If this tie was decided on the size of their respective wage bills and the amount of big-game experience in each side then there would be one clear winner.
Date: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 Kick-off: 7.30pm AEDT Venue: Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford
Form: Past five matches: Mariners: LWWWW Guangzhou: LWDWW
The Game: The Mariners did a superb job to qualify for the knockout stages of the AFC Asian Champions League and their reward is a clash with Asia's richest team.
A small example of just how big the task is for Graham Arnold's side is that Guangzhou's star player Dario Conca earns more in two months than the whole of the Mariners' salary cap. But if the Mariners have proven anything over the last few years, they relish the opportunity of being the underdogs and proving people wrong.
The Mariners come into this clash on the back of a 3-0 home defeat to Kashiwa in the final group match but at least have had a full two weeks to shrug off any tiredness to fully focus on this clash.
Veteran defender Patrick Zwaanswijk will play his last match on Australian soil before he hangs up his boots after the second leg to take up a coaching role with the club. Guangzhou, who are coached by Italian World Cup-winning coach Marcelo Lippi, currently lead the Chinese Super League by three points. They come into this clash following a 3-0 win over Shanghai Shenhua over the weekend, with China's Gao Lin coming off the bench to score a brace.
The big issue: Mariners - The big dilemma for Arnold is just how to approach this match. If the Mariners are to do the unthinkable and get through to the quarter-finals they will need to take a lead to China for the return leg. But if they decide to throw caution to the wind in the chase for goals and a victory, it could also leave them vulnerable to counter-attacks and the class of Guangzhou's strikeforce.
Guangzhou - With a world renowned coach, a clutch of classy imports and most of their squad on lucrative contracts, the real danger for the Chinese club is to underestimate the Mariners. The visitors have been domestic champions for the last three years running and would expect to see-off a side that has been operating on a shoe-string budget for their whole existence.
The game breaker: Dario Conca - The Argentinian playmaker is the one who makes Guangzhou tick and the one the Mariners must stop if they are to pull off a huge upset. The 30-year-old midfielder can not only create goals but scores some spectacular ones as well and Central Coast will need to limit his space and time on the ball. Brazilian midfielder Elkeson and Paraguayan striker Lucas Barrios are also two players the home side must shackle for the full 90 minutes.
Prediction: Mariners 1-1 Guangzhou If this tie was decided on the size of their respective wage bills and the amount of big-game experience in each side then there would be one clear winner. But the Mariners have shown they love to prove the doubters wrong and will relish the chance to mix it with Asia's powerhouse club.
With away goals so crucial over the two legs, it would be a shock if the Mariners simply throw caution to the wind from the outset in this one, which should mean a cagey affair for at least the first half. With so many exciting players in both squads there should be goals but don't be surprised if it's all square heading back to China.