Preview: Melbourne Victory v Central Coast
Melbourne is in a rich vein of form at the moment, having won six of its past seven and a spot at the top of the table could beckon if its wins here and Sydney fails to get all three against Gold Coast later on Saturday night.
Date: Saturday November 7 Kick-off: 7:00pm AEDT Venue: Etihad Stadium TV and Radio:
Head-to-head 13 A-League meetings: Melbourne Victory - 6 wins, Central Coast - 4 wins, Draws - 3
Previous Meeting Melbourne Victory 2, Central Coast Mariners 2, Round 1, August 2009
Past five matches: Melbourne Victory: Round 9: Melbourne Victory 2, Brisbane Roar 1, Etihad Stadium Round 10: Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney FC 3, Etihad Stadium Round 11: Newcastle Jets 1, Melbourne Victory 3, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 12: Melbourne Victory 3, Adelaide United 1, Etihad Stadium Round 13: Perth Glory 1, Melbourne Victory 2, ME Bank Stadium
Central Coast: Round 9: Sydney FC 1, Central Coast 0, Sydney Football Stadium Round 10: Central Coast 1, North Queensland Fury 1, Bluetongue Stadium Round 11: Brisbane Roar 0, Central Coast 3, Suncorp Stadium Round 12: Newcastle Jets 2, Central Coast 1, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 13: Central Coast Mariners 0, Adelaide United 0, Canberra Stadium
Analysis: Melbourne is in a rich vein of form at the moment, having won six of its past seven and a spot at the top of the table could beckon if its wins here and Sydney fails to get all three against Gold Coast later on Saturday night.
The club has attributed its turnaround in fortunes since a sluggish start to the season to an attitude change rather then a change in personnel and there have certainly been times in the past three matches were Melbourne has been outplayed, but still managed to get the result at the end of the 90 minutes.
Against Perth last week, the Victory struggled after taking an early lead and allowed the Glory back into the match. But after weathering the storm, they were able to secure the win when substitute Nathan Elasi delivered for Carlos Hernandez to finish.
Hernandez and Archie Thompson continue to inspire Melbourne and both have been in excellent form over the past month. But the addition of the likes of youngster Mate Dugandzic and Elasi has energised the team, while the defence continues to do well despite not keeping a clean sheet in six matches.
Three players, Evan Berger, Surat Sukha and Robbie Kruse, return from injury into an extended squad leaving Ernie Merrick with some tough decisions to make. Nick Ward and Tom Pondeljak could both be available after the week off.
Central Coast kicked off season 2009-10 in stunning fashion with a 2-0 defeat of Melbourne at Etihad Stadium in August. Prior to that win, the Mariners has won just one of their past nine against Melbourne, but rubbished any thoughts of a hoodoo with a comprehensive and impressive win.
Lawrie McKinna's men have established themselves as one of the most consistent teams in the competition and they currently sit in fourth spot, two behind Melbourne. The key has been their defence, which has conceded just eight goals in 13 games. But conversely, the one criticism which could be made of them is their inability to score goals and they have won just one out of their past six matches and on six occasions this season have failed to trouble the scorers.
Their away form outside of the win in Round 1, and the recent 3-0 success over an embattled Brisbane side, is poor with losses to Sydney, Newcastle and Adelaide and a draw against Wellington in recent times.
Perhaps in a bid to spark up his attacking options, McKinna has included Dylan Macallister, while Matthew Lewis and Andrew Clark also come into an extended squad. Matthew Crowell is serving a one-match suspension, while Michael McGlinchey, who scored against Melbourne earlier in the season, is in doubt with an ankle injury.
It will be interesting to see what approach McKinna takes into this match, which pits the only two remaining surviving coaches from season one. On previous occasions, he has been prepared to attack Melbourne, while the Round 1 win was secured thanks to early goals which all but killed off the contest.
He can't expect Melbourne to be as slow-starting as it was in that match. Danny Vukovic, arguably the Hyundai A-League's form keeper this year, looms as their most important player as Melbourne have only failed to score in two occasions this season.
Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3.Mate DUGANDZIC, 5.Surat SUKHA, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13.Nathan ELASI, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Matthew FOSCHINI, 19.Evan BERGER, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 21.Robbie KRUSE, 23.Adrian LEIJER, 27.Sutee SUKSOMKIT *three to be omitted*
In: Evan BERGER (return from injury), Robbie KRUSE (return from injury), Surat SUKHA (return from injury)
Unavailable: Marvin ANGULO (pending registration), Billy CELESKI (knee - season), Steven PACE (calf - 2 weeks), Tom PONDELJAK (calf - 2 weeks), Nick WARD (infection - 1 week)
Central Coast Mariners squad: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Brad PORTER, 6. David D'APUZZO, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Dean HEFFERNAN, 11. Dylan MACALLISTER, 12. Matthew LEWIS, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 15. Andrew CLARK, 16. Nigel BOOGAARD, 17. Chris DOIG, 18. Alex WILKINSON (c), 19. Matt SIMON, 20. Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 22. Nicky TRAVIS, 23. Adam KWASNIK *two to be omitted*
In: Dylan MACALLISTER (promoted), Matthew LEWIS (promoted), Andrew CLARK (promoted)
Out: Matthew CROWELL (suspended - 1 week)