A-League preview: Western Sydney Wanderers v Central Coast Mariners
In what is the match of the round, the Mariners face a tough test when they travel to Parramatta Stadium to face the in-form Wanderers
WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS
Polenz, Topor-Stanley, La Rocca, Cole
Trifiro, Ono, Poljak, Mooy
CENTRAL COAST MARINERS
Bojic, Sainsbury, Anderson, Rose
Bozanic, Montgomery, Hutchinson McGlinchey, McBreen, Sterjovski
Once again, the Mariners are leading the way at the top of the A-League table, two points ahead of second-placed Adelaide.
But they face a tough task on Sunday as they travel to Parramatta to take on the competition's surprise packets, with the Wanderers just seven points off the top in third.
Both clubs also head into this encounter buoyed by hard-fought wins in games many thought they would struggle in over the New Year period.
For the Wanderers, the pundits believed the in-form Melbourne Victory were a good thing to break down Western Sydney's resolute defence.
But Tony Popovic's side produced a solid 2-1 victory over Melbourne via a brilliant two goals from Shinji Ono.
Popovic regards Aaron Mooy from suspension, and he will likely replace Youssouf Hersi - to miss for the same reason - in midfield. Captain Michael Beauchamp is also suspended, while striker Dino Kresinger has a knee complaint.
Iacopo La Rocca is likely to move into defence to replace Beauchamp, with Jason Trifiro a chance to replace him in midfield and Labinot Haliti or Joey Gibbs favourite to come in for Kresinger.
Central Coast, meanwhile, maintained their historical dominance over Perth Glory in a 1-0 win on New Year's Eve.
The Mariners were expected to struggle as they headed into that encounter without key players Tomas Rogic, John Hutchinson, Daniel McBreen [all suspension] and Patrick Zwaanswijk [groin], but Graham Arnold's undermanned side showed their fighting spirit as they battled to a 1-0 win.
It was hardly classic stuff from the Mariners and Bernie Ibini's goal was fairly dubious, but Central Coast still found a way to win with a second-string side and it is wins like that that sometimes are the most character building of all.
McBreen and Hutchinson return for the Mariners and could replace Adam Kwasnik and Adriano Pellegrino respectively, while Ibini could also get a start.
The two meanest defences in the A-League come up against each other so do not expect an absolute goal-fest in this one.
The Mariners have conceded just 10 goals this season while Western Sydney have shipped 11.
Those records are primarily responsible for these sides being in first and third respectively on the table, but it will probably means goals will be hard to come by on Sunday.
But what fans will get to see, however, will be an absorbing contest between two high-quality sides, who will look to pick each other apart and find a way through each other's impregnable defence.
It could be scoreless, but it will certainly be intense.
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Top 3 Predictions
Western Sydney Wanderers 2-2 Central Coast Mariners
- 14.29 %
Western Sydney Wanderers 1-0 Central Coast Mariners
- 14.29 %
Western Sydney Wanderers 2-1 Central Coast Mariners
- 14.29 %
|Australia - A-League (AUS1)||12/10/2013||Central Coast Mariners 1 - Western Sydney Wanderers 1|
|Australia - A-League (AUS1)||21/04/2013||Western Sydney Wanderers 0 - Central Coast Mariners 2|
|Australia - A-League (AUS1)||02/03/2013||Central Coast Mariners 0 - Western Sydney Wanderers 1|
|Australia - A-League (AUS1)||06/01/2013||Western Sydney Wanderers 0 - Central Coast Mariners 2|
|Australia - A-League (AUS1)||06/10/2012||Western Sydney Wanderers 0 - Central Coast Mariners 0|
|Western Sydney Wanderers|
|14/12/2013||Newcastle Jets 0 - Western Sydney Wanderers 1||AUS1|
|07/12/2013||Western Sydney Wanderers 1 - Melbourne Heart 1||AUS1|
|01/12/2013||Wellington Phoenix 0 - Western Sydney Wanderers 0||AUS1|
|22/11/2013||Brisbane Roar 3 - Western Sydney Wanderers 1||AUS1|
|16/11/2013||Western Sydney Wanderers 1 - Melbourne Victory 0||AUS1|
|Central Coast Mariners|
|19/12/2013||Central Coast Mariners 1 - Wellington Phoenix 0||AUS1|
|14/12/2013||Adelaide United 4 - Central Coast Mariners 0||AUS1|
|07/12/2013||Central Coast Mariners 1 - Sydney FC 0||AUS1|
|29/11/2013||Central Coast Mariners 0 - Melbourne Victory 0||AUS1|
|23/11/2013||Perth Glory 1 - Central Coast Mariners 2||AUS1|
|-||Iacopo La Rocca||Midfielder|
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed