivals Seongham Ilhwa on Sunday.
New manager Seo Jung-won has made a pair of important signings in the off-season as the club looks to improve on a fourth-placed finish last term.
Suwon – who can lay claim to being the biggest club in South Korea – have been impressed with the form of new Brazilian attacker Pimpao who has scored three goals in pre-season.
They have also managed to convince local Jong Tae Se to sign from German club FC Koln. He joined for a fee of just under $400,000 and could cause the Mariners problems.
Aussie Eddy Bosnar will enjoy the chance to return home and the defender – who can hit a dead ball like few others – is likely to be tasked with stopping the free-scoring McBreen.
Home advantage could be the difference for Graham Arnold's side - they have been simply superb in front of their own fans this season.
In their 10 matches in Gosford, the Mariners have won nine and drawn one, scoring 29 times in the process.
In addition to last week's thumping of Victory, they beat Sydney FC 7-2 at Bluetongue Stadium earlier this season.
For those reasons alone, they will be confident of gaining all three points against the Koreans.
Sharpness is the concern for Suwon - the Korean side will be as fit as they are likely to be all season at the moment but the real question is; are they match-hardened?
Central Coast will run their defence ragged and the contest looms as a big test for the Korean club's new manager.
Seo – who is well-admired by the club's fans for a playing stint with Suwon – is keen to implement a more attractive style of football this season.
He has an experienced and solid team and in addition to his range of attackers, Seo Jung-Jin can cause problems out wide.
Captain Kwak Hee-joo should partner Bosnar at the heart of defence but full-backs Yang Sang-min and Oh Beom-seok have been called up for national service, giving the new man in charge a selection headache.
Bernie Ibini looms as the potential match-winner on Wednesaday. While McBreen is deservedly getting lots of credit for his abundance of goals, Ibini is equally dangerous.
The tall striker has been terrific since returning from a trial with Belgian outfit Club Brugge and his agile movement and pace worries defenders.
The Nigerian-born forward has three goals in his last three games for the Mariners and he is sure to relish the big stage.
As for our prediction, this will be no walk in the park for the Mariners, with Suwon sure to be challenging for the title at the business end of this year's K-League season.
But Central Coast are fit and firing and their home record is superb.
How well Suwon run out the game is anyone's guess but after putting up a fight in the early stages, the Mariners might just be too good in the end.