The Preview – Central Coast Mariners vs Sydney FC (Sunday 5pm, Allianz Stadium)
Sunday’s game may invoke a sense of nostalgia for many of the fans wearing yellow and navy, with Sydney FC sporting several former Mariners among their squad and coaching staff.
The Sky Blues are of course led by former messiah Graham Arnold, who led Central Coast their to maiden A-League title among several wonderful seasons in Gosford. Joined by Arnold in the Sydney FC backroom staff is Andrew Clark, who played for the Mariners for five years before becoming the club’s strength and conditioning coach.
Out on the field there will be a couple of reunions too, with Pedj Bojic and Berni Ibini in the frame to start Sunday’s match. Bojic started as a utility player for the Mariners before growing into one of the league’s best under Graham Arnold at Gosford, while Bernie joined the Sky Blues after being released from his contract in China.
Not only will there be those familiar faces, but the system currently being employed by Arnold is rather similar to the 4-2-3-1 the Mariners used in their championship-winning campaign.
The challenge for Phil Moss and his men is to combat Sydney’s dangerous frontline, with Marc Janko, Corey Gameiro, Shane Smeltz, Alex Brosque and Ibini all solid options to start the game.
In terms of the Mariners finding a breakthrough, some joy may be found on the left side of defence, where either Alex Gersbach or Ali Abbas may play.
Gersbach is still learning his trade at 17-years of age, and could be overwhelmed by the enthusiastic Mitchell Duke or Malick Mane, while Abbas is a converted midfielder who can get caught too far forward.
The centre of the park will be where the match can turn though, with Terry Antonis and Milos Dimitijevic forming a perfect midfield pair at the moment. Hutchison and Montgomery will have to work hard trying to limit the influence of those two Sky Blues.
Matt Simon could make a cameo appearance after missing the start of the season due to personal matters. The club’s leading goal scorer always enjoys playing against Sydney FC and could pop up for a late goal if given the chance.
The Review – National Youth League
With the senior team getting the week off due to the Asian Champions’ League, focus shifted towards the junior Mariners and their efforts against the FFA Centre of Excellence.
Stuart Jacobs and the boys made the trip to the nation’s capital following a nil-all draw with Brisbane Roar at the club’s own Centre of Excellence in round one.
The 16-year-old Trent Buhagiar scored in his first start for the side after an impressive performance off the bench against the Roar and was a consistent threat to the FFA side with his electric pace.
Unfortunately the youngsters were pegged back later in the game, but the 1-1 result still keeps the team unbeaten ahead of this week’s visit to Sydney FC.
While some fans may be unimpressed with the 6pm Monday night kick-off, the chance to play in something other than the sweltering conditions of mid-afternoon should see the players produce some of their better football.
On the side – Infrastructure developments
This week marks the beginning of stage two of construction on our Centre of Excellence at Tuggerah, with plans for a six-storey office block that will house the club’s admin department, a gym and childcare centre. The precinct will also feature a Medical Centre that is expected to see around 75,000 people each year.
The development underlines the Mariners’ commitment to the Central Coast and is helping lay the foundation for the club’s long-term stability.