Full strength Mariners target Asian success

The Central Coast Mariners' first ever AFC Champions League match is a little over 24 hours away and, perhaps equally as historically, the yellow and navy have a full complement of players from which to select the starting eleven that will soon create history at Central Coast Stadium.

The Central Coast Mariners' first ever AFC Champions League match is a little over 24 hours away and, perhaps equally as historically, the yellow and navy have a full complement of players from which to select the starting eleven that will soon create history at Central Coast Stadium.

Striker Dylan Macallister, who missed today's final training session due to a minor illness, has still been included in the Mariners' extended 19-man squad for tomorrow's blockbuster against Korean powerhouses Pohang Steelers, while Andre Gumprecht will be rested due to a negligible calf strain.

Otherwise, each member of the Mariners' 26-man AFC Champions League squad has put their hand up for selection for a spectacle that will make local sporting and cultural history.

Having trained consistently since the close of the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season, the Mariners are battle hardened and relishing the challenge of their heavyweight opponents, who in total contradiction to the hosts are attempting to lift the AFC Champions League trophy for a third time in 2009.

It-s a David versus Goliath battle in every respect, with the four-year-old Mariners making their continental debut against a proven regional giant - a challenge that suits the customarily underdog Mariners to the letter.

"This is a new season, we-re treating the AFC Champions League as a new four-month season, we-ve prepared for it physically, we-ve put in a lot of hard work and as far as we-re concerned, if we get a win tomorrow we-re top of the league," said Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna at today's official pre-match press conference at Central Coast Stadium.

"It-s important that we get a result of some sort tomorrow night, the first game is always an unknown - we-ve got tapes of Pohang from last season but now they-ve got new players, so the first five minutes tomorrow night we-ll be observing how they line up and seeing what they do and hopefully the things that we put in place will work out for us."

The Steelers come to Australia in good form having recently commenced their domestic K-League season with a 3-2 triumph away to reigning champions Suwon Bluewings.

One of Pohang's players to watch and one of their goal scorers against Suwon, Brazilian striker Denilson, today spoke of Pohang's excitement at being on the Central Coast and underlined his side's desire to achieve a positive result tomorrow night.

Denilson-s presence alongside compatriot Brasilia and 2008 K-League player of the year and Macedonian international Stevica Ristic will be elementary to Pohang-s success, while the Steelers- squad also includes a sprinkling of current Korea Republic senior and youth internationals, including lynchpin defender Choi Hyo-Jin.

As exemplified by the Mariners' results in China recently, points won at home will be elementary to the yellow and navy's chances of escaping from the group stage - a feat that has only been achieved once previously by an Australian club side - Adelaide United in 2008.

"Adelaide went into the AFC Champions League last year and nobody gave them a chance and if we can get through the qualifying stages - I think that-s a great achievement for any Australian team and that-s our goal at the moment," said McKinna.

"It-ll be a huge night for the Central Coast, a huge night for the region and I still don-t think most Australians realise how big it is and how well Adelaide did last year by achieving what they did, so for us to get that opportunity is huge for the club and hopefully we go out there tomorrow and do the Central Coast proud."

Central Coast Mariners Squad

3. Shane Huke, 4. Pedj Bojic, 5. Bradley Porter, 7. John Hutchinson, 8. Dean Heffernan, 9. Nik Mrdja, 10. Adrian Caceres, 11. Dylan Macallister, 13. Paul O-Grady, 15. Andrew Clark, 16. Nigel Boogaard, 17. Matthew Osman, 18. Alex Wilkinson, 19. Matt Simon, 20. Danny Vukovic (gk), 21. Ahmad Elrich, 22. Nick Rizzo, 23. Adam Kwasnik, 30. Andrew Redmayne (gk) *one to be omitted

The Mariners will kick off their maiden AFC Champions League campaign at Central Coast Stadium against Korean FA Cup winners Pohang Steelers on Wednesday, 11 March. Kick off is at 8pm.

Tickets are on sale and available for purchase from any Ticketek outlet, from the Ticketek website - www.ticketek.com.au, or via phone on 132 849.