Mariners face Chinese heavyweights in ACL
Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold has welcomed a clash with wealthy Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande and their World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi in the Asian Champions League's round of 16.
The match-up was confirmed, with A-League champions the Mariners to host the first leg at Bluetongue Stadium on May 15, after Evergrande secured top spot in their group with a 0-0 draw against Korea's Jeonbuk Hyundai overnight.
Two-time winners of China's premier club competition, Evergrande are not only one of Asia's wealthiest football clubs but among the most well-equipped.
In 2011 they signed Argentine attacking midfield star Dario Conca on a three-and-a-half year deal worth $12.5 million per season.
Last year they added Paraguayan striker Lucas Barrios on an annual salary of $9 million.
Mariners coach Arnold relished the high profile opposition and match-up against Lippi, who took Italy to their 2006 FIFA World Cup triumph in Germany.
"Marcello Lippi is one of the world's truly great football figures and it's unquestionable he will be the most famous person ever to coach a team on the Central Coast," Arnold said.
"But while we will show Marcello Lippi and Guangzhou all the respect they deserve, we will not fear them.
"We have a two week preparation heading into the game and our full focus will be on achieving a positive first-leg result to take to China."
The Mariners will play their second-leg against Evergrande in China on May 22.