Preview: Sydney FC v Central Coast Mariners
These two teams, who met for a 0-0 draw in Round 3, have been the stingiest defences in the league so far this season, with Sydney conceding seven goals and the Mariners an extraordinary four.
Date: Monday October 5 Kick-off: 3:00pm AEDT Venue: Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney
TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sports 3. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is Coast FM 96.3 (Gosford). To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.com.au
Head-to-head Played 14. Wins: Sydney 6, Central Coast Mariners 4. Draws: 4
Last meeting Central Coast Mariners 0, Sydney FC 0, Bluetongue Stadium, Round 3, August 2009
Past five matches: Sydney FC: Round 4: Sydney FC 2, Wellington Phoenix 0, Sydney Football Stadium Round 5: Gold Coast United 2, Sydney FC 1, Skilled Park Round 6: Sydney FC 0, North Queensland 1, Sydney Football Stadium Round 7: Sydney FC 2, Newcastle Jets 1, Sydney Football Stadium Round 8: Brisbane Roar 1, Sydney FC 0, Suncorp Stadium
Central Coast: Round 4: Brisbane Roar 1, Central Coast 0, Suncorp Stadium Round 5: Central Coast 2, Perth Glory 1, Canberra Stadium Round 6: Adelaide United 1, Central Coast 0, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 7: Central Coast 3, Gold Coast United 0, Bluetongue Stadium Round 8: Wellington Phoenix 0, Central Coast Mariners 0, Westpac Stadium
Analysis: After such a strong start to the season, Sydney FC suddenly finds itself under pressure after three losses in four games. While the Sky Blues still share top spot on the ladder with Perth and Gold Coast, an inferior goal difference sees them placed third overall. On Monday, they come up against the Mariners who are one spot, and one point, behind them.
Neither team would have been particularly pleased with their performance last week, with Sydney returning from Brisbane without any points after being beaten by a late goal from Sergio van Dijk, while Central Coast failed to live up to its efforts against Gold Coast the week before to get a point out of its trip to Wellington with a 0-0 draw.
These two teams, who met for a 0-0 draw in Round 3, have been the stingiest defences in the league so far this season, with Sydney conceding seven goals and the Mariners an extraordinary four. The last time the Mariners were breached was against Perth in Round 2, meaning it has been 278 minutes since Danny Vukovic, who has been the outstanding stopper of the campaign so far, has been beaten.
Lawrie McKinna certainly won't have too many concerns about defence, but will admit that he has a few headaches up the other end after last week's effort against the Phoenix. An average of one goal per match may be servicing them well at the moment, but it puts more pressure on the defence.
McKinna has called in striker Nik Mrdja for this match, while Brad Porter is also included in an extended squad of 17. Shane Huke remains sidelined for at least another week.
Sydney has copped a bit of flak for its more pragmatic approach to its football this year, but it was only a few weeks ago that Vitezslav Lavicka was receiving praise for making Sydney a more consistent side. Sydney wasn't bad against Brisbane, but without John Aloisi lacked some bite up front.
The former Qantas Socceroos striker returns for this match to play his old team in a big boost for the home side. Lavicka also gets some steel back in the spine with Stephan Keller named to return from injury along with Terry McFlynn who was influential in the Sky Blues' strong early-season form.
Sydney's three Qantas Young Socceroos - Kofi Danning, Matthew Jurman and Rhyan Grant - should be back and available for the match against Melbourne next Friday night, while Mitchell Prentice is said to be a week away from returning from a back injury.
There is of course plenty of history in this all-NSW derby. Sydney won the inaugural Hyundai A-League title by beating the Mariners 1-0 in February 2006. Clint Bolton, Steve Corica and Terry McFlynn are the only survivors from that match in the Sydney side, while Central Coast's squad on Monday features four players from that match, Alex Wilkinson, Adam Kwasnik, Vukovic and Dean Heffernan.
The two also played out the highest-scoring Hyundai A-League match a 5-4 win by Sydney in late 2007 in what is widely regarded as the best game in the competition's four-and-a-bit-year history.
Sydney FC squad: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 2. Sebastian RYALL, 3. Stephan KELLER, 4. Simon COLOSIMO, 6. Karol KISEL, 7. Brendan GAN, 8. Stuart MUSIALIK, 9. John ALOISI, 10. Steve CORICA (c), 12. Shannon COLE, 13. Antony GOLEC, 14. Alex BROSQUE, 15.Terry MCFLYNN, 16. Chris PAYNE, 18. Adam CASEY, 19. Mark BRIDGE, 20. Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 22. Sung Hwan BYUN *three to be omitted*
In: Stephan KELLER (returns from injury), John ALOISI (returns from injury), Terry MCFLYNN (returns from injury)
Unavailable: Mitchell PRENTICE (back - 1 week), Kofi DANNING (international duty), Matthew JURMAN (international duty), Rhyan GRANT (international duty)
Central Coast Mariners squad: Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 2. Matthew CROWELL, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Brad PORTER, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Dean HEFFERNAN, 9. Nik MRDJA, 11. Dylan MACALLISTER, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 15. Andrew CLARK, 16. Nigel BOOGAARD, 17. Chris DOIG, 18. Alex WILKINSON (c), 19. Matt SIMON, 20. 22. Nicky TRAVIS, 23. Adam KWASNIK, 30. Matthew RYAN (gk) *two to be omitted*
In: Brad PORTER (return from injury), Nik MRDJA (promoted)
Unavailable: Shane HUKE (knee - 1 week)