After watching the Mariners go down 3-1 at home to Melbourne Victory on Saturday, Phil Moss admitted Central Coast, much-changed from the outfit that won the title under Graham Arnold, are no longer the 'championship team' but merely the 'championship club'. Arnold's former assistant has a tough job on his hands integrating a clutch of reinforcements as the Gosford side attempt to muster a respectable defence of their crown.
They are unlikely to have an easy time of it on Friday night away to an Adelaide team who thumped them 4-0 at Coopers Stadium in December, and who have only lost once since then to march into fifth on the table. Now just three points behind third-placed Central Coast following a 3-0 win away to Sydney FC on Saturday, Josep Gombau's side are flying high and could yet mount a realistic challenge for silverware.
2. Sydney FC must appease their enraged supporters
There were ugly scenes for all associated with the Sky Blues at Allianz Stadium on Saturday, as active supporters in The Cove demonstrated against head coach Frank Farina and senior members of the club's administration. Farina had a glass of beer thrown over him by one irate fan, prompting him to call for covered dugouts to replace the A-League's traditional touchline garden chairs.
Nick Carle did his best to breach a message of unity when interviewed by Fox Sports after the game, but rumours of a dressing room riven by internal divisions are unlikely to abate unless results begin to improve, starting with the visit of Perth Glory on Saturday. The Western Australian side doesn't always travel well, but this is a good an opportunity as any to pick up three points away from nib Stadium.
|FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE|
|Click here to catch all the action from Friday night's A-League game LIVE|
3. Business as usual for Brisbane Roar?
The league leaders and title favourites conceded late to drop two points away to direct rivals Western Sydney last Friday, but they retained their comfortable seven-point buffer at the top of the table. Inconsistent Newcastle lost at home to Wellington and are now just five points off bottom spot as Melbourne Heart's revival continues. Travelling north to Suncorp Stadium, the Jets appear ripe for the taking, with Brisbane seeking revenge after suffering shock losses to the Hunter region outfit both home and away earlier this season.
4. Cake Tin the venue for clash of the late-bloomers
When Wellington travelled to play Melbourne Heart on December 27, the Phoenix had won only once that season, while the red and whites remained winless and hapless. Ernie Merrick's men took the points at AAMI Park and haven't looked back, while Heart sacked John Aloisi and turned to inaugural coach John van 't Schip.
Both teams have since gone from strength to strength, with Wellington having won six of their last eight and the Heart unbeaten in four, taking maximum points in three of those games. The Kiwis are now into the finals positions, with Heart only eight points behind them. This looks like being the moment when the uncanny revival orchestrated by Van 't Schip runs out of steam, but we've been saying that for several weeks now and the Heart just keep on winning. An intriguing contest looms at Westpac Stadium.