Preview: Melbourne Victory v Central Coast Mariners

The biggest issue for Graham Arnold is just how long can the Mariners keep up their hot streak

Date: Saturday 17 November, 2012 Kick-off: 7.45pm AEDT Venue: Etihad Stadium

Head-to-head Played: 21 Wins: Melbourne Victory 9, Central Coast 7, Draws: 5

Previous encounter Melbourne Victory 2, Central Coast 1, 10 February 2012, AAMI Park

Form: Past five matches: Melbourne Victory: LWLWW Central Coast: WLWWW

The Game Both teams head into this clash with some quality form behind them. The Mariners may have taken a couple of weeks to click into gear this season but they've won their last three games, the highlight of which was a 7-2 hammering of Sydney FC.

That clash was followed by a gritty 1-0 win over Wellington in New Zealand last weekend, no small feat in itself, which saw Graham Arnold's side climb to the top of the Hyundai A-League table once again.

Speaking of slow starts to the season, it didn't get much worse than Melbourne Victory's first two weeks under Ange Postecoglou. The team looked dreadful for much of their first-up loss to Melbourne Heart, while things only got worse as they were spanked 5-0 by Brisbane to drop to the bottom of the table.

But since then, Melbourne have started adapting to Postecoglou's constant movement style and two consecutive wins have taken them off the bottom of the table and into fifth.

There are still queries over Victory's defence, however, as they have conceded twice in both these encounters, but their thrilling 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Sydney last Saturday night would surely give the squad some serious belief heading into this clash.

The big issue Melbourne Victory: As already mentioned, Victory's defence is still a work in progress. They have conceded 14 times this season - the second worst in the league behind Sydney's 16 - and have not managed to keep a clean sheet in any of their matches so far. Indeed their best effort was to hold Adelaide United to just one goal in Week 3.

Nathan Coe has come into the team as Victory's third goalkeeper this season but is taking a little time to adjust, while Adrian Leijer still has not returned to his best after a disappointing campaign last year.

Of course, some of the pressure on the Melbourne defence emerges further up the field, with the team having given the ball away a little too easily on occasions as they have adapted to Ange's one-touch passing style, but the leaky back four will still be a concern to the coach.

Central Coast: The biggest issue for Graham Arnold is just how long can the Mariners keep up their hot streak. Central Coast have won four of their last five games, their only blemish coming in a F3 derby loss to the Jets.

But with Daniel McBreen having scored four goals in the last two matches the streak could be extended, especially if Melbourne's defence lapses at any stage.

A more serious issue for the Mariners may be whether to play midfielder Tom Rogic from the start. Rogic has been included in the Australian squad to the clash against South Korea and may be a travel weary after flights to New Zealand, Korea and back home to Australia within a week.

Gamebreaker It will be harsh to ignore McBreen in this category, but that's exactly what we're going to do. Instead, the gamebreaker for this weekend is Melbourne Victory youngster Andrew Nabbout.

Told he wasn't up to standard by several clubs around the traps, Postecoglou recognised something in the 19-year-old and as usual was proved correct. Nabbout debuted for Melbourne in the big loss to the Roar, just 48 hours after doing a mechanical engineering exam at uni, but wrote his name into club folklore last Saturday night by scoring twice in 13 minutes to engineer Victory's win.

Nabbout's first goal was a cracking left-foot strike that took a mean curve into goal while his late headed winner proved the catalyst for Sydney coach Ian Crook's departure.

Prediction Melbourne Victory 1-3 Central Coast: The last time Victory took on the Mariners, it was one of the few highlights of the Jim Magilton era as his side came from behind for a 2-1 win.

The result was sealed by a Harry Kewell goal in the 50th minute, but times have certainly changed for both that player and the Victory since that night last February.

Not so much has changed for Central Coast. They're still on top of the ladder like they were last year, despite numerous changes to their squad and they appear to have enough firepower to get over the line against Victory, especially if Rogic is on his game.

Fans, though, should be prepared for some pretty fancy footwork from both these teams as Marcos Flores and Gui Finkler take on the Mariners' in midfield.