Preview: Victory v Central Coast Mariners

Matches between these two teams have traditionally produced a lot of goals – 29 in the past nine encounters and they have generally favoured the away team.

Date: Thursday November 18
Kick-off: 7:30pm AEDT,
Venue: AAMI Park
Television: Live and exclusive on Fox Sports 1 from 7:00pm AEDT
Match Centre:

Played 16: Wins: Melbourne Victory 7, Central Coast 6, Draws: 3

Previous Meeting
Central Coast Mariners 2, Melbourne Victory 0, Bluetongue Stadium, September 2010

Why we don’t like ’em
Matches between these two teams have traditional produced a lot of goals – 29 in the past nine encounters and they have generally favoured the away team. Prior to September, Melbourne had not lost in Gosford since 2007, while Central Coast won both games at Etihad Stadium last season by an aggregate of 6-0.

Past five matches:
Melbourne Victory:
Perth Glory 3, Melbourne Victory 1, nib Stadium
Melbourne Victory 0, Gold Coast United 1, Etihad Stadium
Melbourne Victory 2, Adelaide United 1, Etihad Stadium
Brisbane Roar 2, Melbourne Victory 1, Suncorp Stadium
Melbourne Victory 3, Sydney FC 0, Etihad Stadium

Central Coast Mariners:
Wellington Phoenix 0, Central Coast Stadium 3, Westpac Stadium
North Queensland Fury 0, Central Coast Mariners 1, Dairy Farmers Stadium
Central Coast Mariners 5, Perth Glory 0, SFS
Brisbane Roar 2, Central Coast Mariners 0, Suncorp Stadium
Central Coast Mariners 3, North Queensland Fury 2, Bluetongue Stadium

Decisions for Ernie
The return to fitness of Robbie Kruse should see the young striker back in to play alongside his idol Archie Thompson for the first time this season. Petar Franjic and Geoff Kellaway have been included in an extended squad with Merrick to wait and see on how some of his players back-up off the short break after the game against Perth. Kevin Muscat will play despite receiving a knock on Sunday.

Behind Enemy Lines
John Hutchinson will miss this game as he is on international duty with Malta, while Brad Porter and Jess Vanstrattan remain sidelined long-term with knee injuries. Trent Sainsbury comes into an extended squad. Given the strong form the Mariners have been in over the past few weeks, with three consecutive wins, you would not expect Graham Arnold to make too many changes.

Our Hero
Robbie Kruse – After a rich run of form in October, Kruse got injured against Gold Coast, but returns quicker than expected. His combination with Thompson will be crucial to Melbourne breaking down a notoriously tight Mariners defence.

Danger Man
Patrick Zwaanswijk – The Dutch defender is getting better with every match and together with stalwart Alex Wilkinson, is forming the toughest defence in the league. But he is also offering plenty up front from set pieces and Victory will have to be wary of that.

Why we will win
Victory have had their struggles in recent and their ability to put in consistent performances week after week is being seriously questioned having not managed consecutive wins in the first half of the season. Is there a magic bullet to solve these issues? No, only the fact that fewer injuries will help even things out.

The return of Kruse to play alongside Thompson can not be underestimated as Merrick now has his two best strikers available, albeit, not 100 per cent in terms of their conditioning. In order to return to the dominant and exciting team of recent seasons, they need to free up Carlos Hernandez and the addition of extra striking options helps that.

The return to AAMI Park for their first home game at the ground in two months is also a significant factor. Victory have voiced a desire to make AAMI the same sort of fortress that they’ve enjoyed at Etihad in recent times and there is no better time to prove that off the back of a poor run of results and against an opposition who are in form.

The Mariners won’t be a straight-forward proposition, but you get the sense that Melbourne’s best, should they find it, is still the equal of any in the league and that should get them a desperately needed three points.

Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Michael PETKOVIC (gk), 2. Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3. Mate DUGANDZIC, 4. Petar FRANJIC, 5.Surat SUKHA, 6. Leigh BROXHAM, 8.Grant BREBNER, 10. Archie THOMPSON, 11.Marvin ANGULO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13. Diogo FERREIRA, 14. Billy CELESKI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 19. Evan BERGER, 20.Sebastian MATTEI (gk), 21. Robbie KRUSE 23. Adrian LEIJER, 27. Geoff KELLAWAY
*three to be omitted*

In: Petar FRANJIC (promoted), Robbie KRUSE (returns from injury), Geoff KELLAWAY (promoted)
Out: Nil
Unavailable: Ricardinho (knee – 4 weeks)

Central Coast Mariners squad: 2 Daniel MCBREEN, 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 8. Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 10. Patricio PEREZ, 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 12. Matthew LEWIS, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 16. Trent SAINSBURY, 17. Chris DOIG, 18. Alex WILKINSON (c), 19. Matt SIMON, 20. Mathew RYAN (gk), 22. Mustafa AMINI, 23. Adam KWASNIK, 30. Paul HENDERSON (gk).
*two to be omitted*

In: Trent SAINSBURY (promoted),
Out: John HUTCHINSON (international duty)
Unavailable: John HUTCHINSON (international duty), Brad PORTER (knee – 12 weeks), Jess VANSTRATTAN (knee – season)