Preview: Sydney FC v Central Coast

The Mariners are as comfortable at home as a testosterone-filled teenager on a Saturday night.

Date: Wednesday December 23 Kick-off: 7:30pm AEDST Venue: Sydney Football Stadium TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 2 and Sky Sports 1. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is Coast FM 96.3 (Gosford). To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.com.au

Head-to-head 15 A-League meetings: Sydney FC 7 wins, Central Coast Mariners 4 wins,4 draws.

Previous Meeting Sydney FC 1, Central Coast 0, Round 9, 5 October, 2009

Past five matches: Sydney FC: Round 15: Perth 2, Sydney FC 0, Members Equity Stadium Round 16: Sydney FC 1, Newcastle 3, Sydney Football Stadium Round 17: Sydney FC 4, North Queensland 1, Sydney Football Stadium Round 18: Wellington 0, Sydney FC 1, FMG Stadium Round 20: Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney FC 0, Etihad Stadium

Central Coast: Round 15: North Queensland Fury 1, Central Coast Mariners 5, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 16: Central Coast Mariners 0, Perth Glory 0, Bluetongue Stadium Round 17: Gold Coast United 2, Central Coast Mariners 1, Skilled Park Round 18: Central Coast Mariners 0, Melbourne Victory 3, Bluetongue Stadium Round 20: Central Coast 2, Brisbane Roar 3, Bluetongue Stadium

Analysis: Lawrie McKinna breathes a sigh of relief each time the Central Coast team bus pulls out of Bluetongue Stadium headed for an away destination.

The Mariners are as comfortable at home as a testosterone-filled teenager on a Saturday night.

They have won just once at Bluetongue Stadium this season, prompting one fan to quip: "Forget Bluetongue; they should re-name it 'Losetongue Stadium'."

So the trip south for a Christmas catch-up with big brother in Sydney won't faze McKinna or his lads.

After picking up just one point in their last four outings, these are desperate times for a Mariners side in freefall.

They cling onto sixth spot but have a host of clubs breathing down their necks.

There are timely returns from suspension for John Hutchinson and Dean Heffernan, while Nik Mrdja and Matthew Crowell have been added to an enlarged squad.

After conceding eight goals in three games, it's at the back that Central Coast must improve if it's to halt the Sky Blues.

Sydney hasn't lost for a month as it keeps the pressure on league leader Melbourne.

The imposing Simon Colosimo has served his one-match ban and returns to shore up the defence while striker John Aloisi is fit again but unlikely to play.

The F3 derby traditionally brings the best out in the Mariners and they will be relying on the occasion to lift them from their recent troubles.

But a draw looks their best bet, with Sydney's near impeccable home form (six wins from eight) sure to prove irresistible to punters hoping to collect some late Christmas loot.

Teams: Sydney FC squad: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 2. Sebastian RYALL, 3.Stephan KELLER, 4. Simon COLISIMO, 6. Karol KISEL, 7. Brendan GAN, 8. Stuart MUSIALIK, 9. John ALOISI, 10. Steve CORICA (c), 12. Shannon COLE, 14. Alex BROSQUE, 15. Terry MCFLYNN, 16. Chris PAYNE, 19. Mark BRIDGE, 20. Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 22. Sung Hwan BYUN, 23. Rhyan GRANT *two to be omitted*

In: Simon COLOSIMO (returns from suspension), John ALOISI (returns from injury)

Out: Adam CASEY (suspended - 1 week)

Unavailable: Kofi DANNING (knee - season)

Central Coast Mariners squad: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 2. Matthew CROWELL, 3. Shane HUKE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Brad PORTER, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Dean HEFFERNAN, 9. Nik MRDJA, 11. Dylan MACALLISTER, 12. Matthew LEWIS, 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. *four to be omitted*

In: John HUTCHINSON (returns from suspension), Dean HEFFERNAN (returns from suspension), Nik MRDJA (promoted), Matthew CROWELL (promoted)

Out: Nil

Unavailable: Chris DOIG (quad - 1 week)