Great Test for Champions and Premiers

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Saturday evening will see Bluetongue Stadium play host to the much anticipated grand final replay between last season’s two standout sides.

175 days since the Mariners claimed their maiden championship over Western Sydney, they welcome the Wanderers to Gosford in what is shaping up to be a sell-out. Both teams were dominant last year; however this season is sure to be a lot tougher. Despite this many are predicting the Mariners and Wanderers to again be fighting it out for the Premier’s plate.

The Match:

The Wanderers will enter the game with a relatively unchanged line up from what was seen last season, however for the Mariners, seven players will not take the field that played on April 21. While creating a squad with plenty of depth, Arnold has had plenty of headaches choosing a starting 11.

“I’ve been tossing and turning at night over a couple of positions” Arnold said.

“The core group of players like Sainsbury, Anderson, Hutchinson, Montgomery, Sterjovski, and Duke have given us stability which is quite important”.

During last year’s home and away season the points were shared evenly between both sides, an opening round draw, a 2-0 away win to the Mariners and late in the season a 1-0 away win to the Wanderers. This game again will have very few goals in it, with both teams expected to play similar styles under their respective managers. Limiting the errors is crucial for both sides as each love to pounce on their opposition’s mistakes and turn them into goal scoring opportunities.

Where It Will Be Won:

The Mariners biggest weakness early this season will be the back four. In particular, Trent Sainsbury who in past seasons has had Patrick Zwaanswijk to his left, Pedj Bojic to his right and Mat Ryan behind him. This season is entirely different and for the Mariners it is crucial that the back four and Pasfield gel well and gel early. Mariners fans will be hoping new recruit Storm Roux can provide the same drive that Bojic did up and down the right wing, while Marcel Seip has to be the same strong pillar in defence that his countryman Zwaanswijk was for a number of seasons. If the side from Central Coast can hold up defensively against the likes of Ono, Bridge, and Hersi, they may win the match.

Contrary to the Mariners, Western Sydney may win or lose this game up front. They have more firepower this year which should help as last season they were only able to score 1 goal against the Central Coast. Recent Socceroo debutant Tomi Juric has been brought in to replace Dino Kresinger, and with a goal to his name at international level, Tony Popovic will be hoping his young recruit can cause plenty of headaches for the Mariners defensively.

The X-Factor:

Marcos Flores. One of Arnold’s key signings over the off season is the 2010/11′s Johnny Warren Medalist. Flores will be keen to do well for his new club in the number 10 role, and with New Zealand All-White Michael McGlinchey away on international duty, he will have even more work to do in helping the Mariners overcome last season’s best defence.

Prediction:

It is just hard to split both teams on this occasion. While on paper the Wanderers look stronger compared to the high turnover of players at Gosford, Arnold is still at the helm and his ability to create highly successful squads is unmatched around the league. The core group is still there and solid recruits have been signed. In what will be an entertaining match, it will also be a tight one.

Draw 1-1.

Central Coast Mariners v Western Sydney Wanderers
Round 1 – Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford
Saturday October 12, 2013 – 5:30pm

Head to Head:
Played 4 – Wins: Mariners 2, Wanderers 1. Draws: 1

Last Game:
2013 A-League Grand Final April 21, 2013 – Mariners 2-0

Matthew Berry

Matthew Berry is Football Central's Central Coast Mariners correspondent.

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