Preview: Sydney FC v Central Coast Mariners

Sydney enjoy a pretty good record against the Mariners losing just five times in 19 clashes between the two clubs since the A-League's inception.

Date: Saturday, November 19 Kick-off: 7.45pm AEDT, 7.45pm Local Venue: Sydney Football Stadium

Head-to-head Played 19: Wins: Sydney FC 8, Central Coast 5, Draws: 6

Previous encounter Central Coast 2, Sydney FC 2, January 23, 2011

History: Sydney enjoy a pretty good record against the Mariners losing just five times in 19 clashes between the two clubs since the A-League's inception. The two sides played out a thrilling 2-2 draw in their last meeting towards the end of last season, when second half goals to Central Coast pair Patricio Perez and Matt Simon cancelled out Dimitri Petratos' first half brace.

Form: Past five matches: Sydney FC: LWDWW Central Coast Mariners: DLWWD

Sydney FC has surged to second on the A-League ladder on the back of a four-game unbeaten run which has included three wins. While their early matches were defined by stirring comebacks, the Sky Blues' 1-0 away win against Perth last weekend was built on old-fashioned hard work, defensive resilience and bucket loads of character. Vitezslav Lavicka seems to have got his defensive shape worked out and with Nicky Carle enjoying a fantastic start to the season, they are also looking dangerous in attack.

The Mariners two-game winning streak hit a mini roadblock last weekend as they were held to a goalless draw by an under-strength Melbourne Victory. But Graham Arnold's side are well-placed in fifth position despite not yet playing their best football.

Match Committee: Sydney have no fresh injury concerns with striker Juho Makela the only player unavailable at the moment. They do lose Rhyan Grant, Sebastian Ryall and Dimitri Petratos to Olyroos duty though. Those losses are offset by the return of Socceroos midfielder Brett Emerton after international duty saw him miss the win over the Glory. Emerton will most likely take the place of Grant in the Sydney midfield in what should be the only change to Sydney's starting XI.

Mariners coach Graham Arnold will also be without a couple of players away with the Olyroos with goalkeeper Matt Ryan and midfielder Oliver Bozanic both playing in the Olympic qualifiers. The Central Coast boss must be considering using young gun Mustafa Amini from the start after coming off the bench in the last three matches. After shooting blanks against the Victory there may be a change of plans in attack with Adam Kwasnik nearing a return to full fitness while Daniel McBreen may also be pushed further forward if Amini comes into the run-on side. Former Sydney midfielder Stuart Musialik won't get the chance to play against his former club, still absent through injury.

Danger men: Nicky Carle - He has always been regarded as one of the most skilful players in the competition but Carle finally seems to be adding consistency to his arsenal this campaign. The one-time Socceroos midfielder has been the key behind the Sky Blues strong start and his assist for Mark Bridge's winner last week is the type of thing the Mariners must prevent if they are to take anything from this trip to the SFS.

Alex Wilkinson - In contrast to Carle, Wilkinson is not the most gifted or flashiest players in the A-League but his importance to the Mariners' chances of success this season are huge. It should come as no surprise that Arnold's side didn't win any of their first three games while their skipper was missing through injury but have picked up seven points from a possible nine since his return. His combination with Patrick Zwaanswijk makes the Mariners one of the best defensive units in the league.

At the end of the day… This promises to be an intriguing encounter with both sides in solid form and looking to keep the pressure on league leaders Brisbane. Sydney are on a two-game winning streak and will be looking to give their home fans some more joy while the Mariners are also on an impressive unbeaten run and will enjoy the clash with their NSW rivals.

Sydney's attacking play has improved considerably on last season but they have still struggled to find the back of the net on a regular basis. Main striker Mark Bridge got the winner last week and that may just be the kick that he needs to start scoring regularly. With the likes of Carle in supreme form, and Emerton, Karol Kisel and Terry Antonis providing the service the former Newcastle Jets man is sure to get a few opportunities on Saturday night. Much of Sydney's hopes against the Mariners could depend on whether or not Bridge packs his goal-scoring boots.

The Mariners have been strong without being totally impressive so far this season. Arnold has stressed it was always going to take time for his side to reach their best after a modified pre-season to ensure no burnt out at the end of the campaign with the club to play in the Asian Champions League in the early stages of 2012. But with the season heading into its seventh week the side should really be well on the pace and if they are serious about improving on last season then this a match they will feel like they should win. Promises to be a real entertaining arm-wrestle. Home ground advantage may get Sydney over the line....but only just.

Teams:

Sydney FC squad: 1. Liam Reddy, 3. Jamie Coyne, 4. Pascal Bosschaart, 5. Michael Beauchamp, 6. Hirofumi Moriyasu, 7. Brett Emerton, 8. Karol Kisel, 9. Bruno Cazarine, 10. Nick Carle, 12. Shannon Cole, 15. Terry McFlynn (c), 17. Terry Antonis, 18. Juho Makela, 19. Mark Bridge, 20. Ivan Necevski, 21. Scott Jamieson *one to be omitted*

Central Coast Mariners squad: 2. Daniel Mcbreen, 3. Joshua Rose, 4. Pedj Bojic, 5. Brad Porter, 6. Patrick Zwaanswijk, 7. John Hutchinson, 8. Rostyn Griffiths, 9. Bernie Ibini, 10. Adriano Pellegrino, 12. Troy Hearfield, 14. Michael Mcglinchey, 16. Trent Sainsbury, 18. Alex Wilkinson, 19. Matt Simon, 20. Justin Pasfield (Gk), 21. Sam Gallagher, 22. Mustafa Amini *three to be omitted* *goalkeeper to be included*