Preview: Central Coast Mariners v Perth Glory

Central Coast will be desperate to break their duck in front of their home fans, but to do so, they'll have to overcome a Glory defence that's proved rock solid over the first three rounds.

Date: Saturday, October 29 Kick-off: 5.30pm AEDT, 2.30pm AWST Venue: Bluetongue Stadium

Head-to-head Played 18: Mariners 11, Perth 2, Draws: 5

Previous encounter Perth Glory 1, Central Coast 2, nib Stadium, January 2010

History: Perth have a seriously dire history against Central Coast, having won just two matches against them in Hyundai A-League competition. The first of those happened on September 3 2006, but it took the Glory until January 31 2010 to beat them again.

However, since then, normal service has returned for Central Coast as they won two of the three clashes these sides had last season. The first of those was a 5-0 spanking that saw teenager Mustafa Amini announce himself as a future star by tearing Perth a new one while his side added four goals in the final 30 minutes.

It was Perth's worst loss in a dreadful campaign and pretty much demonstrated the Glory weren't anywhere near capable of challenging the competition's top sides. With that recent result in mind, a new-look Glory team should be looking to write some history of their own when they travel to Gosford this weekend.

Form: Matches so far: Central Coast: LDL Perth: WWW

Central Coast coach Graham Arnold insists he's not panicking, but he certainly won't be pleased by gaining just one point from three fixtures to start the season.

The Mariners were spirited in a 1-0 loss to Brisbane in the opening-week Grand Final reply. But it took a late Patrick Zwanswijk equaliser to steal a point against Gold Coast, while the side looked very flat against the Jets. That 1-0 loss in the F3 derby showed there are plenty of problems for Arnold to solve.

To start with, his defence have been giving up some dreadful clearances for the opposition to pounce on. And, more importantly, his midfield hasn't quite gelled in the absence of Amini and the departed Patricio Perez, meaning the strikers haven't quite been given the possession they need.

Perth continued on their merry way last weekend, notching up their third win from as many games with a 1-0 victory over Wellington at home. It wasn't the most dominant of displays as they conceded the majority of possession to the Phoenix, but the Glory were rarely troubled by Wellington attacks as the defence kept their opponents in check.

Match Committee: The Mariners look likely to hand 19-year-old striker Bernie Ibini-Isei his first start for the season up front after the Nigerian-born, Australian Under-20 international fired up a lethargic-looking Central Coast when he came on for 35 minutes last weekend.

However, the Mariners will still be missing the experience of skipper Alex Wilkinson in defence as he continues to recover from an arm injury, while John Hutchinson will return from China on October 30. Amini played in the National Youth League last week but is still listed as being two weeks from resuming at this level with a groin injury.

The Glory have some concerns over key midfielder Liam Miller. The former Celtic man came off the pitch in a good deal of pain during the latter stages of last week's 1-0 win over Wellington. Miller had several trainers attend to him as he lay by the side of the pitch, apparently with severe cramp in his upper leg.

If Miller is not available for this week's game, it may open the door for former Socceroo Mile Sterjovski to return to the side after a dominant performance in the National Youth League last weekend.

Danger men: Bernie Ibini-Isei - Big things are expected of the 19-year-old striker, starting with this weekend against the Glory. But it may be a trifle unfair of Mariners' supporters to pin all their hopes of a turnaround on his young shoulders, particularly as the midfield hasn't quite got things right just yet.

Bas van den Brink - Shane Smeltz may have scored for Perth last weekend, but the result was all set up by big Dutch defender van den Brink working his butt off at both ends of the ground.

It was a quality van den Brink header across the face of goal that set up Smeltz's goal, while the Dutchman controlled the air down in defence. While Wellington's strike force was probably on the shorter side on the day, giving the towering van den Brink a noticeable height advantage, he still managed to head clear the majority of Phoenix attacks into the box.

At the end of the day… Central Coast will be desperate to break their duck in front of their home fans, but to do so, they'll have to overcome a Glory defence that's proved rock solid over the first three rounds of the season.

In stark contrast to much of last year, the Glory have only conceded one goal in the last three games and even that came from the penalty spot and not from open play. However, Perth have come up against three sides that were not at their attacking best in any of these matches.

They faced a lethargic Adelaide in week 1, nothing really clicked for Melbourne Heart the week after and Wellington were without Paul Ifill and Tim Brown. This time around, the defence will have to deal with the likes of Ibini-Isei, Matt Simon and former Glory pair Daniel McBreen and Adriano Pellegrino, two players that significantly helped Perth's drive to the finals in 2009-10.

With that in mind, although Central Coast's midfield isn't quite at its best in supplying the strikers, this could be a really significant test for the Glory back four, although it's one the likes of van den Brink and Chris Coyne will relish.

The main problem for the Mariners, though, appears to be their movement from defence. A poor clearance was pounced on by Jeremy Brockie last week against the Jets, and heaven help Central Coast if they produce the same with Shane Smeltz waiting to more than clean up the scraps.

However, one imagines Graham Arnold will have worked long and hard on his club's defensive issues over the last week and it's almost certain the Mariners will present Perth with a particularly stern test. But the likes of Smeltz, Liam Miller, Andrezinho and Billy Mehmet have already demonstrated their ability to fashion goals almost from nothing, so Central Coast's back four will have to be on constant guard.

All that being said, the Glory have never beaten the Mariners in Gosford in the Hyundai A-League competition. I'm not going to bet on it happening this week and think a draw might be the most likely of outcomes.

Mariners Squad: 1. Mathew Ryan (Gk), 2. Daniel McBreen, 3. Joshua Rose, 4. Pedj Bojic, 5. Brad Porter, 6. Patrick Zwaanswijk, 8. Rostyn Griffiths, 9. Bernie Ibini, 10. Adriano Pellegrino, 11. Oliver Bozanic, 12. Troy Hearfield, 14. Michael McGlinchey, 15. Brad McDonald, 16. Trent Sainsbury, 17. Michael Baird, 19. Matt Simon, 20. Justin Pasfield (Gk), 21. Sam Gallagher, 23. Adam Kwasnik *four to be omitted* In: 15. Brad McDonald (Promoted), 16. Trent Sainsbury (Promoted), 17. Michael Baird (Promoted), 21. Sam Gallagher (Promoted) Out: Nil Unavailable: 7. John Hutchinson (On Loan), 13. Stuart Musialik (Adductor - 2 weeks), 18. Alex Wilkinson (Forearm - 1 week), 22. Mustafa Amini (Groin - 2 weeks)

Perth Glory squad: 1.Danny Vukovic (Gk), 2.Josh Mitchell, 3.Bas Van Den Brink, 4.Billy Mehmet, 5.Steve Pantelidis, 6.Chris Coyne, 7.Jacob Burns (C), 8.Adam Hughes, 9.Shane Smeltz, 10.Liam Miller, 12.Scott Neville, 13.Travis Dodd, 14.Steven Mcgarry, 15.Tommy Amphlett, 16.Evan Berger, 17.Todd Howarth, 19.Josh Risdon, 21.Mile Sterjovski, 27.Andrezinho, 30. Lewis Italiano (Gk) *five to be omitted* In: 5.Steve Pantelidis, 8.Adam Hughes, 16.Evan Berger, 19.Josh Risdon, 21.Mile Sterjovski Out: Neil Young (Abdominal Injury) Unavailable: 11.Victor Sikora (Hip - Long Term Injury List), 20.Neil Young (Abdominal Injury), 18. Jesse Makarounas (National Team - Young Socceroos), 22. Adam Taggart (National Team - Young Socceroos)