CENTRAL Coast Mariners Head Coach Graham Arnold says his side are confident ahead of Wednesday’s encounter with Marcello Lippi’s Guangzhou Evergrande in the first-leg of the knockout stages of the 2013 AFC Champions League.
CENTRAL Coast Mariners Head Coach Graham Arnold says his side are confident ahead of Wednesday-s encounter with Marcello Lippi-s Guangzhou Evergrande in the first-leg of the knockout stages of the 2013 AFC Champions League.
“It is an exciting experience for all of us,” Arnold said. “It-s a wonderful challenge for us to come up against one of the richest clubs in the world and one of the favourites of this competition. We are fit, we-re confident and we-re at home, we have to get a good result tomorrow night.”
“We hold no fear, we hold a lot of pride in what we do. We are not only representing the Mariners, we are representing Australia and the A-League.”
Arnold expects a tough contest against Guangzhou, but insists his players are well prepared for the encounter.
“Since the boys have come back from their break, they have been extremely sharp. There have been no distractions. We are fit, we-re healthy, we-re fresh, and it-s now just a matter of being at our best. Tomorrow night is a big challenge, these are the games you want to play in, they are the type of games you want be tested in,” he said.
The Mariners tactician admits his side will need to be at their best if they are to claim maximum points against the back-to-back Chinese Super League winners tomorrow evening.
“You can-t compare the A-League with the Asian Champions League, it-s a totally different level. This game is probably the biggest game ever on the Coast,” said Arnold.
“We will have to play better than what we do normally, our concentration and discipline has to be spot on for 95 minutes, and our ball retention has to be the best it-s ever been. If we give away any cheap ball they will kill us, they are that good.”
Arnold says it is important that the yellow and navy keep a clean sheet against the ‘Southern China Tigers- tomorrow night, before travelling to Guangzhou-s Tianhe Stadium for the second-leg next week.
“If we can stop them getting an away goal, then anything is possible in the second-leg. I-m very confident we will get the right result tomorrow, but our first goal would be to keep a clean sheet and just play our own way.”
Central Coast skipper John Hutchinson says the Mariners are excited to host one of the heavyweights of Asian football in Gosford, but admits his side will be looking to cause an upset against Lippi-s men.
“We are excited by the prospect of playing a big Club, a big Chinese team and testing ourselves. We are looking forward to the game, we know it-s going to be a massive challenge, a massive game and we-re not hiding away from that.”
“We-re the underdogs and we have nothing to lose. We are going to give it our best, we-re going to try and play our way.”
The 33-year-old Maltese international is set to mark Argentine attacking midfield star Dario Conca - once world football-s third highest paid player behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
“I was actually in China when Conca signed (for Guangzhou), he got a lot of fanfare when he came over. It-s a challenge that you look forward to as a footballer, coming up against high quality players on big money at a big budget club,” Hutchinson concluded.
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