Preview: Central Coast Mariners v Brisbane Roar

The Roar seem to have something about them which troubles the Mariners, who have often been worried by the width of Brisbane in the past.

Date: Sunday November 25, 2012 Kick-off: 5pm AEDT Venue: Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford

Head-to-head: Played 28, Wins: Central Coast 4, Brisbane 16, Draws: 8

Previous encounter: Central Coast 2 Brisbane 3, April 8, 2012

Form: Past five matches: Central Coast: DWWWL Brisbane: WLLLD

The Game: Central Coast have a woeful record against Brisbane but they are well-placed to improve on that when the growing rivalry between the teams continues on Sunday.

Graham Arnold's men sit second on the Hyundai A-League table and again look like serious title contenders early in the season.

But in 28 meetings against the Roar, the Mariners have lost 16 times, including the famous grand final defeat on penalties to complete the 2010/11 season at Suncorp Stadium.

Many of the Mariners players will remember that fateful day in Brisbane, where they conceded twice in the final four minutes to lose control of a title they appeared to have a firm hold of.

They have no bigger chance to improve that record having been impressive this campaign while the Roar have faltered.

Rado Vidosic's men returned to winning ways with a victory against Sydney FC, but beating the Sky Blues at the moment says little about where any team is at.

It was an improved performance on their previous outings - including the 4-1 loss to the Melbourne Heart - but still far from their best.

Without the suspended Patrick Zwaanswijk, the Roar will get more opportunities than they may have had with the Dutchman in the centre of defence.

Mariners goalkeeper Mathew Ryan was shaky in the 2-2 draw against the Victory, but the teenager can be excused for a one-off poor performance.

Zac Anderson is likely to replace Zwaanswijk alongside Trent Sainsbury, with the settled Mariners sure to persist with a similar line-up, including the in-form Daniel McBreen (seven goals) up front.

Vidosic tinkered with Ivan Franjic at the heart of his back four against Sydney, but he is unlikely to persist with one of the league's best full-backs out of position, despite the average form of Matt Jurman.

Ben Halloran has continued to improve and Thomas Broich is slowly recapturing his best form for Brisbane.

The big issue: Central Coast - The Roar seem to have something about them which troubles the Mariners, who have often been worried by the width of Brisbane in the past. But a change in formation - Arnold now prefers two defensive midfielders to the diamond he has previously deployed - could fix that. With three men, usually Tom Rogic, Mile Sterjovski and Michael McGlinchey, behind McBreen and wider, the Mariners are unlikely to be as stretched. The in-form Mariners should be favourites against the gradually building Roar and how big an issue their bad record is will be known on Sunday night.

Brisbane - A victory over the Sky Blues was a relief, but the Mariners will be a gauge of exactly where the Roar are at early in the season. There have been signs that Brisbane are regaining their form and the return of star striker Besart Berisha, who got on the scoresheet against Sydney, was important. The Albanian not only finds the net often but brings passion and hunger, two things Vidosic questioned about his team after the loss to the Heart. Central Coast is always a testing trip and more will be known about Vidosic's Roar post-game.

The game breaker: Daniel McBreen - The striker continues to be a game breaker and with the form he is in at the moment, deservedly so. His brace at Etihad Stadium was of high quality as he took his goal tally this season to seven. Whether McBreen can continue his rich vein of form remains to be seen, but his finishing - and the way he links with Rogic - makes him a huge threat the Roar will need to contain.

Prediction: Central Coast 2-1 Brisbane

While the history suggests the Roar should be too good, it is impossible to go past the Mariners, who are performing much better than Brisbane in 2012/13. Arnold's new formation faces a huge test and defensive midfield pairing John Hutchinson and Nick Montgomery have a massive role to play in keeping Roar's attackers away. Finding goals has not been a problem thanks to McBreen, but replacing Zwaanswijk will be of huge importance. While the Roar should never be written off, the Mariners should edge them this time around.