Preview: Central Coast Mariners v Brisbane Roar

Only a few short months ago, Central Coast Mariners couldn't buy a win over Brisbane Roar.

Date: Saturday 4 February 2012 Kick-off: 5.30pm AEDT, 5.30pm local Venue: Bluetongue Stadium

Head-to-head Played: 25 Wins: Central Coast 4, Brisbane 12, Draws: 9

Previous encounter Central Coast 2, Brisbane 1, 17 December 2011

History: The last time these two sides did battle, it was weird. Even though the Mariners finally broke through for a demon-destroying win at Suncorp Stadium, there was no shaking the parallels between that match and last season' amazing Grand Final.

But this time, instead of surrendering a hard-fought 2-1 lead, Central Coast held on to deny a fast-finishing Roar side and took control of the A-League ladder. These two clubs are building an incredible rivalry, and it seems as if every match is a brand new chapter.


Past five matches: Central Coast: WWDWW Brisbane: DDWDL

Summary of form: There is no stopping Central Coast. Or, at least, nobody has stopped them by way of defeat for 15 games - not since the Jets beat them in the third week of the season.

Times were different, back then - most people expected "Roarcelona" to win the double with ease, and few expected such a ferocious season from the Mariners.

Over the last month they've been in cruise control, widening the gap between themselves and the rest with wins over Sydney, Victory, Heart and Adelaide. They were meant to play on the Gold Coast last Friday, don't forget, but the fixture was rained out.

Corresponding with the rise of the Gosford club has been the equally-as-stunning fall from grace of Brisbane Roar. In the 11 matches the Roar have played since they rewrote history with their 36-game unbeaten run, they've won just twice.

Things aren't clicking like they used to for the men in orange, but they still hold a majority of possession in each of their matches. However, even with players like Thomas Broich and Henrique back in the team, they fell at home to the woefully inconsistent Newcastle Jets on the weekend. Hope of reversing their mid-season slump are fading fast.

Match Committee: Both sides have a fairly clean bill of health. Brisbane have most of their injured stars back, while Central Coast have been blessed by the injury gods all season. However, the success of young players on both teams comes at a cost, with Qantas Australian Under-23 duty calling and robbing this match of six important players.

The Mariners lose goalkeeping prodigy Mat Ryan, Germany-bound midfielder Mustafa Amini and left-footed dynamo Oliver Bozanic.

The Roar will have to make do without young winger Rocky Visconte, key defender Matt Jurman and attacking warhorse Mitch Nichols. Both teams do have depth to cover those losses, but what impact it has remains to be seen.

Danger men:

Michael McGlinchey - "Wee Mac" just goes about his business. No fanfare, no talk in the media - just football. It's working for him.

The diminutive midfielder has established himself as an important part of the Mariners' charge to glory, directly laying on six goals for his teammates this season - the most of any player in the A-League. Not only is he creative, he's a good dribbler, has an eye for goal himself and is slippery enough to evade attention.

Sayed Mohamed Adnan - The big Bahraini has had his critics, but over the last few weeks Adnan has been fantastic for the Roar, and by now he must be considered one of the better defenders in the A-League.

With a tall and lanky physique, he'll always be an aerial threat, but it's what he does with the ball at his feet that sets him apart. He can pass, he's got vision, he's got a good understanding with midfield lynchpin Erik Paartalu and he's pretty deadly from free-kicks, as Robbie Slater can attest.

At the end of the day… The premiership is already assured for Central Coast, but they can probably afford themselves a brief night of celebration if they knock off the Roar at home.

Only a few short months ago, the Mariners couldn't buy a win over Brisbane. Every time they looked on course to do so, the men in orange would pull out a late winner or equaliser out of nowhere and break their spirits. But not anymore. There are no more monkeys to throw off backs, or past results to make up for.

The Mariners have nothing to prove, and that could be dangerous. The Roar are shaky and Central Coast are more than capable of dismantling them for the second time this season. We're backing them.