Auckland City can expect no favours when they line up against A-League giants Central Coast Mariners tonight.

The Graham Arnold-coached Australians will run out with an unbeaten 13-match pre-season run - including a 2-0 weekend win over the Wellington Phoenix - to back their claims against a City side preparing to head back to the Fifa Club World Cup.

While there has been an air of experimentation in pre-season games thus far, City director of football Aaron McFarland said the starting line-up tonight would be as strong as possible.

"The idea so far has been to balance the minutes the players have had," said McFarland who has taken a slightly different role with the club this season to allow Ramon Tribulietx take the head coach role after they shared a co-coaching role last season.

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"We are now leaning towards putting out our best XI.

"We have a lot of players who consider themselves as starters but we have to look ahead and ensure we strike the right balance."

City have a settled squad with the returning Chad Coombes and former Team Wellington midfielder Emiliano Tade the only newcomers.

The only departures from last season's winning O-League side were Adam Thomas, who switched to Waikato FC, and veteran defender Riki van Steeden.

The strong Spanish influence remains with Tribulietx, Angel Berlanga, Albert Vidal and Manel Exposito expected to play key roles not only tonight but in the upcoming ASB Premiership, O-League and Club World Cup campaigns.

There will be plenty of interest in All White Michael McGlinchey at the heart of the Mariners midfield. McGlinchey was a standout for the club last season and tonight will be a chance to see the dynamo in action.

Matt Simon and Mustafa Amini, a star on the rise, will also provide a decent test for City stalwart Ivan Vicelich and his team.

"We want to get something out of the game for sure," said McFarland. "We will be looking to make as strong a start as we can but it will be interesting to see what their approach is.

"Given the way their pre-season has gone I would not be surprised if they look to bury it early. We have to be ready for that."

TRANSTASMAN CHALLENGE
What: Auckland City v Central Coast Mariners.
Where: Croatian Cultural Club, McLeod Rd.
When: Tonight 7.15.
Referee: Chris Kerr.