ACL Preview: Central Coast Mariners v Seoul
Played: 1, Wins: Mariners 0, Seoul 1, Draws: 0
Seoul 2-0 Mariners, February 25 2014
Past five matches:
Central Coast can take a huge step towards the last 16 of the AFC Champions League with a win over Seoul on Wednesday night. The Mariners are top of Group F through four matches – a point clear of the remaining three teams. With Sanfrecce Hiroshima travelling to Beijing Guoan, the Mariners could be in the last 16 if they win and the match in China is anything but a draw. Phil Moss' men have a busy run of fixtures as they juggle continental commitments and A-League finals, but they did upset premiers Brisbane Roar 2-0 last time out. Seoul – last year's Champions League runners-up – are struggling in second bottom in the K-League and are on a five-match winless run ahead of their trip to Australia.
The big issue:
Mariners – just what does Moss do with his squad for the first of three matches in eight days? With an elimination final at home to Adelaide United on Saturday, his selections will be key to have his team performing at close to their best in both matches. He has juggled his squad well so far so expect the likes of Kim Seung-Yong and Matt Simon – who both played no part in the win over the Roar – to feature. A trip to Japan awaits on April 23 before a potential A-League semi-final just days later.
Seoul – can Choi Yong-Soo's men regain some confidence after a poor start to the season? They appear a long way from the team that finished fourth in the league last campaign and went close to winning the Champions League, with just win victory in their opening eight league matches. They are struggling to score goals and conceding plenty, and a visit to the Central Coast is a massive ask to lead to a turnaround.
The game breaker:
Kim Seung-Yong – the South Korean attacker missed the trip to Brisbane after hurting his hamstring against Perth Glory the week prior. With a meeting against one of his former clubs awaiting, Kim is likely to play a part after the injury was described as minor. The 29-year-old has the quality to cause problems in the attacking third and the Mariners will need him to have a big influence if they are to claim yet another win.
Prediction: Mariners 1-0 Seoul
In an even group, a win would be a huge boost to either team, but one comes in having tasted victory regularly over the past month as the other has struggled. The Mariners have won six of their past eight, while Seoul have just one victory since the start of March. Choi's side have quality and South Korea international Yun Il-Lok could help them to a much-needed win. Moss hailed his side's tactical flexibility after their win over Brisbane and, with a victory potentially sending them through, Central Coast may edge Seoul regardless of the personnel they use.