Both classed as contenders pre-season, Melbourne Victory and Central Coast meet for the second time this season as they reach a crucial part of the season.
Try as Victory might have to make it otherwise in past encounters, Mariners have proven to be their Achilles heel. After a 1-1 draw in Perth last week to rebound from a horror prior two weeks, it is hard to see them grabbing three points against a new-look Mariners. Usually around this fixture, the question is “Can Victory break down the Mariners?” and for the past three occasions, the answer has been no. Consistency hasn’t been Victory’s strong point either, so whether that changes is another issue to watch for.
Central Coast has made plenty of changes to their squad, with Coach Phil Moss bringing in Eddy Bosnar, Isaka Cernak, Kim Seung-Yong and Matt Sim all within the final days and hours of the transfer deadline. This is, in part, to compensate for the losses of Michael McGlinchey, Danny McBreen and Trent Sainsbury. Their biggest issue this season has been in attack, but the signing of Kim could help alleviate that.
The ins and outs
Melbourne Victory has named Mark Milligan, who is pushing for a return ahead of schedule after a minor operation on his troublesome knee nearly a month ago. Adrian Leijer returns from suspension to be named in an extended squad that has had no names from last week omitted as of yet.
Central Coast has named all of their new players, but both Bosnar and Kim’s selections are pending on International Transfer Clearances. Both Nick Montogomery and Brent Griffiths are unavailable, with a groin injury and suspension respectively.
The 90 minutes
The match has some uncertainty to it, considering the up-and-down form and inclusions after a busy month for both teams. Victory are slowly getting their full side back on track, while the Mariners now have to try cover for those huge losses they have sustained for the best part of the pre-season and January transfer window.
What Phil Moss opts to change up (or will he change anything?) as his new signings arrive will be something to take from this match. Usually when changes to the playing ranks come, sometimes coaches need to be proactive and change the formation or style with it. They almost clung on to take a point in Brisbane, following up from their dominant 3-0 F3 derby win over Newcastle, so they aren’t going poorly.
The signs aren’t really great for Victory, it as a case of wait-and-see for fans following an improved effort in Perth, where they have not had much success in the past. They do not have much room for error in terms of dropping points in Gosford, as they are now stuck in the mid-table logjam. If they are able to switch on and turn on the style that any A-League teams find hard to handle, they will be the favourites. Central Coast will need to be more attacking than they were last weekend to give Mitch Duke, Bernie Ibini and Mile Sterjovski chances to test their visitors’ defence.
In his Friday press conference, coach Kevin Muscat’s attention didn’t drift too far and was happy with his side’s preparations for tomorrow’s match “The preparations have been good, to be honest. They’ve bought quite a few bodies in, so who comes in and who starts, at this point in time, is irrelevant. We’ve just gotta get ourselves right and our structure right. The last time, I dare say, we put on a good performance.”
“Mossy’s obviously felt the need to bolster his squad, and so be it. They’ll maintain they won’t lose too much, but from our perspective, it’s about what we do.“
Muscat confirmed that captain Mark Milligan will travel with the squad, but wouldn’t be drawn on whether or not he will play a part in this match. “Whether he’s coming off the bench, I don’t know…He’s a very determined boy and he’s got a lot going on and he’s been disappointed that he hasn’t been able to help his teammates out over the last 3-4 weeks but he’s done very well. Whether this week is a week too soon, time will tell. He’s been put through a gruelling session this morning, so we’ll see how he pulls up.”
Muscat is confident that those two 5-0 losses were behind his side, saying “I’m not looking back anymore, we’ve dealt with them and without doubt, during that period, confidence does suffer. Last week gave us a different type of confidence and like I said, we’re going to Central Coast tomorrow to bring three points back and put out a team that’s gonna go and attack.”
Muscat also alluded to Leijer being the defender to miss out this week, despite being available for selection “It’s probably the first opportunity I’ve had, in 6-7 weeks, to keep the same back four let alone the same team. I thought we defended relatively well last week, those four boys will be given another opportunity to succeed.”
When further pressed on Leijer, Muscat wouldn’t give anything away “We’re talking hypotheticals; I don’t know if he’ll be coming off the bench, at this point in time, I can’t make that call. He’s definitely available and he’s in the travelling party and part of the squad.”
Central Coast Mariners Squad: 1.Justin PASFIELD (Gk), 3.Joshua ROSE, 4.Marcel SEIP, 5.Zachary ANDERSON, 7.John HUTCHINSON (C), 9.Mitchell DUKE, 11.Nick FITZGERALD, 12.Liam REDDY (Gk), 15.Storm ROUX, 17.Anthony CACERES, 19.Matt SIMON, 20.Bernie IBINI, 21.Mile STERJOVSKI, 22.Tom SLATER, 25.Eddy BOSNAR, 26.Kim SEUNG-YONG, 27.Isaka CERNAK, 29.Matt SIM
**two to be omitted**
Melbourne Victory Squad: 1.Nathan COE (gk), 2.Pablo CONTRERAS, 3.Adama TRAORE, 4.Nick ANSELL, 5. Mark MILLIGAN (c), 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Gui FINKLER, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.Connor PAIN, 13.Andrew NABBOUT, 14.James TROISI, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (gk), 21.Tom ROGIC, 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 23. Adrian LEIJER, 24.Scott GALLOWAY, 25.Jason GERIA
**two to be omitted**