Tough ACL draw for the Central Coast Mariners

Last updated 01:20 11/12/2013

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Central Coast Mariners have been handed a brutal draw for next year's Asian Champions League, the defending A-League title holders pooled with reigning J-League premiers Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Korea's 2013 ACL runners up FC Seoul.

The Mariners, who've had a modest start to this season's A-League where they sit in fifth, will also face a third team that wins through from the East Asian playoffs.

Western Sydney Wanderers appear to have a better pool and will face China's Guizhou Renhe, Japan's Yokohama Marinos and 2012 ACL winners Ulsan Hyundai from Korea.

Only the top two teams in each pool progress to the next round.

Central Coast Mariners boss Phil Moss admitted it would be a tough assignment for the Mariners to win through to the knockout stages.

"We've been pooled in a very tough group, and arguably the hardest group the club has had in its four participations in the competition," he said.

"But we love a challenge and of course we'll be aiming to reach the knockout phase of the competition. You don't expect an easy draw in the AFC Champions League, which is why it is such a fantastic tournament."

Melbourne Victory will join Guangzhou Evergrande (China), Jeonbuk Motors (Korea) and the winner of Japan's Emperor's Cup in Group G if they win their play-off match.

The Victory won't know who they will play until February but will have home ground advantage for the match which is slated to be played in Geelong.

Under new Asian Football Confederation rules, West and East Asian teams will be kept apart until the semi-finals of the competition in 2014. East Asian sides have dominated in recent years, winning seven of the last eight titles.

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- AAP

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