Both sides will look to cement themselves as the form team of the competition in what shapes as the match of the season between third-placed Victory and leaders Central Coast.
Date: Saturday January 12, 2013 Kick-off: 5.30pm AEDT, local Venue: Aurora Stadium, Launceston
Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1HD and Sky Sports 2
Head-to-head: Played: 22, Wins: Melbourne Victory 9, Central Coast Mariners 7, Draws: 6
Previous encounter: Melbourne Victory 2, Central Coast Mariners 2, 17 November 2012
Form: Past five matches: Melbourne Victory: WLWWD Central Coast Mariners: WWLDW
The Game Both sides will look to cement themselves as the form team of the competition in what shapes as the match of the season between third-placed Victory and leaders Central Coast in Launceston.
Victory returned to winning ways with a deserved 2-0 win over Wellington Phoenix last time out while the Mariners survived a spirited effort from Western Sydney Wanderers to come away with a composed win by the same score.
Ange Postecoglou's men are seven points behind Central Coast, who have won nine of their past 12 matches and look increasingly likely to become the first team in the short history of the A-League to successfully defend the Premiers' Plate.
In a thoughtful touch, Victory and Football Federation Australia are using the match to help raise funds for the Tasmanian bushfire appeal, with a portion of ticket sales to be donated to those communities devastated by the fires that tore across the state recently.
The big issue Melbourne Victory - Beaten only once in eight matches in Melbourne this season, Victory have given up home advantage for what has become their annual fixture in Launceston.
Victory were stunned by local rivals Melbourne Heart on the opening day of the season at Etihad Stadium, but have since established an imposing record a few kilometres away at AAMI Park, where only Brisbane Roar have managed to salvage a point and Perth Glory, Newcastle Jets and Wellington have come away with nothing.
Graham Arnold's charges will welcome the chance to avoid Melbourne in favour of Tasmania, where Victory, from Postecoglou's point of view at least, could be left to rue their financially beneficial move to the Apple Isle.
Central Coast Mariners - The Mariners will be hard to beat if Daniel McBreen's rich vein of form continues.
McBreen, with 12 goals to his name already this season, netted a brace to sink the Wanderers at Parramatta Stadium and scored twice in the 2-2 draw with Victory last time the teams met at Etihad Stadium.
"He's on fire. But it's not just his goals but (also) his work rate," Arnold said this week of his veteran front man. "He works so hard physically. He's a handful to deal with when he's in this type of form."
Gamebreaker Mat Ryan - All eyes will be on the promising goalkeeper after his controversial trial with Scottish club Rangers was put on hold due to a minor shoulder injury.
The Mariners raised plenty of eyebrows on Sunday when they revealed Ryan would miss the clash with Victory to spend 10 days training with the fallen Ibrox side.
But Ryan, last season's Hyundai A-League goalkeeper of the year, is now expected to make the trip to Tasmania after Central Coast confirmed the trial had been postponed.
The 20-year-old will have to be at his best against Victory, who have not been held goalless since Round 2 and have scored 10 goals in their past six outings.
Prediction: Melbourne Victory 2, Central Coast Mariners 2 Victory will be bolstered by the return of suspended skipper Adrian Leijer as they seek to narrow the gap between the runaway leaders, who have lost just twice this season.
The dual premiers and champions won three of four matches in 15 days over the festive period but will face their toughest task yet against Central Coast.
The Mariners have held on to Ryan for now, but could still lose him and midfield star Tom Rogic before the end of the transfer period in what would be a significant blow for the Gosford club's title aspirations.
In the meantime, Central Coast can clinch their most valuable win of the campaign with three points in Tasmania in what Arnold hopes could persuade Ryan and Rogic to stay in Australia until the end of the season.