ACL Preview: FC Seoul v Central Coast Mariners
Past five matches:
FC Seoul: DLWWD
After four straight defeats in the A-League – including a 4-1 capitulation against Wellington on Friday night - Central Coast start the tough Asian Champions League campaign horribly out of form and low on confidence. Not the ingredients you want coming up against last season's beaten finalists in the ACL. One thing working in the Mariners' favour is the K-League is still a couple of weeks away from starting, meaning FC Seoul may be vulnerable without any competitive match action recently. Phil Moss will be without arguably his most experienced ACL player in Eddy Bosnar, who didn't make the trip to Korea due to a back problem while Mile Sterjovski is also out. The Mariners boss will be relying on Korean new-boy Kim Seung-yong to provide some inside knowledge on their opponents as well as his previous experience from winning the tournament with Ulsan Hyundai in 2012. The hosts possess class and experience all over the park and with the likes of Sergio Escudero, Cha Du-Ri, Osmar Barba Ibáñez, and Mauricio Molina in their ranks will be hoping that makes up for their lack of competitive matches.
The big issue:
FC Seoul – No matter how hard you train and the amount of pre-season friendlies you play, nothing replicates playing for points. Choi Yong-soo's side are sure to be a little short of a run and will not be as battle-hardened as the Mariners which could make it a tough night at the office for the Korean side.
Mariners – The most consistent side in the A-League since its inception is enduring its most difficult time of it this season. A heap of change both on and off the field has affected results and it's sure to be affecting team morale. Their meek surrender against the Phoenix over the weekend was hugely out of character and suggests there may be some problems in the camp. The club generally responds well to adversity but if they don't, they will be made to pay hard in Korea.
The game breaker:
Mauricio Molina – In a team choc-full of talent, the Colombian midfielder is the one that makes FC Seoul tick. Molina has been a consistent scorer and provider of goals for the K-League club in the last three seasons and has enjoyed success in the ACL, part of Seongnam Ilhwa's victory alongside Sasa Ognenovski in the 2010 tournament. The likes of Nick Montgomery and John Hutchinson will need to stay close to the 33-year-old throughout the 90 minutes if the Mariners are to spring an upset.
Prediction: FC Seoul 2-0 Mariners
We've looked at every possible stat and turned them inside and out trying to find a strong argument in the Mariners favour. But no matter what we came up with it's hard to go past a win for the home side. Their lack of intense games means they could run out of gas late on but if their key players are on their game in the first half, FC Seoul should have the three points wrapped up by then.