Central Coast Mariners coach Phil Moss believes his in-form side are primed to be “giant-killers” when Korean powerhouse FC Seoul visit Bluetongue Stadium on Wednesday night.
A ticket to the Asian Champions League knockout stage is up for grabs and the tables have turned since the Mariners fell to a one-sided 2-0 defeat against the five-time Korean champions in their Group F opener in February.
The Mariners roared into the A-League finals on the weekend with a fifth win from their final six matches, while FC Seoul conversely have suffered a surprise form slump in their domestic competition and are winless in their past five outings.
“They gave us a tough and torrid contest in Seoul but we are in a much better place as a team (than in the opening game),” said Moss.
“Six to eight weeks ago everyone was writing us off to even make the A-League top six.
“We have put the changes to the squad and coaching staff behind us now.
“We are not taking anything for granted but certainly there is large belief within the squad that we are good enough to qualify for the next round of the ACL, and do some real damage in the (A-League) finals.”
Progress to the Asian last 16 would be a significant achievement for the Mariners with their Champions League group comprised of last year’s runners-up in FC Seoul, J-League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Chinese big-spenders Beijing Guoan.
A home win at Gosford, combined with a result between Beijing and Sanfrecce in the Chinese capital, would lift the Mariners into the knockout stage for the second successive year.
“It is a massive challenge. Seoul are a massive club with great pedigree,” Moss said.
“The beauty of this competition is that it gives clubs like the Mariners the opportunity to be giant-killers.
“A club like the Mariners love a challenge, we love being the underdogs and flying under the radar.”
Striker Matt Simon and Korean Kim Seung-Yong are both expected to line-up after missing the Mariners’ impressive win against premiers Brisbane Roar last Saturday.
Much interest will focus on attacking midfielder Kim who spent five seasons at FC Seoul.
“He has given us some great insights into Korean and Asian football. We want to make sure we do Kim proud as well, because there is a lot of people watching across Asia,” Moss said.