Following on from the clash between the A-League’s top two sides in Parramatta last night, today sees the teams in third and fourth go head to head as Central Coast Mariners play host to Melbourne Victory. The Mariners hold a three point advantage on the ladder, and also have a game in hand, so a win this afternoon at Bluetongue Stadium will give them a significant buffer in the race for a home final.
Both teams are in what is being considered a transitional period having lost their coaches early in the season. The Mariners appear to have adapted better under Phil Moss, and have quietly made their way up the table.
Their performances are especially impressive when you consider the players they have also lost along the way – Trent Sainsbury and Daniel McBreen the latest to depart. Eddy Bosnar, Kim Seung-Yong and Isaka Cernak were among several arrivals during a busy transfer window for the Mariners.
Kim Seung-Yong is the most exciting of the acquisitions, a high quality player in his peak years brought in to replace the lost creativity of Marcos Flores and Michael McGlinchey. He is in line to debut on Saturday, subject to his international clearance arriving in time.
Victory captain Mark Milligan may make an unexpectedly early return from knee surgery, and has travelled with the squad. Adrian Leijer is available after suspension, but Kevin Muscat has hinted at sticking with an unchanged defence that conceded a single goal in Perth after consecutive 5-0 losses.
One of Victory’s best displays of this season came at Bluetongue Stadium in November, although they could not convert their numerous chances to take the points. Former Mariner Tom Rogic returns to Bluetongue as a Victory player, and Muscat will hope that Rogic can provide what has been missing in attack and has cost his team far too often this season.
Saturday 8th February, Bluetongue stadium Gosford 17:30
Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory