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AFC Champions League preview: Mariners, Suwon do battle

Central Coast Mariners will have to quickly refocus to take on Suwon Bluewings as they attempt to stay alive in the AFC Champions League.

The Mariners have put their A-League championship celebrations on hold to fly out to South Korea, where they face Suwon on Tuesday in a must-win encounter for both sides.

With two matches remaining in the AFC Champions League (ACL) group stage, Central Coast sit third in Group H on four points and a goal difference of minus two, while Suwon (three points, minus four) are bottom.

Both teams will be looking for a win to try and overhaul second-placed Guizhou Renhe (four points, minus one), who will travel to leaders Kashiwa Reysol (10 points, plus seven).

Central Coast have never won a match in the ACL but will enter Suwon World Cup Stadium with plenty of confidence having claimed their first Australian championship with a 2-0 victory over Western Sydney Wanderers in the A-League Grand Final on Sunday.

The Mariners led Guizhou 1-0 on the last ACL matchday but conceded twice late in the game to lose 2-1, while they could only manage a 0-0 draw when the Bluewings travelled to Gosford in February.

Suwon head into the match on the back of a 4-1 thumping of Daejeon Citizen in the K-League.

In Qatar, top spot in Group C will be up for grabs when Al Gharafa host undefeated Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia.

In their previous match-up, Al Ahli triumphed 2-0 but Al Gharafa have won their past three matches, with Djibril Cisse having scored three goals.

In the other Group C encounter, Sepahan will travel to Al Nasr, while in Group D, Al Ain will face Al Hilal and Esteghlal are up against Al Rayyan.

Group G-leaders Bunyodkor could wrap up a spot in the knockout stages if they defeat Sanfrecce Hiroshima, while Beijing Guoan will take on Pohang Steelers.

Urawa Red Diamonds’ clash with Group F-leaders Guangzhou Evergrande is arguably the pick of the matches on Wednesday, with the 2007 ACL champions in danger of missing out on the knockout stages.

With second-placed Jeonbuk Motors likely to win against Muang Thong United in the other Group F match, Urawa, who sit third, will need a victory to ensure they are within touching distance of the Koreans before the final round.

In other matches on Wednesday, Buriram United will host Vegalta Sendai, Jiangsu Sainty will take on FC Seoul, Al Shabab will travel to Qatar to play El Jaish, Al Shabab are up against Lekhwiya, Al Jazira face Tractor Sazi and Al Ittifaq clash with Pakhtakor.

Mon 22 April, 2013
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