This is comfortably one of the best rivalries going around in the Hyundai A-League. But by now Brisbane and Central Coast, the two most dominant sides of the past two seasons, must surely be sick of each other.
Date: Saturday 31 March, 2012 Kick-off: 5.00pm AEDT, 4.30pm local Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Head-to-head Played: 26 Wins: Brisbane 13, Central Coast 4, Draws: 9 Previous encounter Brisbane Roar 2, Central Coast 0, 4 February 2012
History: This is comfortably one of the best rivalries going around in the Hyundai A-League. But by now Brisbane and Central Coast, the two most dominant sides of the past two seasons, must surely be sick of each other.
After an epic two-legged semi-final date last year followed by one of the greatest Grand Finals in Australian domestic football history, the spotlight has always been on the Roar and the Mariners this season and it's only fitting that they do battle once again to kick off the pointy end of the 2011/12 campaign.
Brisbane hold the advantage after picking up wins in two of their three fixtures against the Gosford club this term, but Graham Arnold's men will remember well how they came to Suncorp late last year and secured a hoodoo-breaking 2-1 triumph.
Form: Past five matches: Brisbane: WDDDW Central Coast: LDLDW
Summary of form: Undefeated in the league in their last eight outings, Brisbane are looking ominous.
Completing the season with an easy 2-1 win over Gold Coast United, Ange Postecoglous achieved two things - first, he continued their solid momentum, but far more importantly he got 90 minutes of senior football into a bunch of young up-and-coming players that he will have to call upon at some point, given the Roar's finals/ACL juggling act.
On the back of a win over the Mariners last time they met and a nearly two-month unbeaten record at home, Brisbane are right where they want to be.
Meanwhile, Central Coast were looking a little shaky in the run home but managed to steady the ship at the right time, with their 2-1 win in Wellington securing the club's second Premier's Plate - though incredibly, there was no trophy in NZ available to present to them.
Prior to that, the Mariners got through the rest of the season despite some slightly worrying results, but coach Graham Arnold believes their AFC Champions League campaign came at the right time and played them into some form.
Match Committee: Fortunately for fans, the A-League's two best sides will be at close to full strength for this one.
The Mariners have a clean bill of health while Brisbane rested a whole bunch of first-team players against Gold Coast - Michael Theoklitos, Matt Smith, Mohamed Adnan, Thomas Broich, Mitch Nichols and Ivan Franjic - for the sole purpose of making sure they'll be right to deal with what will be a difficult schedule over the next few weeks.
Danger men: Thomas Broich - This is his stage. Broich is widely considered to be if not the best, then certainly in the top few players to have ever graced the Hyundai A-League.
The accolades of continued to flow thick and fast for him, even though he's spent most of this season either injured or underdone. Following a week off, the German playmaker should be at full fitness. If the Roar want to approach the kind of form they had earlier in the season when they were feared by all and sundry, Broich needs to play a key role.
Alex Wilkinson - There's few players who are as important to their team as Wilkinson is to the Mariners. But by the same token, he's just about one of the most underrated footballers in the country.
The 27-year-old centre-half is in the prime of his career and was a major reason why Central Coast were able to finish the regular season with the league's best defensive record. Since Brisbane have so many players capable of scoring, it's important he doesn't lift his foot off the pedal.
At the end of the day… So they're at it again. Once upon a time, a match between Brisbane and Central Coast was a non-event. They had no reason to dislike each other, or any motivation other than one's usual desire for the three points.
But following on from the events of last season's finals series and their twin domination of the Hyundai A-League this year, this shapes as must-see football. Predicting a winner is far from simple.
The Roar are in terrific shape, and their win over Gold Coast showed just how deep into his squad Ange Postecoglou can reach if he needs to. The Mariners, however, also have every right to be confident - after securing their first piece of silverware for three years, the ladder shows they are the most consistent and best team in Australia.
The question is whether they have the mettle do bring that into the finals. It looks like they do, but Brisbane are reigning champions and excel in pressure situations. It really is line ball. We're going to pick Brisbane here, but only because we have to.