The Central Coast Mariners will look to leapfrog league leaders Adelaide United in the biggest clash of the season yet.
Date: Saturday 1 December, 2012 Kick-off: 5.30pm AEDT, 5.30pm local Venue: Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford
Head-to-head: Played: 22, Wins: Central Coast Mariners 10, Adelaide United 6, Draws: 6
Previous encounter: Central Coast Mariners 1, Adelaide United 0, 17 March 2012
Form: Past five matches: Central Coast Mariners: WDWWW Adelaide United: WWDWW
The Game Central Coast Mariners will look to leapfrog league leaders Adelaide United in the biggest clash of the season yet. Adelaide are two points clear of the second-placed Mariners after a late Dario Vidosic strike secured a 2-1 win over lowly Sydney FC last weekend.
United have won six and drawn one match this season, while Central Coast are hot on their trail with five wins and two draws after eight rounds. The Mariners were held to a 2-2 stalemate with Melbourne Victory two weeks ago, but bounced back with a 2-1 win over champions Brisbane Roar at home.
Adelaide will be without Vidosic, who is expected to miss two weeks with a damaged medial knee ligament, while goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic and midfielder Osama Malik have been selected for Australia's East Asia Cup qualifiers in Hong Kong. Central Coast custodian Mat Ryan and teen sensation Tom Rogic have also been called up, forcing both teams to turn to inexperienced shot stoppers.
The big issue
Adelaide United - Coach John Kosmina has to decide which of his two young goalkeepers - John Hall or Paul Izzo - will make their debut in place of Galekovic. Hall has sat on the bench for most of the season, while Izzo spent large periods away with youth international commitments. But Hall is yet to sign a senior contract, leaving 17-year-old Izzo as the favourite to fill the void. Galekovic will also be away for United's clash with Victory, ensuring a baptism of fire for the incoming gloveman.
Central Coast Mariners - How the Mariners cope without Ryan and Rogic remains to be seen. The pair have started in all eight matches this season and starred for the Mariners.
Former North Queensland Fury goalkeeper Justin Pasfield will replace Ryan, while Arnold will call on his impressive band of youngsters including Zac Anderson, Bernie Ibini and Trent Sainsbury to take another step forward in their development.
Gamebreaker Jeronimo Neumann - The Argentine forward has been a revelation since his arrival at Hindmarsh Stadium, with four goals from eight appearances.
Neumann came under fire when he was accused of simulation by Wellington Phoenix players last month, but staunchly defended himself before netting the winner against Melbourne Heart two weeks ago. The former River Plate player is reportedly close to signing a contract extension and can further establish himself as one of the league's top imports with a telling performance against the Mariners.
Prediction: Central Coast Mariners 2, Adelaide United 2
The Mariners head into the clash as favourites, but face their biggest test of the season without Ryan, who has been linked with a move to English side Hull City, and exciting playmaker Rogic, who has set the league alight in just his second season.
Kosmina insists his men are flying under the radar despite an impressive start to the season and has gone as far as to suggest that Central Coast and Victory are the teams to beat. United dominated proceedings against Sydney but were unable to break the deadlock until the final two minutes at Allianz Stadium.
The Mariners have scored more goals than any other team and will be keen to continue their winning run against United. Central Coast won all three meetings between the sides last season on their way to clinching the premiership, but we expect Adelaide to put up a stronger fight in search of their first win in Gosford since January 2009.