Preview: Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory

Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne Victory will meet in Round 18 of the 2013-14 A-League season at Bluetongue Stadium on Saturday, February 8 at 5.30pm AEDT.

Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne Victory will meet in Round 18 of the 2013-14 A-League season at Bluetongue Stadium on Saturday, February 8 at 5.30pm AEDT.

Head-to-head:

Played 26 - Wins: Mariners 9, Victory 9, Draws: 8

Previous encounter:

Mariners 0 - 0 Victory, November 29, 2013

Form:

Past five matches

Mariners: LWWDD

Victory: DLLWD

The Game:

In these two sides' previous encounter this season, Melbourne Victory were unlucky to miss out on three points in Gosford with Mitch Nichols having a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside, while the Big V wasted a number of gilt-edged opportunities throughout the 90 minutes.

Since then, Victory have managed just three more wins in the A-League and have lost four times, while Central Coast have won five times and lost three games to move above Melbourne on the ladder despite having played one less match.

While Melbourne head coach Kevin Muscat will have been happy to see his team end their run of 5-0 defeats with a 1-1 draw away to Perth Glory last week, the Big V need to return to winning ways quickly, or they could fall further down the table.

Victory have 24 points, just two more than fifth-placed Sydney FC, while Adelaide United and Perth (both 21) are also ready to pounce.

For Central Coast - the busiest A-League club - in the January transfer window, it is hard to know what team will turn out on Saturday afternoon.

Eddy Bosnar, Kim Seung-Yong, Isaka Cernak, Glen Trifiro and Matt Sim have all joined in the past fortnight as the Mariners also look ahead to their AFC Asian Champions League (ACL) campaign.

At least the first two will likely play a part versus Victory after the Mariners lost 2-1 to Brisbane last week.

The big issue:

Mariners - Central Coast have long been considered a functional but not flashy side.

The past two seasons seemed to mark a slight change in the club's philosophy as Tom Rogic and Michael McGlinchey added an ability to break open opposition defences with guile rather than just determination and physical superiority.

But with McGlinchey on loan at Vegalta Sendai and Marcos Flores (knee) out for the rest of the season, Phil Moss' team seem bereft of creativity. Anthony Caceres played in the hole versus Brisbane but the Mariners need more.

Can Kim provide the spark in midfield Central Coast so desperately need?

Victory - Can Melbourne find a way to win in Gosford? Earlier in the season, Victory deserved to win but - apart from Nichols' ruled out goal - failed to do enough to claim three points.

The scoreless draw made it five games without a win at Bluetongue Stadium for the Big V.

Kevin Muscat could surely have thought of better places to travel to this week as his team continues to stutter at a critical time of the season.

Victory's hopes of winning may rest on Rogic's shoulders as the Mariners old boy returns to his former home.

The game breaker:

Tom Rogic - If the visitors are to avoid defeat on Saturday, they will have to score goals. Victory have kept just one clean sheet in their past 10 matches.

The more Melbourne control the ball, the less work their struggling back four will have to deal with, and Rogic will be critical both in keeping possession but also turning that into scoring opportunities.

Back in front of his former home fans, the 21-year-old attacking midfielder could be primed for a big performance after a fairly promising showing in Perth.

Chat with representatives from your local club and meet Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League stars at Play Football Day this Saturday & Sunday at Westfield centres.

Westfield Kotara Saturday 8 February, 11am-2pm

Westfield Woden Saturday 8 February, 11am-2pm

Westfield Penrith Sunday 9 February, 11am-2pm

Westfield Chatswood Sunday 9 February, 11am-2pm

Westfield Tuggerah Sunday 9 February, 11am-2pm