Preview: Melbourne Victory v Central Coast Mariners
This top-four clash pits two teams desperate to stamp their credentials on the upcoming finals series having suffered defeats last week.
Date: Friday January 16 Kick-off: 8:00pm AEDT Venue: Telstra Dome, Melbourne
TV and Radio: The match will be broadcast live and exclusively on Fox Sports 1, with radio coverage on 1116 SEN. Tickets are available from any Ticketmaster outlet, by calling 136 100 or online through www.ticketmaster.com.au.
Head-to-head 11 A-League meetings: Melbourne Victory - 5 wins, Central Coast - 3 wins, Draws - 3
Previous meeting Melbourne Victory 2, Central Coast Mariners 1, Telstra Dome, Round 12, November 2008
Past Five Matches Melbourne Round 16: Newcastle Jets 4, Melbourne Victory 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 17: Melbourne Victory 3, Sydney FC 2, Telstra Dome Round 18: Melbourne Victory 2, Queensland Roar 1, Telstra Dome Round 15: Melbourne Victory 1, Adelaide United 0, Telstra Dome Round 19: Perth Glory 3, Melbourne Victory 2, Members Equity Stadium
Central Coast: Round 15: Central Coast Mariners 2, Sydney FC 1, Bluetongue Stadium Round 16: Wellington Phoenix 1, Central Coast Mariners 0, Westpac Stadium Round 17: Newcastle Jets 1, Central Coast Mariners 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 18: Central Coast Mariners 1, Perth Glory 0, Bluetongue Stadium Round 19: Central Coast Mariners 3, Queensland Roar 4, Bluetongue Stadium
Analysis This top-four clash pits two teams desperate to stamp their credentials on the upcoming finals series having suffered defeats last week. Melbourne crashed 3-2 to Perth, while the Mariners scored three but conceded four as they failed to seal a top-four spot in the match against Queensland.
Central Coast still needs another three points to ensure Wellington doesn't leapfrog it into the finals in the next two weeks and Lawrie McKinna will be hoping to alter a trend which has seen the Mariners beat the Victory just once in their past eight clashes.
The Mariners have never beaten Melbourne at Telstra Dome and lost 2-1 there in November, something that will no doubt be on the Mariners coach's mind heading into this clash. He has Matt Simon in great form with the young striker scoring a brace last week, but questions remain over the ability of the Mariners to defend well without Mile Jedinak screening the back four.
Experienced pair Greg Owens and Paul O'Grady come into an extended squad while Matthew Osman will be out for some time with a groin injury.
Melbourne has included Michael Thwaite, with Matthew Kemp suspended, and may bring him straight in to counteract the strength of Dylan Macallister and Matt Simon. Ney Fabiano could be also a chance to come in to the starting line-up, having performed well as a substitute, with Carlos Hernandez to start off the bench if the Brazilian gets the nod.
The Victory's loss to Perth last week continued a miserable recent away record, but the return to Telstra Dome, where they won their previous three matches, is an undoubted boost. Whether the defeat in the Perth heat was just an uncharacteristic performance or a sign of a downward trend will be determined by how they perform in this match.
Archie Thompson, without a goal since the December 27 match against Sydney, will certainly be a key figure here having scored four goals in the past three matches against the Mariners, while the recent goalscoring form of Danny Allsopp should see the Mariners defenders in for a busy night.
These are by far the two most prolific attacking teams in the competition, with Melbourne having scored 34 goals and Central Coast 35 in the 19 games to date. They have also both conceded more goals than their other top four rivals, so expect plenty of goalmouth action on what should be thrilling night.
Melbourne Victory: 1.Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (Captain), 3.Michael THWAITE, 5.Sebastian RYALL, 8.Grant BREBNER, 9.Danny ALLSOPP, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 14.Billy CELESKI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Jose Luis LOPEZ, 20.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 22.Nick WARD.
In. Michael THWAITE (promoted) Out. Matthew KEMP (suspended - 1 week) Unavailable. Nil.
Central Coast Mariners: 2.Andre GUMPRECHT, 4.Pedj BOJIC, 5.Bradley PORTER, 7.John HUTCHINSON, 8.Dean HEFFERNAN, 9.Nik MRDJA, 10.Adrian CACERES, 11.Dylan MACALLISTER, 12.Greg OWENS, 13.Paul O'GRADY, 15.Andrew CLARK, 18.Alex WILKINSON, 19.Matt SIMON, 20.Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 22.Sasho PETROVSKI, 30.Andrew REDMAYNE (gk) *One to be omitted
In. 12.Greg OWENS (Promoted), 13.Paul O'GRADY (Promoted) Out 17.Matthew OSMAN (Groin - Indefinite) Unavailable 6.David D'APUZZO (Knee - Indefinite), 16.Nigel BOOGAARD (Groin - Indefinite), 21.Ahmad ELRICH (Knee - Season)