Preview: Wellington Phoenix v Central Coast Mariners

This is the opportunity for Central Coast to not only finish the season on a positive note and with some winning momentum, but also to secure top spot on the table and a home final the following week against Brisbane.

Date: Sunday 25 March, 2012 Kick-off: 4.00pm NZDT, 2.00pm AEDT Venue: Westpac Stadium

Head-to-head Played: 15 Wins: Wellington 5, Central Coast 8, Draws: 2

Previous encounter Central Coast 2, Wellington 0, Bluetongue Stadium, December 2011

History: Well, there's a fair chance there could be a result in this game as there hasn't been a draw between these sides since a 0-0 stalemate back in September 2009.

Since then, Wellington won three consecutive clashes before the Mariners responded with four-straight wins of their own.

This season, Central Coast earned a hard-fought 2-1 win in the first contest of the season through a late Matt Simon winner, while the second clash ended 2-0 as Tom Rogic and Patrick Zwaanswijk scored.

Interestingly enough, it was a victory by the Mariners over Wellington back in early 2008 that consigned Ricki Herbert's men to the wooden spoon that season.

Form: Past five matches: Wellington: LWWDL Central Coast: DLDLW

Summary of form: The Mariners returned to winning ways against Adelaide last weekend but coach Graham Arnold will be still somewhat concerned his side have won just two of their past eight Hyundai A-League matches.

As a result, they've gone from almost certainties to win the Premiers' Plate to needing a last-round win over the Phoenix to guarantee top spot on the table.

Phoenix, meanwhile, had been enjoying a good run of form, but came up against a fired-up Melbourne Victory last Friday night and were demolished 3-0.

This couldn't be put down to any travel factor as the Phoenix had been in Melbourne for eight days heading into the clash as they had played a 1-1 draw with Heart the week before.

But maybe it was just one of those days for Wellington, especially as many Melbourne players had a point to prove after a week of savage commentary on their form in the media.

Match Committee: In good signs for both these sides, both coaches have full squads to work with heading into the final round of the season. Phoenix were perhaps somewhat fortunate that Manny Muscat escaped any punishment for his clash with former teammate Marco Rojas, which left the Melbourne Victory youngster with a broken jaw.

It will be interesting to see how Graham Arnold shuffles his squad though, especially as they have played an AFC Champions League match mid-week before making the flight to New Zealand.

Danger men: Andrew Durante - He's not so much a danger man, seeing as he's only ever scored two goals for Wellington, but the Phoenix skipper brings up his 100th match for the club this week and that's something worth celebrating.

Patrick Zwaanswijk - The towering Dutchman is always a player to be respected by opposition sides. Having scored a powerful header in the Mariners' AFC Champions League draw with Nagoya Grampus midway through the week, Zwaanswijk now has six goals from 25 appearances in all competitions this season.

At the end of the day… This shapes as an interesting clash heading into the finals, as there's plenty riding on it for both sides.

This is the opportunity for Central Coast to not only finish the season on a positive note and with some winning momentum, but also to secure top spot on the table and a home final the following week against Brisbane.

For Phoenix, it's a similar scenario as they could possibly secure third on the table, depending on Perth's result against Victory, and if that was the case they could earn two home finals at Westpac Stadium. Judging on what happened last time, when close to 30,000 locals rocked up to the Phoenix finals in 2010, the crowd factor could be a significant advantage indeed for Herbert's men.

More importantly for Wellington, they'll be looking to build some momentum of their own after last week's shock 3-0 loss to Victory for heading into a finals series with consecutive defeats is hardly ideal.

At any rate, judging on the past, a result in this match is almost a foregone conclusion, but don't discount the Mariners doing the job in New Zealand for a second time this season.

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