Preview: Wellington Phoenix v Central Coast Mariners

Ricki Herbert's side needs to address their recent results against the Mariners. In six previous encounters, the Phoenix have failed to pick up a single point.

Date: Saturday December 22, 2012 Kick-off: 5.00pm NZDT, 3.00pm AEDT Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington Head-to-head Played: 16, Wins: Wellington Phoenix 5, Central Coast Mariners 9, Draws: 2

Previous encounter Wellington Phoenix 0 Central Coast Mariners 1, November 11 2012

Form: Past five matches: Wellington Phoenix: WDWLL Central Coast Mariners: DWWWW

The Game Wellington and league leaders Central Coast meet for the second time in just over a month at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.

The Mariners emerged 1-0 victors from their trip across the Tasman in week six of the Hyundai A-League, a result which condemned the Phoenix to a third successive defeat.

And Wellington head into Saturday's clash facing a similar situation after a difficult fortnight.

A three-match winning streak came to an end against Sydney FC two weeks ago and that was followed by a loss to high-flying Adelaide United last weekend.

Those two defeats have left the Phoenix with the possibility of ending the round at the foot of the Hyundai A-League table if results go against them this weekend.

Central Coast, on the other hand, continue to set the pace and could extend their lead at the summit to as much as four points.

Coach Graham Arnold has his team playing great football, which has resulted in an eight-game unbeaten streak, with their last loss coming against the Newcastle Jets in the F3 Derby on October 20.

The Big Issue Wellington Phoenix: Ricki Herbert's side needs to address their recent results against the Mariners. In six previous encounters, with four of those on home soil, the Phoenix have failed to pick up a single point.

That period of games has also seen the Wellington outfit find the net just twice, while shipping 11 goals at the other end. Added to this, the Phoenix will have to turn things around without key striker Paul Ifill, who is out for at least a month following ankle surgery.

Central Coast: How long can the Mariners juggernaut roll on? 22 points out of a possible 24 from their past eight matches has the team on track for a second successive minor premiership. But Arnold has already laid down the gauntlet for his playing group, challenging them to find a new level ahead of another finals campaign.

Gamebreaker Daniel McBreen: You cannot look past the competition's leading scorer, who tops the charts with nine goals from 11 games. No one could have foreseen the 35-year-old's stellar season to date after a difficult 2011/12 campaign that yielded only two goals.

The former Perth Glory and North Queensland striker did not make it on the scoresheet against Melbourne Heart last week but he is due for a big day out in Wellington.

Prediction: Wellington 2-3 Central Coast. Although they were beaten by Adelaide, there was plenty to like about Wellington. Youngsters Tyler Boyd and Louis Fenton caused problems for the Reds defenders in the second half. Central Coast, however, are an even bigger task and their form and recent record at Westpac should be enough to get them over the line.