Continental dream tantalizingly close for Red and Black

They are almost assured of progression to the ACL knockout stage but Daniel Mullen insists Western Sydney can look no further than tonight’s clash with Guizhou.

They are almost assured of progression to the AFC Champions League knockout stage but defender Daniel Mullen insists Western Sydney can look no further than tonight’s clash with Guizhou Renhe.

Wanderers only need a draw – and could still survive even with a defeat – to make it through to the last 16 of the ACL at their first attempt in the competition.

With a Hyundai A-League semi-final against Central Coast just five days later you wouldn’t blame coach Tony Popovic’s side for having one eye on the Mariners.

But Mullen says the side’s only focus is on doing the job against the Chinese club whose chances of getting out of the group are already dashed.

“We’re all professionals and the coaching staff have drummed into us it’s one game at a time,” Mullen said.

“We don’t look past this game. After the 90 minutes and what’s done is done, we can look forward to the next game.

Guizhou will be playing their fifth match in just 15 days, with coach Gong Lei opting to bring a less experienced side to Parramatta Stadium for the final group match.

“We’ve worked hard to be in a position where we don’t have to worry about other teams and results and what’s happens elsewhere in the group,” added Mullen.

“Everything’s in our own hands, we have to go out the way we did the first time against them (Guizhou) and do everything we can to get a result.

“With a team that’s bottom and can’t come out of the group, maybe they have a point to prove as well so we have to be on our toes and ready.”

Popovic has yet to reveal his side for the Guizhou clash but is likely to rest a host of his stars ahead of Saturday’s grand final qualifier.

“To stay in this competition you have to do well in the domestic competition, so that’s the key and this (ACL) is a very close second,” Popovic said.

“We could have a one fantastic season in the ACL, not do well in the league and we won’t be playing in it next year.

“So we want to be a club that’s challenging for honours every year which gives us a chance to stay in the ACL.

“The league is always a priority for me. But this competition we’ve embraced, the fans have, the club has but it’s a close second for me.”

After losing their opening ACL fixture to Ulsan Hyundai, Wanderers now sit atop of group H thanks to three wins from their last four games.

“Since the first game we’ve got better and better,” Popovic added.

“At this stage we sit on top of the table but that’ll mean nothing if we don’t get through.

“I don’t want to be sitting here after the game saying ‘we had a good adventure in the ACL.’”

Hyundai A-League 2014 Semi Final 2
Western Sydney Wanderers v Central Coast Mariners
Saturday 26 April 2014
Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta
Kick-off 6.30pm (AEST)