Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory

It’s been a long week for Victory off the field, but on the field it’s smooth sailing, with Melbourne two points clear on top of the table after a brave win over Adelaide.

Date: Saturday September 20
Kick-off: 7:00pm AEST
Venue: Bluetongue Central Coast Stadium
TV and Radio: Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 2 and delayed coverage on Sky Sports 3. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is Coast FM (Gosford) 96.3FM. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.com.au

Nine A-League meetings: Central Coast – 3 wins, Melbourne – 4 wins, Draws – 2

Previous meeting
Central Coast Mariners 2, Melbourne Victory 5, Round 18, December 2007

Results so far
Central Coast:
Round 1: Newcastle Jets 1, Central Coast Mariners 1, EnergyAustralia Stadium
Round 2: Central Coast Mariners 2, Sydney FC 3, Bluetongue Central Coast Stadium
Round 3: Queensland Roar 2, Central Coast Mariners 4, Suncorp Stadium
Round 4: Wellington Phoenix 0, Central Coast Mariners 0, Westpac Stadium

Round 1: Sydney FC 0, Melbourne Victory 0, SFS
Round 2: Wellington Phoenix 2, Melbourne Victory 4, Westpac Stadium
Round 3: Melbourne Victory 5, Newcastle Jets 0, Telstra Dome
Round 4: Melbourne Victory 1, Adelaide United 0, Telstra Dome

It’s been a long week for Victory off the field, but on the field it’s smooth sailing, with Melbourne two points clear on top of the table after a brave win over Adelaide. That made it three wins from four matches and Melbourne is well poised after the first month of the season.

The pleasing aspect for the club is that those three wins have all come in contrasting circumstances. After putting Wellington and Newcastle to the sword with big wins, Melbourne was forced to scrap hard against a disciplined Adelaide defence. While it was Kevin Muscat who secured the win with a goal from a penalty rebound, it was Archie Thompson who won the spot kick. The recently re-signed star has been in very good form since returning from an ankle injury and continues to play a major role in the side’s success.

Ney Fabiano’s suspension leaves coach Ernie Merrick with a few decisions to make in attack. Does he continue with his attacking plan and push Carlos Hernandez up with Allsopp and Thompson, or does he revert to a more traditional system with the Costa Rican filling the hole behind a front two?

Jose Luis Lopez returns from international duty in a big boost for the visitors. While Leigh Broxham and Billy Celeski did a very good job last week, Lopez adds that touch of experience at the back end of the midfield and his creative use of the ball going forward will give Melbourne plenty of attacking options.

Michael Thwaite is also back after getting over a niggling ankle injury and will likely settle in next to Kevin Muscat and Rody Vargas at the back, in place of Seb Ryall, who did a solid job last week.

Central Coast, needing to win this match to keep Melbourne within its sights, has signalled its attacking intentions by including two strikers in Nik Mrdja and Dylan Maccallister.

Lawrie McKinna has this match pegged as an important litmus test for his team which has been solid without being spectacular this season. After gathering considerable momentum with a 4-2 win over the Roar in Brisbane, the Mariners emerged with just the one point in Wellington last week.

McKinna said his team are especially keen to perform well in front of their home crowd, considering this is just their second home game of the season. Last time Melbourne went to Gosford, on New Year’s Eve last year, they hammered the Mariners 5-2, playing them on the counter attack and getting great results.

It will be interesting to see if McKinna gambles with a flat back four pushed high up as he did that day. That seemed to play into Melbourne’s hands, giving Allsopp, Thompson and Hernandez plenty of space to work with.

There’s plenty in this for both sides, with a win to Melbourne putting it as much as five points clear on top while a win to the Mariners gets them within two points of Victory.

Central Coast Mariners Squad. 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Bradley PORTER, 6. David D’APUZZO, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 9. Nik MRDJA, 10. Adrian CACERES, 11. Dylan MACALLISTER, 13. Paul O’GRADY, 15. Andrew CLARK, 16. Nigel BOOGAARD, 17. Matthew OSMAN, 18. Alex WILKINSON, 19. Matt SIMON, 22. Sasho PETROVSKI, 23. Mile JEDINAK, 30. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 40. Mark BOSNICH (gk).
*Two to be omitted.

In. 9. Nik MRDJA (Returns from Illness), 11. Dylan MACALLISTER (Returns from Illness).
Out. Nil.
Unavailable. 2. Andre GUMPRECHT (Knee – Indefinite), 8. Dean HEFFERNAN (Leg – Indefinite), 12. Greg OWENS (Hamstring – Indefinite), 20. Danny VUKOVIC (Suspended – 3 rounds), 21. Ahmad ELRICH (Knee – Season).

Melbourne Victory Squad. 1.Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (Captain), 3.Michael THWAITE, 5.Sebastian RYALL, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 9.Danny ALLSOPP, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 14.Billy CELESKI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Jose Luis LOPEZ, 19.Evan BERGER. 20.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk).

In. Michael THWAITE (return from injury), Jose Luis LOPEZ (return from international duty).
Out. NEY FABIANO (suspended – 9 weeks), Steven PACE (omitted).
Unavailable. Nick WARD (calf – 3 weeks).

Victory memberships for the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season are currently available from the Victory Shop, 236 Swan Street, Richmond, by calling 1300 GO MVFC or online by clicking here.