Round eight of the 2013/14 Hyundai A-League season kicks off at Bluetongue Stadium on Friday night as Central Coast Mariners host Melbourne Victory. A few weeks ago this was set to be latest instalment in the Graham Arnold versus Ange Postecoglou saga. Instead it will be Phil Moss’ first home game in charge of the Mariners, up against a Victory side looking for some consistency under their own rookie coach Kevin Muscat.
With both clubs in a period of transition it is difficult to predict how this game may play out. Victory looked impressive in their 3-0 win over Adelaide last week, especially having been reduced to ten men shortly before half time. However, they are far from solid on their travels and have already lost twice in the Sydney region this season. They also have a terrible record at Bluetongue Stadium, with no wins in the past three seasons.
The Mariners have been steady if not spectacular so far this campaign. A large portion of their points total has been gained via comebacks, including stealing a win in stoppage time last week in Perth. It is clear that although the Mariners lost a number of star names in the off season, their hunger and spirit has not diminished in any way.
Marcos Flores comes up against Victory for the first team since leaving Melbourne at the end of last season. He is enjoying far more freedom in the Mariners system and sees a lot more of the ball in his preferred No. 10 role.
Bizarrely, as a result of a payoff agreement allowing for his release, Flores is reportedly being paid more by Victory this season than he is by the Mariners. It will be an interesting sub-plot in this encounter as Flores goes up against the man that Victory replaced him with as their marquee player, Chilean defender Pablo Contreras.
Graham Arnold will be present at the match on Friday night and a special presentation will be made to the Mariners’ former coach at half-time. Mariners fans will appreciate this opportunity to thank the man who guided them to incredible successes during his stint in Gosford, and wish him all the best before he begins the next stage of his career in Japan.
Friday 29th November, Bluetongue Stadium Gosford 19:30
Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory