Preview: Melbourne Victory v Central Coast Mariners
Melbourne's charge towards the finals stuttered in the Perth heat last week, but given the Victory's previous home form, the team has plenty of momentum heading into the top-four clash with Central Coast at Telstra Dome on Friday night.
Date: Friday January 16 Kick-off: 8:00pm AEDT Venue: Telstra Dome, Melbourne
TV and Radio: The match will be broadcast live and exclusively on Fox Sports 1, with radio coverage on 1116 SEN. Tickets are available from any Ticketmaster outlet, by calling 136 100 or online through www.ticketmaster.com.au.
Head-to-head 11 A-League meetings: Melbourne Victory - 5 wins, Central Coast - 3 wins, Draws - 3
Previous meeting Melbourne Victory 2, Central Coast Mariners 1, Telstra Dome, Round 12, November 2008
Past Five Matches Melbourne Round 16: Newcastle Jets 4, Melbourne Victory 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 17: Melbourne Victory 3, Sydney FC 2, Telstra Dome Round 18: Melbourne Victory 2, Queensland Roar 1, Telstra Dome Round 15: Melbourne Victory 1, Adelaide United 0, Telstra Dome Round 19: Perth Glory 3, Melbourne Victory 2, Members Equity Stadium
Central Coast: Round 15: Central Coast Mariners 2, Sydney FC 1, Bluetongue Stadium Round 16: Wellington Phoenix 1, Central Coast Mariners 0, Westpac Stadium Round 17: Newcastle Jets 1, Central Coast Mariners 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 18: Central Coast Mariners 1, Perth Glory 0, Bluetongue Stadium Round 19: Central Coast Mariners 3, Queensland Roar 4, Bluetongue Stadium
Analysis Melbourne's charge towards the finals stuttered in the Perth heat last week, but given the Victory's previous home form, the team has plenty of momentum heading into the top-four clash with Central Coast at Telstra Dome on Friday night.
Melbourne was flying high on the back of three straight home wins, but the trip across the Nullarbor always loomed as a tricky one. Ernie Merrick has pointed to silly errors and a determined performance from the Glory, but doesn't feel that his men have lost their mojo late in the season.
This looms as a huge game for Melbourne, which will go into the game as favourite due to its superior home form and recent record against the Mariners, having lost just one of the past eight clashes between the two sides. A win will keep it in the running for the Premiership and put considerable pressure on top-placed Adelaide, which travels to Wellington this week. It would also all-but seal a top two spot.
A loss puts the double-chance in jeopardy and would bring Central Coast right into the mix for the top two. It would also give Adelaide a chance to seal the Premiership before the final round.
With so much at stake, Merrick is licking his lips, saying his players are right up for a final-like match at home. Melbourne defeated Central Coast 2-1 at Telstra Dome in November and enjoys the extra space created by the Mariners high offside style of play.
Archie Thompson has scored four goals in the past three clashes between these sides, while Danny Allsopp is well suited to the Mariners' physical style of play. Ernie Merrick is tossing up whether to also throw Ney Fabiano into the mix given his recent good form off the bench, giving Melbourne some real teeth in attack.
The one change Merrick has been forced to make is to replace Matthew Kemp with Michael Thwaite. Thwaite is a chance to come into the starting XI, with Merrick indicating he'll go for a big strong line-up.
The Mariners are also coming off a loss, 4-3 against Queensland last week, but Lawrie McKinna's only changes in his squad are the inclusion of Greg Owens and Paul O'Grady at the expense of the injured Matthew Osman.
Melbourne Victory: 1.Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (Captain), 3.Michael THWAITE, 5.Sebastian RYALL, 8.Grant BREBNER, 9.Danny ALLSOPP, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 14.Billy CELESKI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Jose Luis LOPEZ, 20.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 22.Nick WARD.
In. Michael THWAITE (promoted) Out. Matthew KEMP (suspended - 1 week) Unavailable. Nil.
Central Coast Mariners: 2.Andre GUMPRECHT, 4.Pedj BOJIC, 5.Bradley PORTER, 7.John HUTCHINSON, 8.Dean HEFFERNAN, 9.Nik MRDJA, 10.Adrian CACERES, 11.Dylan MACALLISTER, 12.Greg OWENS, 13.Paul O'GRADY, 15.Andrew CLARK, 18.Alex WILKINSON, 19.Matt SIMON, 20.Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 22.Sasho PETROVSKI, 30.Andrew REDMAYNE (gk) *One to be omitted
In. 12.Greg OWENS (Promoted), 13.Paul O'GRADY (Promoted) Out 17.Matthew OSMAN (Groin - Indefinite) Unavailable 6.David D'APUZZO (Knee - Indefinite), 16.Nigel BOOGAARD (Groin - Indefinite), 21.Ahmad ELRICH (Knee - Season)