Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold is bracing himself for an improved Sydney FC side under the guidance of Frank Farina.
Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold is bracing himself for an improved Sydney FC side under the guidance of Frank Farina when the two teams meet at Allianz Stadium on Thursday.
The Mariners embarrassed Sydney FC in their previous clash on November 3, with a Daniel McBreen hat-trick guiding them to a thumping 7-2 victory at Bluetongue Stadium.
Ian Cook resigned four games later, leading to the appointment of former Australia coach Farina.
The dual Hyundai A-League champions have shown signs of progress under Farina, winning one of their past three fixtures, and Arnold is expecting a difficult encounter for his table-topping outfit.
"One thing about his (Farina's) teams are that they are well organised," Arnold said on Wednesday.
"He's doing a good job down there at Sydney. I think you can already see the improvement in the side.
"I think there will probably be a bit of talk in their dressing room about revenge after the last occasion we played them.
"We've got to make sure we're on our game. We've got to be mentally and tactically prepared for the game.
"Physically, both teams had a game four days ago, so it's the same for both of us and we've just got to go out there and do what we can do."
The Mariners blew the game wide open in that round five match, netting four second-half goals in 10 minutes after Sydney had reduced the deficit to 3-2.
But Arnold is aware Thursday's showdown will be different.
"It's a whole new occasion," he said.
"That night we were red hot and we were playing at Bluetongue.
"They're at home this time and they've got a different manager in charge now.
"Frankie is a wonderful coach and no doubt Sydney will end up getting up the table. We've got to try and make sure it's not tomorrow night."
Emerging central defender Zac Anderson will partner Patrick Zwaanswijk in the back four against Sydney, with Trent Sainsbury set to move to right back in the absence of the suspended Pedj Bojic.