Brisbane Roar coach Mike Mulvey is firmly aware of the danger posed to his side when the improving Central Coast Mariners visit Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.
The league-leading Roar are five points clear of Western Sydney Wanderers with a game hand, but the Mariners have rediscovered their championship form with a five-match unbeaten run – including last weekend’s straightforward 3-0 win over Newcastle Jets.
“The headline is the champions are coming to town,” Mulvey said.
“Don’t let that run under that radar because Phil Moss has done a fantastic job in playing down what he’s got under his bonnet. They are the champions, they’re coming to town and we will treat them with the utmost respect.”
While the returning Besart Berisha and Liam Miller will boost Brisbane, who came from behind to beat Wellington Phoenix 2-1 in round 16. Mulvey has conceded he will have to do without dependable midfielder Matt McKay and the versatile Ivan Franjic.
“I would say Matty is a real long shot now for the weekend,” he said.
“I won’t risk him. The good news is there was nothing on the scan, it’s just the pain is rather acute at the moment.
“Ivan just asked me if he could play 20 minutes on the weekend, so that’s a really good sign for us that he’s keen. We’re not going to let him, but he is keen, he wants to [play].”
The inclusions of Berisha and Miller will enhance the hosts’ chances of making a positive start to a blockbuster two weeks, which also sees them take on the premiers in Parramatta next Friday.
Mulvey, however, does not see the next seven days as a season-defining period.
“No, not all,” the former Gold Coast mentor said.
“We want to get up every single week. I think on a couple of occasions this season we’ve not done that to our own satisfaction.
“There’s 11 games to go and the aim is that we are really up for everyone single one of them.”
Jean Carlos Solorzano’s availability for the 4.00pm (EST) kick off continues to depend on Roar receiving international clearance 90 minutes before the match, though Mulvey would not guarantee the Costa Rican a squad berth.