Preview: Central Coast Mariners v Adelaide United

The Reds' resurgence under 'Kossie' has been impressive, but whether it is a false dawn will be revealed against Central Coast.

Date: Saturday 21 January, 2012 Kick-off: 5.30pm AEDT, 5.30pm local Venue: Bluetongue Stadium

Head-to-head Played: 20 Wins: Central Coast 8, Adelaide 6, Draws: 6

Previous encounter: Central Coast 4, Adelaide 0, 2 December 2011

History: The final nail in the coffin for Rini Coolen came the last time Central Coast and Adelaide met. It was ugly; United's worst ever home loss. Rostyn Griffiths, Patrick Zwaanswijk, Bernie Ibini-Isei and Mustafa Amini were on the spot with a goal each as the Mariners cemented themselves as genuine contenders to the Roar's premiership crown.

The win continued their recent dominance over the Reds, having not dropped a match to the South Australian club since September 11, 2009.


Past five matches: Central Coast: DWWDW Adelaide: DWWDD

Summary of form: Both sides come into this match on the back of lengthy undefeated streaks. The Mariners' is far more impressive - they've not lost in 14 matches, and right now they have teenage goalkeeping sensation Mat Ryan to thank for that.

He single-handedly (or double-handedly, on occasion) kept Central Coast in the game in their match at Melbourne Heart on Wednesday, denying the opposition strikers who were capitalizing on their large share of possession. He did that for long enough to allow Adam Kwasnik to dash up the other end and score his first goal in nearly a year to secure a 1-0 win. They remain top of the ladder and with a length gap between themselves and Brisbane.

Adelaide remain steady under the guidance of new coach John Kosmina, having not dropped a single game during his five matches in charge. They might be winless in their last two but both were very tough assignments - a home game against a resurgent Brisbane Roar, and a road trip to face Melbourne Victory in their first match with Jim Magilton at the helm.

Having escaped with 1-1 draws on each occasion, their season is alive and well but this looms as a must-win if the Kosmina renaissance is to provide them with any reasonable shot at silverware.

Match Committee: There are no dramas at the selection table for Central Coast - perhaps a reason why they've been going so well of late, but there are a few in Adelaide - Cassio (ankle), Jon McKain (knee), Milan Susak (knee) and Evgieny Levchenko (groin) all have injury problems. Cassio and McKain certainly won't play.

Danger men: Bernie Ibini-Isei - A young player couldn't ask for a better opportunity than what Ibini-Isei has before him for the rest of the season. With Matt Simon having turned the page with a new start in South Korea, there's a big hole up front that needs to be filled, and the most obvious candidate is this exciting youngster.

He's quick but powerful, direct yet skillful, and can be quite a handful for opposition defences. Now that Simon is gone, the challenge is to develop a level of consistency to live up to the hype.

Eugene Galekovic - Poor Mark Birighitti would be wearing the No.1 at Adelaide, if it wasn't for the sustained brilliance of their first-choice shotstopper. Galekovic is easily the best goalkeeper United has ever had, and having taken the club's captaincy after Jon McKain, he has carved out a permanent place in Reds folklore. You can see just how much having Galekovic at the helm has helped, with the side not losing a match with him in the captain's armband.

At the end of the day… John Kosmina will face his biggest test since returning to Adelaide United.

The Reds' resurgence under 'Kossie' has been impressive, but whether it is a false dawn will be revealed against Central Coast, the same side whose earlier defeat of United confirmed Rini Coolen's downfall.

The Mariners are in excellent touch. Even better, they've been winning when they haven't been - the mark of a true champion team. At home, on the turf of Bluetongue Stadium, in this form, they look close to an unstoppable force. Adelaide have been good recently, as well, but are they the immovable object to cancel out Central Coast? Probably not. Expect Graham Arnold's men to march on.