Last seasons A-League Grand Final opponents Western Sydney Wanderers and Central Coast Mariners face off again on Monday night in a pre-Christmas blockbuster at Pirtek Stadium. With both sides again looking capable of contending for title glory, this is a rivalry that looks set to become a staple of the A-League season.
The Wanderers have numerous injury concerns with forward players, and as such will leave a decision on Tomi Juric until as late as possible. He may well be fit enough only for the bench. Aaron Mooy, Mark Bridge and Brendon Santalab could all be unavailable, so Juric’s inclusion appears to be vital to a side that have only scored five goals in their past six games. However, they are now unbeaten in ten games at home stretching back into last season, so a strong defence is helping to overcome shortcomings in attack.
There has been plenty of speculation this week surrounding the future of Shinjo Ono after he refused to completely dismiss stories linking him with a move back home to Japan. Ono does seem to be the type of character who prefers to make statements on the pitch rather than off it, and it would be no surprise to see him use a big game like this to prove his worth to the Wanderers.
The Mariners were extremely fortunate to come away with a win against Wellington Phoenix at North Sydney Oval in midweek. That was following on from a 4-0 hiding in Adelaide the previous weekend, so the Mariners will need to lift for what will be their third game in nine days.
This fixture will mark the 100th appearance for the Mariners by Josh Rose. He becomes the eighth Mariners player to do so, quite an impressive number in the short history of the A-League. When you consider the impact of the salary cap leading clubs to manipulate their rosters, it is a sign of how the Mariners have built their success on stability and consistency.
One player who may be moving on from the Central Coast is Michael McGlinchey. A deal for him to join former coach Graham Arnold in Japan is all but signed, but for now he will come back into the squad to face the Wanderers after missing the Phoenix game with a minor injury.
Monday 23rd December 2013, Pirtek Stadium Parramatta 19:00
Western Sydney Wanderers v Central Coast Mariners