Preview: Brisbane Roar v Central Coast

The two clubs have had some gargantuan battles over the past few years, none more so than the 2011 Hyundai A-League Grand Final.

Date: Friday 1 February, 2013 Kick-off: 8.00pm AEDT, 7.00pm local Venue: Suncorp Stadium

Head-to-head Played: 29, Wins: Brisbane 16, Central Coast 5, Draws: 8

Previous encounter Central Coast 2-1 Brisbane, 25 November 2012

Form: Past five matches: Brisbane: WLLLW Central Coast: WDDWW

The Game The two clubs have had some gargantuan battles over the past few years, none more so than the 2011 Hyundai A-League Grand Final which saw Roar snatch the championship on penalties. This time around, Central Coast will be the hot favourites, sitting five points clear on top of the table, while Brisbane, with 10 losses in 18 games, are placed seventh.

The Roar snapped a three-game losing streak with the 1-0 victory in Perth last weekend but were far from impressive. Qantas Socceroo Jade North could play his first game for the club since joining from Japan after not being passed fit to play the past two matches while Shane Stefanutto and Besart Berisha will return from suspension. Loan signing Steven Lustica came off the bench for 13 minutes in Perth and may be given a starting berth in defensive midfield.

Central Coast overcame Adelaide 3-1 last weekend in a game that should have been sewn up before half-time. In the impressive performance, young striker Mitchell Duke scored a brace off the bench and has put his hand up for a starting position. Promising central defender Trent Sainsbury, a late omission last week because of injury, may return to the line-up at the likely expense of Patrick Zwaanswijk.

The big issue Brisbane - Will the returning Berisha spark the Roar into action? We have not seen the prolific-scoring Brisbane team of the past two years and while Berisha has contributed eight goals, the next best is Ben Halloran with three. With the Roar midfield not scoring their share of goals, it's time for coach Mike Mulvey to revert to last season's tactics and use Berisha as an out-and-out poacher. He needs his midfield to feed the Albanian, who hit 19 goals last season on the way to the golden boot. Mulvey's job could depend on it.

Central Coast - Can Michael McGlinchey fill the playmaking shoes of Tom Rogic? For the latter part of last season and most of this season, Rogic has pulled the strings in midfield for Graham Arnold's side. Critics thought that Rogic's departure would leave a hole in the Mariners' creative stakes. Wrong. As soon as Rogic left, unheralded McGlinchey was always going to slot straight into the role and the Kiwi international has not disappointed. A veteran of 98 games for the Mariners, McGlinchey's driving runs are a beauty to watch.

Gamebreaker Daniel McBreen - The 35-year-old league top-scorer is enjoying a new lease on life this season, smashing in 13 goals in only 16 appearances. If he was 10 years younger, we would be talking of speculation of an overseas move. If North doesn't get up for the Brisbane defence, then McBreen could give the maligned Matt Jurman and inexperienced James Donachie a tough time with his well-timed runs and exquisite touch.

Prediction: Mariners 2-0 Brisbane

Brisbane will be fired up to meet a traditional rival and a win against the Mariners could set their season back on track. But the Mariners have such a settled-line up and are so well-drilled you find it hard to think how a lacklustre Brisbane attack is going to break it down? Both teams' structures have much importance on the performance of their full-backs and this is where the battle could be won. Roar full-backs Ivan Franjic and Stefanutto have had unspectacular seasons while their Central Coast counterparts, Josh Rose and Pedj Bojic, have terrorised teams down the flanks all season. It will take an excellent attacking display from Brisbane to break down the Mariners' two banks of four and they simply aren't up to it at the moment.