Many would have this season's title already won by the Brisbane Roar, but the Mariners and the Glory will beg to differ. Who will progress to the A-League's grand final?
CENTRAL COAST MARINERS
Bojic, Wilkinson, Zwaanswijk, Rose
McGlinchley, Bozanic, Hutchinson, Rogic
Risdon, van den Brink, Pantelidis, Heffernan
Dodd, Miller, Burns, Andrezinho
Only 90 minutes separates these two sides with a chance to play in the showpiece event of the A-League.
All season has come down to this game where it is win or go home.
After the longest pre-season in A-League history, exiting the season one match before the grand final looms as a painful prospect, and both teams will be using this as an added incentive to the decider.
The Central Coast Mariners come into this match off the back of an encouraging performance against the grand final hosts Brisbane Roar in the second leg of the major semi-final. After trailing 2-0 from the first leg, the Mariners task was nearly impossible as Johnny Warren medallist Thomas Broich scored from a long-range free-kick two minutes into the game.
Brisbane showed why they were last season's champions, playing quality football and doubling their lead through Mitch Nichols. The second goal would have killed most teams, but the Mariners showed immense fight.
Four goals behind on aggregate and needing five in 60 minutes to turn the tie, goals from Patrick Zwaanswijk and Adam Kwasnik within five minutes of Brisbane's second levelled the match. Brisbane finished the game off in the 60th minute, but the Mariners deserved more, having created a host of chances and also having a penalty turned down.
Perth, on the other hand, progress to preliminary final after prevailing in the in one of the A-League's more memorable finals against the Wellington Phoenix.
Perth opened the scoring through Bas van der Brink and controlled play until the Phoenix turned the game around courtesy of goals to Chris Greenacre and Manny Muscat. Could this game get any better? It could, when Billy Mehmet tore the roof of nib Stadium with his 72nd-minute strike and sent the game to extra time.
Both sides had their chances to win, but Todd Howard's tight finish ended Wellington's season in a thriller. Around 13,500 fans witnessed a cracker that will live in their memories for some time.
In the recent history of matches between the Mariners and the Glory, the former hold sway and have won two of their three meetings this season.
Perth, however, won their last clash, at the nib Stadium, after Mariners goalkeeper Mat Ryan gifted the home side the points with an uncharacteristic howler.
Beside's winning the Premiers Plate, the Mariners' form has been patchy compared to that of Perth.
Perth have won their last three games, scoring 10 goals in the process.
Striker Shane Smeltz has been key to that with seven goals in three games, and Glory's confidence is high after farewelling their fans at home in a thriller.
On the other hand, the Mariners have only won three of their last 11 games after stumbling late in the campaign.
The Mariners played a friendly against Marconi Stallions on Wednesday, with the match crucial for several players who have had scant first-team opportunities. Central Coast must turn their attentions to the AFC Champions League on Wednesday, and claimed a 2-1 win in the friendly.
Graham Arnold will have to chose between four strikers to fill two positions. John Sutton and Adam Kwasnik started against Brisbane and worked well.
Daniel McBreen or Bernie Ibini, however, both add different qualities. Ibini has raw pace and an X-factor, while McBreen works hard for his side and uses his ample experience. Arnold has struggled to find his No.1 partnership up front since the departure of Matt Simon in December, and has not been scared to base his selection around his side's opponents.
The rest of Arnold's XI has been rather more settled, and he is unlikely to change much behind his front duo, meaning Mustafa Amini will likely have to be content among the substitutes.
Perth head into the match with a full set of players to chose from and without new injury concerns, with the midfielders Liam Miller and Jacob Burns getting through the match against the Phoenix.
Coach Ian Ferguson has decided to retain the same starting XI that won against Wellington, meaning key midfielder Steven McGarry again starts on the bench.
Instead, Mehmet - scorer of the key equaliser in the Scot's absence against the Phoenix - keeps his starting place.Given the weight of the occasion, neither side need motivation. All the talk may be about the Roar's gathering title defence, but the right to stride out on Suncorp Stadium on April 22 will be keenly fought for indeed.
||DID YOU KNOW?|
- Perth have never won at Bluetongue Stadium and have only picked up one draw.
- The Central Coast have scored 35 goals against Perth, while the Glory only have 18 in their meetings with the Mariners.
- Mariners defender Pedj Bojic will play his 100th match if he takes part.
- The four previous preliminary finals teams to lose the major semi-final have made it to the grand final. If history is on their side, the Mariners should advance.
- Perth have only won three games against the Mariners in 21.