Chinese on menu before Asian smorgasbord

The Central Coast Mariners will accelerate preparations for their maiden AFC Champions League tilt in the most fitting fashion possible next week, with a two-match tour of China confirmed on the back of a pair of friendly fixtures closer to home.

The Central Coast Mariners will accelerate preparations for their maiden AFC Champions League tilt in the most fitting fashion possible next week, with a two-match tour of China confirmed on the back of a pair of friendly fixtures closer to home.

The Mariners will take on recently promoted Chinese Super League (CSL) side Jiangsu Sainty at the Kunshan Sports Centre on Saturday, 28 February before clashing with reigning CSL champions and fellow AFC Champions League qualifiers Shandong Luneng at the Shandong Provincial Stadium on Tuesday, 3 March.

With the Mariners- first AFC Champions League away date against CSL challengers Tianjin Teda, these matches will provide the yellow and navy with an ideal opportunity to familiarise themselves with the culture and the conditions of the world-s most populous nation, with both trials set to be played out in near 0°C temperatures at world-class arenas.

Furthermore, the Mariners- clash against Shandong Luneng at the 43,700 seater Shandong Provincial Stadium will be broadcast live on China Central Television (CCTV) - showcasing the Mariners and the Central Coast to China-s phenomenal potential television audience of some 1.2 billion.

Before departing for China, the Mariners will take on reigning Queensland State League champions Sunshine Coast FC at Budgewoi-s Frank Millington Field this coming Sunday, 22 February at 10am before clashing with northern rivals the Newcastle Jets, again at Frank Millington Field, at 11am on Tuesday, 24 February.

"We-re very serious about success in the AFC Champions League and these warm up matches will provide us with the perfect preparation for the adventures that lie ahead for us," said Mariners Executive Chairman Lyall Gorman.

"Ahead of our trip to Tianjin in mid-March, there is simply no better way to prepare our playing group and coaching staff for the challenges that we will face in adjusting to the Chinese culture and conditions, which could prove to be most beneficial in bringing home some valuable competition points.

"We thank the people at Golden Star International for their efforts in co-ordinating this trip for us, where we will further expand the Central Coast Mariners bra-nd to an overwhelming audience and build upon our preparations for the AFC Champions League."

Jiangsu Sainty and Shandong Luneng are each warming up for the new CSL season, which kicks off in late March.

Jiangsu Sainty will be competing in the CSL for the first time in their 15-year history, having secured promotion from the second-tier Chinese Jia League last season.

Representing the Jiangsu Province of China-s east coast - home to a staggering 75,495,000 people, Jiangsu play out of the stunning 60,000 capacity Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre, which was the main arena of the 10th Chinese National Games in 2005.

Reigning CSL champions Shandong Luneng have long been one of China-s most consistent club sides and their domination of the most recent CSL season, where they lost only three of their 30 league matches, was a fitting statement of a club that is among the most ambitious in China.

Since 2004, when well travelled Serbian coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic took charge, Shandong have claimed five trophies - the most famous of which being their CSL titles in 2006 and 2008.

Aside from their host of local internationals, Shandong is home to experienced imports from Serbia and Venezuela, while off the field, Shandong attracted the highest average crowd in the CSL in 2008 - 26,501.

Shandong have encountered Australian opposition twice previously, having defeated and drawn against Adelaide United in the group stage of the 2007 edition of the AFC Champions League.

"We-re now three weeks away from kick off against Pohang Steelers at Central Coast Stadium and the buzz and excitement about the club and the Central Coast is tremendous," said Gorman.

"Like never before, we have an opportunity to make an impression on the world stage and these preparations will ensure that we have done our utmost to give ourselves the best possible chance of success."

Match Details

Central Coast Mariners vs. Sunshine Coast FC Frank Millington Field Sunday, 22 February Kick off 10am

Central Coast Mariners vs. Newcastle Jets Frank Millington Field Tuesday, 24 February Kick off 11am

Jiangsu Sainty vs. Central Coast Mariners Kunshan Sports Centre Saturday, 28 February Kick off 2.30pm local time (5.30pm AEDT)

Shandong Luneng vs. Central Coast Mariners Shandong Provincial Stadium Tuesday, 3 March Kick off 3pm local time (6pm AEDT)

The Mariners will next be in action in a competitive fixture for the kick off of the AFC Champions League 2009 at Central Coast Stadium against Korean FA Cup winners Pohang Steelers on Wednesday, 11 March.

From 9am on Friday, 20 February, tickets will be available for purchase from any Ticketek outlet, from the Ticketek website -, or via phone on 132 849.