In the clash of the round, Melbourne Victory will head to Gosford to play another team that has had to make a transition in the Central Coast. The Mariners have been a hoodoo team for the Victory in the past, but an opportunity to turn that around presents itself.
Fresh from defeating a panicked Adelaide United, this is a test Victory need to pass before they can be classed as contenders in the Muscat era. It doesn’t get much tougher than facing Central Coast Mariners in Gosford. While still adjusting following the sudden departure of Graham Arnold, the Mariners picked up a late win via Mitchell Duke away to Perth Glory. Even though their best has yet to be seen, they only have one loss to their name, proving they are still a side that can get something out of games when they are down.
The ins and outs
The suspended Adrian Leijer and Leigh Broxham (after 5 yellow cards) have been replaced by Nick Ansell and Jason Geria. The Mariners should be unchanged for this week’s clash.
The 90 minutes
Victory can be assured a much tougher 90 minutes than what they had to deal with last week. The Mariners remain Victory’s achilles heel, having failed to beat them in their last four encounters. Central Coast are a team that will aim to remain compact and tough to break down, which has been proven in the past to stop Victory in their tracks.
However, you can’t help but think there will not be a better opportunity than now for Victory to break this run. Disruptions to their notorious back four over the off-season has had them more vulnerable than they have been in the past, although they have conceded on average just over a goal a game. It will be interesting to see if Phil Moss starts in a 4-2-3-1 or a more attacking midfield diamond, playing the extra striker. They certainly have goals in them as well as attacking depth, with the likes of Duke, Daniel McBreen and Matt Simon all vying for a start this weekend.
More of the same from last week and then some more will be the requirement for the visitors. Last week needs to be built on, and they will need to be quick to drag the home defence out of postion to pounce. The positive for the ‘boys in blue’ is while Kosta Barbarouses, Archie Thompson and leading goalscorer James Troisi are in decent form, the question marks are still on their defence, bar Adama Traore.
The players to watch
Marcos Flores: Now seemingly with a point to prove, the Argentinian no.10 seems to relish his new found freedom in Gosford. Playing against a club that deemed him surplus to requirements should provide the proud Flores with extra motivation. Playing behind the striker(s), he will be a danger.
Jason Geria: After being dropped from the squad altogether last week, the young defender has a huge opportunity to make it his starting spot again. Should he and Rashid Mahazi perform this weekend, it could conceivably keep two stalwarts out of the team, as coach Kevin Muscat alluded to on Thursday.
Looking forward to the game, Muscat belives there will be little change for Central Coast, “Mossy inherits a good team, and built on good structures. I don’t see there being too many changes, they’re a good team. We haven’t won there in a while, it’s about time we broke that hoodoo.”
Despite the departure of Arnold and not the strongest of starts, Muscat remains wary “They’re still a good team…they’ve got some self-belief, albeit there has been a change. They’re going to be hard to beat and we’re going to have to be at our best to come back with three points.”
Muscat confirmed that Ansell and Geria will make the starting side, while warning both Broxham and Leijer that they will have to fight to get back in the team.
“Them two boys (Geria and Mahazi) have an opportunity now to impress…everyone’s got that opportunity now and, for my part, I hope they take it.”
The potential teams
Central Coast: Liam Reddy, Storm Roux, Brent Griffiths, Trent Sainsbury, Josh Rose, Nick Montgomery, John Hutchinson, Michael McGlinchey, Mitchell Duke, Marcos Flores, Matt Simon.
Melbourne Victory: Nathan Coe, Jason Geria, Nick Ansell, Pablo Contreras, Adama Traore, Mark Milligan, Rashid Mahazi, Mitch Nichols, Kosta Barbarouses, James Troisi, Archie Thompson
Central Coast 1-0 Melbourne Victory