CENTRAL Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold must be thanking his lucky stars the team has this weekend off before playing in the A-League semi-final on Sunday week.
Because in the meantime it faces the difficult scenario of taking on Chinese Super League club Guizhou Renhe in an AFC Champions League match at Gosford tonight, before travelling to China for the reverse leg on Tuesday.
With second place on the A-League ladder sewn up before last weekend's match against Melbourne Heart, it was hardly a surprise Arnold elected to rest several of his key players for tonight's clash at Central Coast Stadium.
The game is crucial for the Mariners who sit equal last with Guizhou in group H on one point after salvaging a 0-0 draw at home against Korean side Suwon Bluewings in February, before losing 3-1 to Japanese outfit Kashiwa Reysol last month.
Despite its position on the ladder, Guizhou Renhe will present an equally difficult challenge.
The key threat up forward will be former Bosnia and Herzegovina striker Zlatan Muslimovic who scored 12 goals last season in his first campaign in China.
Countryman Zvjezdan Misimovic, who has spent time at top European clubs FC Nurnberg, VfL Wolfburg, Galatasary and Dynamo Moscow, will line up in midfield with international winger Yu Hai who returned to China in 2009 following a stint in the Dutch Eredivisie with Vitesse Arnhem.