Preview: Gold Coast v Central Coast

Central Coast and Gold Coast are separated by goal difference only, sitting third and fourth on the ladder on 24 points, just one behind second-placed Sydney FC.

Date: Saturday, 5 December Kick-off: 8.00pm (9.00pm AEDT) Venue: Skilled Park, Robina

TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 2 and Sky Sports 2. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is Coast FM 96.3 (Gosford). To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.com.au

Head-to-head: Played 1: Gold Coast United wins 0, Central Coast Mariners wins 1

Previous meeting: Central Coast Mariners 3, Gold Coast United 0, Bluetongue Stadium , Round 7, 19 September 2009

Past five matches: Gold Coast United: Round 12: Wellington Phoenix 6, Gold Coast United 0, Westpac Stadium Round 13: Gold Coast United 0, North Queensland Fury 2, Skilled Park Round 14: Gold Coast United 1, Sydney FC 0, Skilled Park Round 15: Adelaide United 1, Gold Coast United 1, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 16: Melbourne Victory 4, Gold Coast United 0, Etihad Stadium

Central Coast Mariners: Round 12: Newcastle Jets 2, Central Coast Mariners 1, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 13: Central Coast Mariners 0, Adelaide United 0, Canberra Stadium Round 14: Melbourne Victory 0, Central Coast Mariners 4, Etihad Stadium Round 15: North Queensland Fury 1, Central Coast Mariners 5, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 16: Central Coast Mariners 0, Perth Glory 0, Bluetongue Stadium

Analysis:

Second spot on the Hyundai A-League ladder is up for grabs in this contest.

Central Coast and Gold Coast are separated by goal difference only, sitting third and fourth on the ladder on 24 points, just one behind second-placed Sydney FC.

Coming off a scoreless draw with Perth Glory, the Mariners need to rediscover the cutting edge that earned them victories over the previous fortnight against Melbourne and North Queensland.

The only previous Hyundai A-League meeting between these sides ended 3-nil in the Mariners' favour at Bluetongue Stadium in September.

Gold Coast will be desperate to atone for that defeat and last week's four-nil thumping at the hands of Melbourne Victory.

Gold Coast will be stiffened by the return of Kristian Rees, Bas Van Den Brink and Steve Pantelidis from suspension, but their scoring potential has been compromised by the likelihood that Joel Porter (knee) and Tahj Minniecon (quad) will miss, leaving Shane Smeltz as the club's only available striker.

Among the options up front for Miron Bleiberg are Andrew Barisic, Youth Team forwards Golgol Mebrahtu and Chris Harold, as well as Brazilian forward Milson who will need to prove he's recovered from a thigh strain.

Porter is expected to be available to return before Christmas while Minniecon may be available for next week's clash with the Newcastle Jets.

A dislocated finger sustained in last Saturday's loss to Melbourne will not prevent midfielder Steve Fitzsimmons from lining up.

Doing his best to keep Gold Coast at bay will be Central Coast keeper Danny Vukovic who is chasing a personal-best ninth clean sheet for the season.

Gold Coast United Squad: 1.Jess VANSTRATTAN (gk), 2.Steve PANTELIDIS, 3.Michael THWAITE, 7.Zenon CARAVELLA, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 10.Jason CULINA (c), 13.Bas VAN DEN BRINK, 15.Tahj MINNIECON, 16.Kristian REES, 17.Matt OSMAN, 18.James BROWN, 19.Andrew BARISIC, 20.Scott HIGGINS (gk), 23.Steve FITZSIMMONS, 24.ANDERSON, 26.Golgol MEBRAHTU, 29.Zac ANDERSON *two to be omitted*

In: Jess VANSTRATTAN (gk) (return from thumb injury), Steve PANTELIDIS (return from suspension), Bas VAN DEN BRINK (return from suspension), Tahj MINNIECON (return from thigh injury), Kristian REES (return from suspension), Andrew BARISIC (promoted)

Out: Joel PORTER (knee injury - 2 weeks), Jerrad TYSON (gk) (not selected), Steven LUSTICA (not selected), Ben WEARING (not selected)

Unavailable: Daniel PIORKOWSKI (ankle injury - indefinite), ROBSON (knee injury - 5 weeks), JEFFERSON (knee injury - indefinite), Adama TRAORE (knee injury - 1 week)

Central Coast Mariners squad: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 2. Matthew CROWELL, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Brad PORTER, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Dean HEFFERNAN, 9. Nik MRDJA, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 15. Andrew CLARK, 16. Nigel BOOGAARD, 18. Alex WILKINSON (C), 19. Matt SIMON, 20. Danny VUKOVIC (GK), 21. Ahmad ELRICH, 22. Nicky TRAVIS, 23. Adam KWASNIK. *one to be omitted*

In: Andrew CLARK (promoted)

Out: Nil

Unavailable: Chris DOIG (quad - 3 weeks), Dylan MACALLISTER (leg - 1 week)