NEWS: ACL qualification challenge awaits Mariners

Central Coast Mariners Head Coach Phil Moss says the Club is excited by the challenge to qualify for next year’s AFC Champions League Group Stage proper against a team that the yellow and navy have most likely never faced.

The draw for the 2015 AFC Champions League Group Stage plus Qualification Process will be made in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Kumpur on Thursday, with Central Coast Mariners — along with Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar — sending representatives to take part in the pre–tournament conference and to liaise with competing club and AFC officials.

Central Coast Mariners will face one of ten teams in their qualifier in mid-February, and of those ten teams the Mariners have only ever come up against Indonesia’s Persib Bandung once. That was in September 2013 in Indonesia when the two sides played out a 3-3 draw at the Menpora Cup.

“The qualifier will be an exciting challenge and represents a great opportunity to get back into the main draw,” Moss said. “We want to represent the Central Coast in Asia, and play in the Group Stages of the competition for a fifth time.”

“I truly believe that there is now a heightened appreciation of the AFC Champions League in Australia, thanks primarily to the wonderful exploits of Western Sydney Wanderers in winning the competition this year.”

“But we have been given another chance to participate, and that’s something that should excite all our fans very much.”

The Mariners will play one of Guangzhou R&F (China), Bangkok Glass (Thailand), Chonburi FC (Thailand), Hà Nôi T&T (Vietnam), Persib Bandung (Indonesia), Kitchee (Hong Kong), Yadanarbon (Myanmar), Johor Darul Ta’zim (Malaysia), Bengaluru (India), or Warriors FC (Singapore) in their qualifier in February next year.

Should Moss’s men win, six Group Stage matches against Asia’s elite will follow.

The Mariners boss says he and his coaching staff will leave no stone unturned in researching their AFC Champions League qualification opponents as they bid to earn the Club a place among Asia’s best once more.  

“We’re already familiarising ourselves with the teams that we could prospectively face, but once we know for sure we’ll do our due diligence,” Moss said. “Once we know who we’ll play we’ll narrow our focus, do all our video analysis and make sure that we scout them as best we can.”

“Obviously there’s a huge prize at the end of the [qualification] game which is qualification for the main draw. It’s something that we desperately want, because we missed out narrowly on the knockout phase last season in Hiroshima, when Sanfrecce scored a deflected free-kick with just 18 minutes to go.”

“Missing out on the round of 16 like that has motivated us even more to make the main draw, and make our mark,” he said.

Stay tuned to www.CCMariners.com.au, www.Facebook.com/CCMariners, and www.Twitter.com/CCMariners for information about the 2015 AFC Champions League Draw, including the possible scenarios for the yellow and navy in regards to its qualification path for the Group Stage over the coming days.