Mariners primed for Chinatown surprise

With a day-long transit into the world’s most populous nation negotiated, the Central Coast Mariners are now focused on the challenge of a Chinese heavyweight backed by their enormous local supporter base at the Tianjin Teda Stadium tomorrow night.

With a day-long transit into the world-s most populous nation negotiated, the Central Coast Mariners are now focused on the challenge of a Chinese heavyweight backed by their enormous local supporter base at the Tianjin Teda Stadium tomorrow night.

According to local officials, the Mariners- AFC Champions League clash against Tianjin Teda at their impressive Tianjin Teda Stadium home on Wednesday will be a near sell-out, ensuring at the least an unforgettable atmosphere inside one of China-s truly state of the art sporting arenas.

The capacity of the Tianjin Teda Stadium, which lies in the heart of Tianjin-s mega scale economic development hub, is some 37,500, and it is a number not far from this that the hosts are expecting to witness their clubs first ever AFC Champions League home match.

The enormity of the occasion off the pitch aside, the battle beyond the white lines also promises to be one of great value, with both Tianjin and the Mariners searching for their breakthrough Group H win and three points that could prove critical to each team-s chances of progression to the Round of 16.

Dylan Macallister-s inclusion at the expense of Nick Rizzo is the only change to a Mariners outfit that found form on Match Day 1 at home to Korea-s Pohang Steelers and one that has arrived in China confident in its ability to return to greener and warmer pastures with competition points to show for their efforts.

"If we get a draw away from home we-d be happy, but we-ve come here expecting and thinking that we can win," said Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna.

"We have to believe that we can come here and get a result - we think we can come away with a win, but realistically, if we came away with a draw, it-s still a good result and we-ve done a good job.

"The Stadium will provide a great backdrop and great atmosphere here and we-re looking forward to it."

Though inexperienced in the AFC Champions League, the Mariners have some runs on the board against Chinese Super League (CSL) opposition, having encountered CSL challengers on three occasions throughout their four-year history.

Firstly, the Mariners suffered a 2-1 loss to Changchun Yatai in a pre-season tournament staged in North Queensland in June 2006, before travelling to China to play Jiangsu Sainty and Shandong Luneng a fortnight ago, where they suffered 2-1 and 2-0 losses respectively.

Tianjin Teda-s line up will almost certainly feature a number of players familiar to Australian audiences, not least Tianjin striker Mark Bridge, who has relocated from Sydney to China for Tianjin-s AFC Champions League Group H campaign, along with former Italian international midfielder Damiano Tommasi, who was an immortal at giant Serie A club AS Roma between 1996 and 2006.

Up front and in defence Tianjin are expected to showcase their remaining imports - Brazilian marksman Eber Luis and French defender Jean Phillipe Caillet, while the most noteworthy locals expected to play include Chinese national team players Yang Jun, Wang Xiao, Tan Wangsong, Hao Junmin, Wu Wei-an, Wang Xinxin and Cao Yang.

"We-ve got a copy of Tianjin-s game from last Wednesday night and we-ll obviously go through that, but they-re going to be at home, in front of a big crowd and wanting to prove that they-re a good team," said McKinna.

"We know that we-re in for a very hard game and that we-ll have to be at the top of our game to get a result.

"Coming here is a different world - a city of 11 million people and a world-class Stadium like this with a huge crowd, it-s certainly going to be a bit different from the sunny Central Coast."

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, 23. Adam Kwasnik, 30. Andrew Redmayne (gk)

The Mariners- AFC Champions League 2009 campaign continues on Wednesday, 18 March against Chinese Super League heavyweights Tianjin Teda at their Tianjin Teda Stadium home. Kick off is at 11pm AEDT.

The Mariners will next be at Central Coast Stadium for Match Day 3 of the AFC Champions League 2009, where they will take on Japan-s Kawasaki Frontale on Wednesday, 8 April. Kick off is at 8pm.

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