WEDNESDAY night’s clash will truly be a David vs. Goliath battle, however the Mariners’ opponents, Guangzhou Evergrande, have not always been one of the biggest clubs in world football.
WEDNESDAY night-s clash will truly be a David vs. Goliath battle, however the Mariners- opponents, Guangzhou Evergrande, have not always been one of the biggest clubs in world football.
In just 2010 the current Chinese Champions were in the second tier of Chinese football due to a forced relegation, but in a mere 18 months they turned their luck around to win the China League One title and head straight back into the Chinese Super League (CSL).
Shortly after being relegated, the Club was taken over by real estate company “Evergrande” which saw not only an immediate promotion to the top tier of Chinese football but also back-to-back Championships in 2011 & 2012.
Since Guangzhou-s takeover the ‘Southern China Tigers- have smashed all sorts of financial records by signing the likes of former Celtic midfielder Zheng Zhi, Fluminense playmaker Dario Conca and most recently, Lucas Barrios who transferred from the current UEFA Champions League Finalists Borussia Dortmund.
But their biggest signing will not be on the pitch tomorrow night, he will be on the sideline as the Italian 2006 World Cup winning coach Marcello Lippi celebrates his one year anniversary with the Club.
"My arrival should be a big deal and the most important thing in China today," Lippi said 12 months ago when announcing his arrival to Guangzhou.”
"I will start my work today, the same way I did in Juventus and Inter (Milan).”
With a football icon as distinguished as Lippi it would be fair to assume that a lot would have clouded the memory of the 65-year-old Italian legend since the 2006 World Cup. But he knew exactly who he was standing in front of him when meeting Mariners- coach Graham Arnold - “You were in Germany with Guus [Hiddink],” he said whilst shaking Arnold-s hand.
When asked about his knowledge of Australian football he looked back on Australia-s infamous exit at the 2006 World Cup with a cheeky grin.
“I only have had one experience and that was in Germany, we won 1-0 in 94 minutes and that allowed us to go on and win the World Cup,” he said.
Lippi went on later to say that he has kept in contact with fellow countryman Alessandro Del Piero, which had given him a good idea of how to treat the recently crowned A-League Champions.
“Alessandro has confirmed the things that I have seen on video,” he said. “The Mariners are a very physical and organised team full of enthusiasm who will put full effort into the game tomorrow night.”
It is well noted that the Mariners do not have Guangzhou-s kind of money to throw around and nor do most clubs in world football. But when the sides take to the pitch tomorrow night, not a single Mariner will place a dollar value on their opposition.
“For us, we-re just excited to come up against a big name team and the players they-ve got, it-s the challenge you look forward to as a footballer when you-re up against high quality players on big money,” Mariners skipper John Hutchinson said.
Central Coast are no strangers to coming up against Clubs that are financially bigger than them - in fact they do it week in week out at Club level - but this is a whole new playing field. Still, they are not intimidated.
“We work on a team budget of $2.5 million and they work on a budget of $40 million but as I said to the boys today we have to come out fighting, we have nothing to lose,” Head Coach Graham Arnold said.
“It-s us against the rest of the world … no one wants or expects us to do anything and here we are in the last 16 of the Asian Champions League.”
More than 25 busloads of Australian-based Chinese supporters are expected to turn out at Central Coast Stadium tomorrow night.
Central Coast Mariners (AUS) vs. Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN) 2013 AFC Champions League Round of 16 First-Leg Wednesday 15 May, 2013 Central Coast Stadium, Gosford Kick-off: 7:30pm Tickets: Please CLICK HERE to purchase tickets to the match Twitter: Join the match conversation on Twitter. The official hash tag for the game is #CCMvGE