Preview: Central Coast Mariners v Wellington Phoenix

On paper this clash looks like a massive mismatch with the high-flying Mariners taking on the ninth-placed Phoenix.

Date: Thursday, February 7, 2013 Kick-off: 7pm AEDT Venue: Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford

Head-to-head: Played: 17 - Wins: Central Coast 9, Wellington 5. Draws: 3

Previous encounter: Wellington Phoenix 1-1 Central Coast, December 22, 2012

Form: Past five matches: Mariners: DWDDW Phoenix: WDLLL

The Game: On paper this clash looks like a massive mismatch with the high-flying Mariners taking on the ninth-placed Phoenix. Central Coast may be unbeaten in their past six, but they haven't shown the same kind of form that took them to the top of the table with three draws in their last four matches.

After blitzing the Reds with three second-half goals in the space of 20 minutes, the Mariners struggled to find their rhythm against the Roar last start. While they did open the scoring early on, they needed a Daniel McBreen goal 10 minutes from time to rescue a point after a Besart Berisha brace put Brisbane in the driving seat.

The Phoenix notched their first win in their past six matches against Perth last week to get off the bottom of the table. Wellington have now picked up four points since conceding seven goals to Sydney on that horror night at Alianz Stadium in Round 17. Despite the improved performances, the Phoenix are still at the wrong end of the table and need to pick up some points against the better teams in the competition.

The big issue: Central Coast - Are the Mariners feeling the pressure of the chasing pack closing the gap? They may have only lost one match since October, but the aura of invincibility hasn't been present in the past month. While they haven't lost any of the four matches they've played, they've trailed in three of them and needed late goals to rescue a point against Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United. With Victory flying on the back of three straight wins, the Mariners' lead at the top is down to just three points and could be even shorter by the end of the weekend.

Wellington Phoenix - Can the Phoenix rediscover their goal-scoring touch? Wellington have netted just four goals in their past six matches and have only scored more than goal in the one of their past 12 matches.

That is despite possessing two of their better attackers in the league in Jeremy Brockie and Paul Ifill. New Zealand international Brockie has netted 11 goals already this season and Ifill has been a constant threat, but they have lacked support with Belgium recruit Stein Huysegems scoring just three goals in his 16 appearances.

The game breaker: Michael McGlinchey - With gun midfielder Tom Rogic jetting off to Scotland to join Celtic, there is a void in the Mariners' midfield that needs to be filled. McGlinchey is the perfect candidate to step up and take responsibility of Central Coast's key attacking weapon along with striker Daniel McBreen. And the New Zealander has already proved his worth with goals in his past two matches.

Prediction: Central Coast 5-0 Wellington Phoenix This clash is a mismatch on paper and we expect the result to reflect that. Put simply, the Mariners are just a better side than Wellington and should have far too much fire power for the Phoenix. They have also won six of the past seven matches between the two sides. This has the potential for an absolute thrashing with the Phoenix still wearing the scars of their heavy loss to Sydney and the Mariners in the mood for a big win to keep distance between themselves and the chasing pack.