Brisbane Roar coach Ange Postecoglou is doing his best to put a positive spin on a three-match losing streak but he can't fool us.
Date: Saturday, 17 December, 2011 Kick-off: 6.45pm (Queensland time) Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Head-to-head Played 38: Wins: Brisbane Roar 14, Central Coast 12, Draws: 12
Previous encounter Brisbane Roar 1, Central Coast 0, Suncorp Stadium, October 2011
History: Who will ever forget the epic 2010-11 Grand Final between these two sides? Certainly not any of those involved after Roar pulled off the greatest of escapes to clinch the crown. Brisbane added to the pain by inflicting a 1-0 defeat in the grand final rematch in the first week of the new campaign.
There is little between the two sides on the head-to-head stats but one side limps into this game badly misfiring (Brisbane) while the other (Mariners) couldn't be playing any better.
Form: Past five matches: Brisbane Roar: WWLLL Central Coast: DWWWW
Well, well, well. Who would have thought the mighty could fall so hard? After going 36 games without defeat, Roar have slumped to three straight losses. It started with a defeat to a revved-up Sydney. No great cause for concern there. It was followed by a home loss to Heart. OK, the cracks are now appearing.
Then to go down 2-0 to Wellington on Wednesday, well, that's what we call a crisis in this business. The Mariners' form, by contrast, is out of this world. They've won four on the bounce to sit equal top with Brisbane, playing some beautiful football in the process.
Match Committee: Brisbane's Matt Smith (adductor strain) sat out Wednesday night's loss in the hope of being back for the Mariners, but Henrique and Thomas Broich may be missing again. No great injury concerns at Central Coast.
Danger men: Ange Postecoglou - No, the Brisbane coach won't be dusting off the boots and returning to the paddock to help Roar out of their slump. But the cool-as-you-like Brisbane mentor shapes as the most influential and important figure heading into this game.
Following three losses on the trot - after such a sustained run of success - Postecoglou must get inside his players' heads and get them believing in themselves again. Maybe a clash with their great rivals is just what the doc ordered.
Royston Griffiths - "Griffo" has scored in consecutive games and continues to be a key figure at the base of Graham Arnold's midfield diamond. Arnie is right when he says the class and work ethic of senior players like Griffiths is making it easier for the exciting crop of youngsters to flourish.
Mustafa Amini and Bernie Ibini are two of those young players and they will be licking their lips at the prospect of taking on a suddenly jittery Roar. Special mention also for dependable defender Pedj Bojic who plays his 100th Australian national league game.
At the end of the day ... Ange Postecoglou is doing his best to put a positive spin on a three-match losing streak but he can't fool us. While it's certainly not the end of the world and you'd be a clown to start writing the champions off, there is no doubt Ange would be deeply concerned.
It's not so much they are losing but the manner in which they are losing. They have bursts of inspiration but at other times look flat and lacking in confidence, especially in the attacking third. In other words, very un-Brisbane like.
The Mariners are humming along quite nicely thank-you very much. Graham Arnold likes to keep things under the radar but that is becoming increasingly impossible after four straight wins. Central Coast are easy on the eye and will head north with absolutely nothing to fear. T
hey would love to extend Roar's losing run and pinch top spot on the A-League table heading into the busy Christmas-New Year period. It would be a brave man betting against them doing it.