The run home | Central Coast Mariners

Three home games out of five matches, a home they have made a fortress, seems another Premier's Plate is on the cards.

Team: Central Coast Mariners

Current position: First | 45 points

The run home: Wanderers (H), Sydney (A), Roar (H), Adelaide (A), Heart (H)

The question: Can they keep up the pace? For a little while there, some people had the idea the Mariners might be slipping right when it mattered most. Then they battered Melbourne Victory in such style as to send out a warning to the rest of the competition: we-ve just raised the bar - we-ll meet you all there when we-re celebrating at the end of the season.

And yet, Graham Arnold-s side don-t have it all their own way, thanks mainly to the red-and-black snowball that is Western Sydney. Only Tony Popovic-s team can match the Mariners consistency and self-belief.

But the Mariners had the same last season with Brisbane Roar, and as we reach the business end of the season, will the reigning premiers- experience keep them in front?

The big match: Round 23 v Western Sydney Wanderers The Mariners demolition of Victory set the stage for an absolute blockbuster at Bluetongue Stadium as the two teams of the season go head-to-head.

The home side might only have a buffer of one solitary point but that could be enough to keep them in control. The Mariners have the high ground - just - and Arnold-s team are too organised to give it up easily. If the Wanderers want top spot they-re going to have to give it everything, against the team that have scored 12 more goals and conceded the same. It-s a mouth-watering prospect.

The Player: Daniel McBreen It-s pretty hard to single out any individual from Arnie-s army but the form of the season-s surprise top scorer will be crucial to their sprint to the finish.

There are, of course, a host of players supplying McBreen with the kind of balls he feeds off but you shouldn-t discount the sheer presence and work rate that has given him his best season to date.

We say: If they can get past the Wanderers, there-s no reason the Mariners can-t charge home to a second successive premiership. No disrespect to Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide or Melbourne Heart - but none of those teams have come close to matching Central Coast-s level of performance this season.

Prediction: First | 58 points