It's hard to see the jaded Mariners side being able to come down from the euphoria of their grand final triumph to get a positive result in this one.
Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 Kick-off: 7.30pm local, 8.30pm AEST Venue: Suwon World Cup Stadium
Head-to-head: Played: 1, Wins: Bluewings 0, Mariners 0, Draws: 1
Form: Past five matches: Bluewings: WDDLW Mariners: WWLWW
The Game: It's crunch time for both sides who are desperate for maximum points to improve their chances of qualifying for the knockout stages of the tournament. It's not ideal then for the Central Coast that they go into this match just two days after their emotional grand final win over Western Sydney Wanderers. It's likely to be a very different looking Mariners side that takes the field on Tuesday night, with a number of the side's veteran stars unlikely to be able to back up. Skipper John Hutchinson is suspended, with his spot in the side likely to be taken by Englishman Nick Montgomery. Graham Arnold's side are currently third in Group H, one point ahead of Suwon and need at least a point to keep their qualifying hopes alive. It won't be easy against a side in decent form on the domestic front, with the Bluewings second on the K-League ladder. They head into this clash coming off a resounding 4-1 win over Daejeong thanks in large part to a hat-trick from striker Tae-Se Jong. The Mariners defence will have to keep close tabs on him if they are to take anything from the match.
The big issue: Bluewings - The Koreans have lost just once in the ACL this season - one less than the Mariners - but still find themselves on the bottom of the group. Much of that reason is because of their inability to turn draws into victories. Suwon has played some enterprising football in their four matches to date but haven't capitalised on their opportunities and it's meant they have just three draws from four matches. That will obviously need to change if they are to keep their hopes of progression alive.
Mariners - It's hard to know just how much sleep and preparation time the Mariners will be able to put into this game after their memorable championship win over Western Sydney on Sunday. You would excuse the players for taking some time to soak up the breakthrough title for the club and perhaps not paying too much attention to this clash with Suwon. The Mariners won't get a training session in before the match and with barely 50 hours between full-time in the grand final and kick-off in Korea, it's sure to have some affect on their performance.
The game breaker: Bernie Ibini - While grand final hero and A-League golden-boot Daniel McBreen has been the star man for the Mariners this season, much of the attacking threat will rest on Ibini in Suwon. It's hard to know how McBreen's 36-year-old legs will recover after his man-of-the-match performance in the A-League decider meaning the Mariners will need Ibini's pace and energy more than ever. The youngster has been in strong form since returning from a trial with Belgian outfit Club Brugge and it would seem his time at the club is coming to an end. There would be no better way to sign out than by helping the club progress to the knockout phase of the competition.
Prediction: Bluewings 3-1 Mariners It's hard to see the jaded Mariners side being able to come down from the euphoria of their grand final triumph to get a positive result in this one. While they are sure to face the match with no fear and nothing to lose, adrenalin from their big win can only get you so far. The Bluewings have been in strong domestic form and are well aware this is their final chance if they are to keep their hopes of progressing to the next phase alive. With a vocal home crowd behind them and against a Mariners side that probably won't be fully prepared for the battle, Suwon should be too strong.