Mariners discover 2013 AFC Champions League opponents

CENTRAL Coast Mariners have today been pooled alongside Chinese Super League outfit Guizhou Renhe, K-League side Suwon Bluewings and the yet to be determined Japanese Emperor’s Cup winner for the Group Stages of the 2013 AFC Champions League.

CENTRAL Coast Mariners have today been pooled alongside Chinese Super League outfit Guizhou Renhe, K-League side Suwon Bluewings and the yet to be determined Japanese Emperor-s Cup winner for the Group Stages of the 2013 AFC Champions League.

The draw for the 2013 version of Asia-s premier club competition was held at AFC House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with the Mariners the only Hyundai A-League side directly entering the round-robin phase of the prestigious tournament.

Graham Arnold-s team will need to finish in the top two of Group H if they are to achieve their stated goal of progressing to the knockout stages of the AFC Champions League for the first time in the Club-s history next year.

Speaking immediately following the draw, the astute Arnold said that there are no easy groups in continental competitions as celebrated as the AFC Champions League, and underlined the Mariners- desire to achieve success in the tournament next year.

“The experience of playing in the 2012 AFC Champions League has us better equipped to deal with the demands of the tournament next year,” Arnold said.

“All the teams in the AFC Champions League are from tough competitions, and it will be a great test for our players to see if we can emerge from Group H.”

“Clubs in China, Korea and Japan have big budgets and big squads, but having dealt with the dual demands of the Hyundai A-League Finals Series and the AFC Champions League last year, we believe we can perform strongly in Asia.”

“We are looking forward to the challenge, and our goal is to make the second round of the competition."

Guizhou Renhe qualified for the 2013 AFC Champions League via their fourth placed finish in the 2012 Chinese Super League. Suwon Bluewings also finished fourth in their domestic competition, the K-League.

2013 will mark the Mariners third participation in the AFC Champions League. The Club made its debut appearance in the tournament in 2009 before representing Australia again in Asia-s top Club competition this year.

This season Central Coast Mariners recorded its first win in the competition - a 5-1 triumph over China-s Tianjin Teda on AFC Champions League Matchday 5. The Mariners also recorded credible home draws with J-League outfit Nagoya Grampus and K-League club Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, and a determined 0-0 away stalemate with Tianjin Teda.

Central Coast Mariners will be joined by Hyundai A-League rivals, Brisbane Roar, in the Group Stages of the 2013 AFC Champions League should Rado Vidosic-s men defeat Thai FA Cup winners Buriram United in the playoff round.

2013 AFC Champions League Group H Central Coast Mariners FC - Australia Guizhou Renhe - China Suwon Bluewings - Korea Republic Emperor-s Cup Winner - Japan (decided on 1 January, 2013)