"Moss: Guangzhou is the Manchester United of Asia"

IT’S fitting that in a year where big names put the A-League on the world map, the biggest name of them all will bring his team to Gosford next week.

IT-S fitting that in a year where big names put the A-League on the world map, the biggest name of them all will bring his team to Gosford next week.

Marcello Lippi is one of world coaching-s superstars - a manager who in 2006 joined that elitist of elite clubs to hoist the World Cup trophy with his native Italy.

While it was with mixed feelings we Australians watched him and his side celebrate their title in Germany - THAT penalty against Lucas Neill knocked a rampaging Socceroos out of the tournament in the round of 16 clash against the Azzurri - no one can begrudge him the success he had at international and club level.

His managerial career has netted him a World Cup title, five Serie A titles, a Copa Italia title, four Italian Supercups, a UEFA Champions League title, a UEFA Supercup, an Intercontinental Cup, a Chinese Super League and a Chinese FA Cup. He was twice voted the best manager in world football (2006 and 2008).

To say he is a successful manager at all levels would be a gross understatement!

How ironic though that Graham Arnold was sitting in the opposite dugout at Germany -06 as assistant coach to Guus Hiddink and now coaches against Lippi in another Round of 16 game - albeit a game of slightly lower profile.

This visit by Lippi with Guangzhou Evergrande - Asia-s richest club team - is what the Asian Champions League is all about. It is the gateway to the world game via Asia.

While the Australian sporting public has not yet realised the real essence of the ACL, it is catching on slowly and with a strong crowd expected at Central Coast Stadium on Wednesday night. It should be another step forward in our Asian football education.

Lippi is on a reported $10million a year, star Argentine playmaker Dario Conca is on more than $12million a year (he was once in the top three highest paid footballers on the planet) and they have Brazilians Elkeson (not registered for the ACL but leading goal-scorer in the Chinese Super League), Muriqui and Paraguayan Lucas Barrios.

Guangzhou is the Manchester United of Asia.

But the beauty and romance of cup competitions the world over has us primed for the challenge and in the mood to send shockwaves around the globe.

Once that whistle goes Lippi becomes just another opposition coach and their players just another opponent. Our enemy on the battlefield - our battlefield that we have turned into a fortress!

We said leading into the A-League grand final that this Mariners squad has faced some big games together and come through with flying colours.

This is another of those big games and an opportunity we simply can-t wait for.

The players have looked refreshed, sharp, strong and switched on during training this week.

A good break following the last group game against Kashiwa Reysol was followed by a sharp week on the training pitch before we head into the tactical side of the preparation early next week.

Come game day the players will have had a fantastic preparation and know exactly what their jobs are against Guangzhou. It promises to be a massive night at Bluetongue -one not to be missed! KO is at 7.30pm.

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YOUNG defender Trent Sainsbury was awarded the Mariners Medal last Friday night at a glittering Black Tie dinner at Kooindah Waters Resort to celebrate the club-s outstanding season.

It was a fitting reward for the talented centre back who has really stepped up this season to replace departed skipper Alex Wilkinson.

To win a competition you need everyone to play their role though and having Zac Anderson right on his heels all season also helped propel “Sains” to greater heights. Midfielder Mikey McGlinchey took out the supporters Player of the Year Award, Daniel McBreen the Golden Boot (club and A-League) and Sharon Pearce was recognised for her tireless efforts and dedication to the club with the Chairman-s Award.

It was a fantastic night, enjoyed by all.

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