Old adversaries Graham Arnold and Ange Postecoglou square off again, with both the Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne Victory seeking a return to winning form
|By GOAL AUSTRALIA
CENTRAL COAST MARINERS
Bojic, Sainsbury, Zwaanswijk, RoseMontgomery, Hutchinson, McGlinchey
Ibini, McBreen, Sterjovski
Galloway, Mullen, Leijer, Traore
Celeski, Milligan, BroxhamRojas, Stella, Nabbout
After both suffering 2-1 defeats last round, the two Premiers' Plate aspirants will be keen to reassert themselves - particularly as challenger Western Sydney has won 10 of their past 12 games.
The Mariners still remain in top spot - one point clear of the Wanderers - despite a loss against Perth and draws against Newcastle and Brisbane among their last five games.
With their AFC Champions League campaign kicking off against Suwon Bluewings only four days after this clash, Graham Arnold will be keen to get a win against a finals rival before the fixture list becomes congested.
As the games mount up, Arnold will be thankful that he has a fit squad to choose from. And after the loss to Perth, attackers Mitchell Duke and Nick Fitzgerald may feature following a toothless display from the Mariners forwards.
Arnold has almost a full squad to choose from, with only season-ending knee injury victim Adam Kwasnik unavailable.
With consecutive losses against Western Sydney and Adelaide, Ange Postecoglou's men have dropped to third position - six points behind Central Coast - and will not want to let that gap get any larger with only seven games to play.
Victory's have a few injury problems, with star forward Archie Thompson [hamstring] to miss the clash and Nick Ansell's absence through a groin injury expected to continue for the remainder of the home-and-away season.
Their latest blow is the likely absence of marquee man Marcos Flores, who has suffered a quad strain. Francesco Stella will replace him, ensuring Victory's front line - also including Marco Rojas and Andrew Nabbout - is a youthful one.
The defence, however, will be bolstered by the return of Adama Traore from suspension, while young winger Connor Pain put his hand up for a start after coming on as a substitute and scoring his debut goal against the Wanderers.
New central defensive pairing Adrian Leijer and Daniel Mullen had a tough initiation against Western Sydney and it will not get any easier against Daniel McBreen, Bernie Ibini and co.
There will be several intriguing battles to keep an eye on, and both coaches are known for the original tactics.
The game will be won and lost down the flanks, with both sides funnelling the majority of their possession down these avenues.
Thompson being absent may hand the advantage to Central Coast, but expect an absorbing battle that could go down to the wire.