Preview: Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory

Clashes between these two clubs have been fairly even since the start of the A-League as the head-to-head record suggests.

Date: Saturday, November 12 Kick-off: 7.45pm AEDT, 7.45pm Local Venue: Bluetongue Stadium

Head-to-head Played 18: Wins: Central Coast 7, Melbourne Victory 7, Draws: 4

Previous encounter Central Coast 1, Melbourne Victory 2, December 31, 2010

History: Clashes between these two clubs have been fairly even since the start of the A-League as the head-to-head record suggests. The Victory got the points the last time these two sides met, with two goals in three minutes late in the match to Diogo Ferreira and Grant Brebner handing them a 2-1 win. With both clubs hopeful of challenging for the title this season, this should be another tight battle.

Form: Past five matches: Central Coast Mariners: LDLWW Melbourne Victory: DLDWD

After an inauspicious start the Central Coast look like they are starting to hit their straps. After failing to win any of their first three games, Graham Arnold's side have now won two on the spin. It's coincided with the return to their miserly defensive displays as well as strikers Matt Simon and Bernie Ibini-Isei. Managed to get maximum points in the difficult trip to windy Wellington last week thanks to a late Simon goal which gave them a 2-1 win.

Like the Mariners, Melbourne also appear to be on the up over the last couple of weeks despite registering just one win in the opening five rounds of the season. While the Victory and their fans will be expecting more, they showed enough in the win over Wellington a fortnight ago and the courageous draw with nine men against Brisbane last week to suggest they are close to hitting their best.

Match Committee: After an injury-plagued start to the season the Mariners' squad is finally starting to get back to full strength. Key Midfielder Mustafa Amini must be close to a start after back-to-back appearances off the bench. Striker Adam Kwasnik is also in line for a recall after missing the win over the Pheonix with a calf problem.

While it's positive news for the Mariners it's anything but for Melbourne with four players missing through a mixture of suspension and international duty. Goalkeeper Ante Covic and defender Matthew Foschini are both out after being sent off in the draw with the Roar last weekend while Harry Kewell and Carlos Hernandez are off playing for the Socceroos and Costa Rica respectively. This is a huge test of the depth of Mehmet Durakovic's squad.

Danger men: Daniel McBreen - He hasn't been among the goals so far this campaign but McBreen has been playing an important role for the Mariners. With Amini injured and last season's playmaking star Patricio Perez no longer at the club, the 34-year-old striker has found himself playing a much deeper role so far this campaign and is looking better and better every week. Is always and danger in the air and will need to be watched closely by the Victory defence if he continues to make dangerous late runs into the box.

Archie Thompson - It just has to be Thompson after his sensational performance against the Roar last weekend. It wasn't just the fact he scored two goals it was the way he finished both those chances that suggest the former Socceroo striker is finally over his injury-plagued 2010-11 campaign. If the Mariners give him too much space, he will make them pay.

At the end of the day… This shapes as the game of the weekend despite the absence of a number of Victory stars. The Mariners will be hoping to continue their two game winning streak, particularly in front of their home fans, while Melbourne will be desperate to turn some encouraging performances into a victory.

The home side should be full of confidence and will no doubt smell blood with the Victory to be under strength. Arnold believes his side is starting to find their sharpness with the ball and will need that part of the game to be on if they are to get the better of a Melbourne defence which has been resolute so far this season. If the likes of Michael McGlinchey and Oliver Bozanic can supply sufficient service, Simon and Ibini-Isei are definitely in the type of form to cash in. With skipper Alex Wilkinson starting to look more comfortable after an injury-disrupted start to the year, the Mariners will also prove tough to break down for the visitors.

This looms as a huge test for the Victory. No Kewell and no Hernandez means much of the attacking burden will fall on the shoulders of Thompson. As hot as he is right now in front of goal, this is an opportunity for the likes of big-name signings Marco Rojas and Carlos Solorzano to make an impact for their new club. Despite having to field a new-look side with so many players unavailable, the Victory will be brimming with belief after their heroic effort against the Roar last weekend. History indicates this will be a tight contest and it's hard to argue with that with an entertaining draw likely....but it really is a toss of the coin.

Teams: Central Coast Mariners:

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Melbourne Victory:

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