Preview: Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory

Central Coast's roller coaster start to the season sees it entertain the league leaders this week in a match which could very well shape its season.

Date: Saturday September 20 Kick-off: 7:00pm AEST Venue: Bluetongue Central Coast Stadium TV and Radio: Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 2 and delayed coverage on Sky Sports 3. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is Coast FM (Gosford) 96.3FM. To purchase tickets visit

Head-to-head Nine A-League meetings: Central Coast - 3 wins, Melbourne - 4 wins, Draws - 2

Previous meeting Central Coast Mariners 2, Melbourne Victory 5, Round 18, December 2007

Results so far Central Coast: Round 1: Newcastle Jets 1, Central Coast Mariners 1, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 2: Central Coast Mariners 2, Sydney FC 3, Bluetongue Central Coast Stadium Round 3: Queensland Roar 2, Central Coast Mariners 4, Suncorp Stadium Round 4: Wellington Phoenix 0, Central Coast Mariners 0, Westpac Stadium

Melbourne: Round 1: Sydney FC 0, Melbourne Victory 0, SFS Round 2: Wellington Phoenix 2, Melbourne Victory 4, Westpac Stadium Round 3: Melbourne Victory 5, Newcastle Jets 0, Telstra Dome Round 4: Melbourne Victory 1, Adelaide United 0, Telstra Dome

Analysis Central Coast's roller coaster start to the season sees it entertain the league leaders this week in a match which could very well shape its season. A loss here would see the Mariners slip eight points off the lead, while a win gets it within two points of Melbourne and in a very good position.

The Mariners would have been disappointed not to grab all three points against Wellington last week, especially after they failed to finish off several excellent chances late in the game. This is just their second home game of the season.

Lawrie McKinna gets back two very important attacking players in Nik Mrdja and Dylan Maccallister and they come into an extended squad. The only player on the Mariners list likely to make a return any time soon is Danny Vukovic, who has just three more rounds of his suspension to serve.

Melbourne has had a drama-filled week after a controversial win over Adelaide last Friday night. That success was the Victory's third in the first four games and sees them clear on top of the table. However, it came at a price with Ney Fabiano ruled out for nine matches after being sent off by Matthew Breeze for spitting at an opponent. Melbourne is still weighing up whether to take that further, but the Brazilian won't be playing in this match. Jose Luis Lopez returns from international duty, while Michael Thwaite is back from an ankle injury which saw him miss one match. Steven Pace makes way.

While Ernie Merrick won't have the four attacking players at his disposal for this match, he will no doubt give Archie Thompson, Danny Allsopp and Carlos Hernandez a licence to attack. In the last match where these two sides met back in December, those three took the Mariners to the cleaners and the result was a 5-2 win.

It will be very interesting to see how this match plays out with both coaches possessing so many talented attacking players. Melbourne possesses a very good defence as well and outside of the two goals the Victory conceded in the 4-2 win over Wellington, they have been pretty much unbeatable at the back.

Kevin Muscat, who missed his first-ever Hyundai A-League penalty last week, but finished off the rebound for the winner, is in great form and together with Rody Vargas has formed an imposing rearguard.

Melbourne has won three matches against the Mariners in Gosford, including two of its past three. That will give Merrick plenty of confidence, knowing that a success here could see his side as much as five points clear after five matches.

Central Coast Mariners Squad. 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Bradley PORTER, 6. David D'APUZZO, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 9. Nik MRDJA, 10. Adrian CACERES, 11. Dylan MACALLISTER, 13. Paul O'GRADY, 15. Andrew CLARK, 16. Nigel BOOGAARD, 17. Matthew OSMAN, 18. Alex WILKINSON, 19. Matt SIMON, 22. Sasho PETROVSKI, 23. Mile JEDINAK, 30. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 40. Mark BOSNICH (gk). *Two to be omitted.

In. 9. Nik MRDJA (Returns from Illness), 11. Dylan MACALLISTER (Returns from Illness). Out. Nil. Unavailable. 2. Andre GUMPRECHT (Knee - Indefinite), 8. Dean HEFFERNAN (Leg - Indefinite), 12. Greg OWENS (Hamstring - Indefinite), 20. Danny VUKOVIC (Suspended - 3 rounds), 21. Ahmad ELRICH (Knee - Season).

Melbourne Victory Squad. 1.Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (Captain), 3.Michael THWAITE, 5.Sebastian RYALL, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 9.Danny ALLSOPP, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 14.Billy CELESKI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Jose Luis LOPEZ, 19.Evan BERGER. 20.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk).

In. Michael THWAITE (return from injury), Jose Luis LOPEZ (return from international duty).