Preview: Central Coast Mariners v Adelaide United

Both teams will be out to return to winning ways in a blockbuster clash that could see Adelaide go equal on points with the Mariners at the top of the ladder.

Date: Friday, January 25, 2013 Kick-off: 7:30pm AEDT, 7:30pm local Venue: Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford

Head-to-head: Played: 23, Wins: Central Coast 11, Adelaide United 6, Draws: 6

Previous encounter: Central Coast 2-1 Adelaide United, December 1, 2012

Form: Past five matches: Central Coast: LWWDD Adelaide United: LWDWL

The Game: Both teams will be out to return to winning ways in a blockbuster clash that could see Adelaide go equal on points with the Mariners at the top of the ladder.

Central Coast remain in first place despite two consecutive draws, while United missed the opportunity to join them at the summit after going down to Melbourne Heart at AAMI Park last time out.

While the Mariners boast a good overall record against United, their recent form is even stronger, with six wins on the bounce as part of an nine-match unbeaten run that dates back to 2009.

Josh Rose and Nick Montgomery were on target at Bluetongue Stadium last time the sides met as Central Coast came from behind to secure a 2-1 win and leapfrog Adelaide into top spot.

The Big Issue: Central Coast - Graham Arnold found himself in hot water once more when counterpart Gary van Egmond called him out for communicating with his bench during last week's derby with the Newcastle Jets.

Arnold was supposed to be serving a one-match touchline ban for abusing officials during the 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory in Round 16, but van Egmond suspected him to be in contact with assistant Phil Moss via an earpiece. And while Arnold is free to return to the bench against Adelaide, he will surely be on his best behaviour this time around.

Adelaide United - Friday's trip to Gosford marks the start of a crucial month for the Reds in their bid for premiership glory.

The Mariners clash will be followed by consecutive home fixtures against Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Victory, before a trip to face Sydney FC at Allianz Stadium.

Although a win would be ideal, Adelaide captain Eugene Galekovic this week admitted a draw against the reigning premiers would be acceptable given how even the competition has been this season.

The Game Breaker: Anthony Caceres - With Tom Rogic securing a work permit for his move to Scottish giants Celtic, Caceres appears to have been anointed as his successor.

The 20-year-old youth product is said to be as good as, if not better than Rogic on his feet, according to Mariners top scorer Daniel McBreen, and will certainly have big shoes to fill in the run to the finals.

Caceres started in last week's 0-0 stalemate with Newcastle and is expected to be given another opportunity against the Reds.

Prediction: Central Coast 2-1 Adelaide

Strangely, it will be Central Coast's fourth straight game at home against United and it's hard to see anything other than a fourth straight win at Bluetongue.

Trent Sainsbury revelled in the conditions last time out for the Mariners, once again showing his rising star potential in the wet against the Jets, lunging into tackles, playing incisive passes and helping marshal the best defence in the A-League.

His influence will prove pivotal against the Reds, who are in the midst of a striker conundrum. Jeronimo Neumann played as the only recognised striker last week but was brought off in the second half, leaving the Reds stretched without a target man.