Guangzhou Evergrande's millionaire's club present a challenge for the Mariners, but it's not a challenge Patrick Zwaanswijk hasn't faced before.
His career may nearly be over but Central Coast defender Patrick Zwaanswijk will get to test himself against the best twice more before he hangs up his trademark black boots.
The players being referred to are Guangzhou Evergrande-s South American trio of Dario Conca, Elkeson and Lucas Barrios.
When signed by the Chinese giants both Conca and then Barrios received transfers that were at the time records, showing just how highly their skills are valued, not that the prospect of taking on
Guangzhou-s ‘Millionaire-s Club- doesn't have Zwaanswijk concerned in the least, after all this is a man who has battled with greats such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ruud van Nistelrooy.
“(Ruud) van Nistelrooy and (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic are two of the great strikers of their respective times and I have played on both of them, it-s great to go up against these types of players; it lets you know if you still have it and for the younger guys it-s a great opportunity,” Zwaanswijk said.
“I have had to play against Ibrahimovic a number of times in Europe and he-s among the most talented players in the world, so I-m not too bothered to play against Conca and Barrios.
“I have also seen a bit of Barrios, when I was at Utrecht we did a training camp with Borussia Dortmund when he was there, so I know some of his tricks.”
Knowing some of Barrios-s tricks will of course help the Mariners- affable Dutchman defend against him but he has been vocal in cautioning his teammates not to give the highly-paid stars of Guangzhou too much respect, and to play them as if they were anyone else, because in reality it is the likes of Conca and Barrios who will be under the most pressure in Gosford.
“They may have big players earning huge money, but it will come down to a whole team performance, the better team will win and we have a chance to beat these guys if we play as a team, those guys they have the pressure of being expected to score” he said.
“We can't respect them too much though, if you give them too much respect they are the types of players who will take advantage. And by that, I mean if you don-t go in hard enough or mark them tight enough because of their standing in the game - if we did that it would be dangerous, we just have to all focus on our own game and not worry about what Conca and Barrios are doing.
“As long as we give it our all for the cause that is what-s important to me and to make sure I have done everything to play these last two games really well.
“I think a win here would be a great way to present Australian football and the A-League to the rest of Asia. If we can win here and then go to China and beat a team worth $100 million with a team worth $2 million that would be massive.”
While the tie is "massive" for both the club and its Asian aspirations, the managers and the players themselves it is the end of a glittering career for Zwaanswijk, and despite having some initial trepidation about hanging up the boots he says he is for the moment at peace with his decision.
“I spoke to a lot of people who know me well as a player and a person and looked at all the possible angles.
"Ideally I wanted to go one more season as a player but the coaching offer was too good to knock back, it-s best for my family as well - it-s not just a one year deal where we would be renting (house) again, now I can settle down, it really feels like a good move for the future.
“The choice was easier after we won the grand final, we had never won before and to win it that way with the goal as well, that made things easier, the only thing I can do now against Guangzhou is work hard and continue to give it my all.”
That he will be giving it his all is not in doubt and he is adamant as many Mariners fans should get out to the game as possible, after all as Zwaanswijk says it-s not every day Marcello Lippi manages a team in Gosford,
“Obviously we want the support anyway, but I highly doubt Marcello Lippi is coming back to Gosford. It-s a huge opportunity for football fans to be involved in something special, it-s not like he-s coming back for holidays.”