A-League preview: Melbourne Victory v Central Coast Mariners

Topics

Melbourne Victory have the Premiers Plate and the Championship in their sights but Kevin Muscat has lost a host of players to international duty. Can the struggling Central Coast Mariners take advantage and halt their hosts' charge this Friday night at AAMI?

MATCH DETAILS

Friday, 27 March 2015

AAMI Park, Melbourne

Kick-Off: 7:40 PM (Local) (7:40 PM AEDT)

SQUADS

Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Nathan COE (GK), 4.Nick ANSELL, 6.Leigh BROXHAM (c), 7.Gui FINKLER, 8.Besart BERISHA, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 13.Andrew NABBOUT, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 17.Matthieu DELPIERRE, 18.Dylan MURNANE, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 21.Carl VALERI, 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 31.Kieran DOVER, 34.Thomas DENG, 35.George HOWARD, 36.Joey KATEBIAN **two to be omitted**

Ins: 13.Andrew NABBOUT (promoted), 18.Dylan MURNANE (promoted), 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS (promoted), 31.Kieran DOVER (promoted), 34.Thomas DENG (promoted), 35.George HOWARD (promoted), 36.Joey KATEBIAN (promoted)

Outs: 2.Jason GERIA (international duty), 5.Mark MILLIGAN (international duty), 11.Connor PAIN (international duty), 15.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI (international duty), 24.Scott GALLOWAY (international duty)

Unavailable: 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES (ineligible – international duty)

Central Coast Mariners squad: 1.Matthew NASH (gk), 3.Josh ROSE, 5.Zac ANDERSON, 6.Brent GRIFFITHS, 7.John HUTCHINSON (c), 8.Nick MONTGOMERY, 10.Anthony CACERES, 11.Nick FITZGERALD, 12.Liam REDDY (gk), 14.Travis MAJOR, 15.Mathew SIM, 16.Liam ROSE, 18.Glen TRIFIRO, 20.Anthony KALIK, 23.Isaka CERNAK, 24.Hayden MORTON, 25.Eddy BOSNAR, 26.Fabio FERREIRA **two to be omitted**

Ins: 1.Matthew NASH (gk) (return from illness), 6.Brent GRIFFITHS (promoted), 18.Glen TRIFIRO (promoted), 25.Eddy BOSNAR (return from suspension)

Outs: 4.Jacob POSCOLIERO (injured), 30. Adam PEARCE (gk) (not selected)
Unavailable: 2.Storm ROUX (international duty), 4.Jacob POSCOLIERO (hamstring – 1 week), 17.Richard VERNES (shoulder – indefinite), 21.Michael NEILL (foot – indefinite), 19.Matt SIMON (groin – indefinite)

Hashtag: #MVCvCCM

TV Broadcast: Live coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 7.30pm (AEDT) and SBS HD & SBS One from 7.30pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport (New Zealand)

Radio Broadcast: 774 ABC Melbourne, ABC Local Radio VIC, Grandstand Digital (Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth), Online / ABC Radio Mobile phone app.

Referee: Jarred Gillett

Assistant Referee 1: Brad Hobson

Assistant Referee 2: Jonathan Barreiro

Fourth Official: Lucien Laverdure

BLUFFER'S GUIDE

Title-chasing Melbourne Victory will be determined to pick up what could be three crucial points on Friday at home to the Central Coast Mariners, who are playing for pride during the final rounds of the regular season.

Victory are second on the table going into Round 23 and have an opportunity to get to within one point of league leaders Wellington Phoenix, who are at home to Sydney FC on Sunday.

Kevin Muscat's men shared the points in a typically competitive, feisty 2-2 draw away to Adelaide United last weekend and will fancy their chances of returning to winning ways when the Mariners come to town.

Central Coast are eighth on the table, 10 points outside the top six and set to miss out on the playoffs. It's been quite a fall from grace for the Gosford outfit, who won the title two seasons ago and finished third en route to the semi-finals last term.

The Mariners, who sacked Phil Moss earlier this month, have been more competitive under interim coach Tony Walmsley but face a big task to stifle the free-scoring Victory in this one - and recent history is against them.

OPTA DATA

- Melbourne Victory are looking to record a fourth successive league win over the Mariners for the first time in A-League history.

- The Mariners have let in three goals in each of those three defeats to Victory.

- Victory haven't lost at home to Central Coast since November 2009, winning two and drawing three of the meetings since.

- Central Coast have scored in each of their last seven trips to Melbourne to face Victory, but have only been on the winning side twice (D3 L2).

- Besart Berisha has recorded 11 goals this season, as many as he managed last campaign for Brisbane Roar, but crucially has five more assists.

- The Albanian has netted four goals in his last five games against Central Coast.

ROUTE TO GOAL

The Mariners' big hope this weekend is that the Big V will be weakened by their numerous international absentees.

Mark Milligan and Daniel Georgievski are away with Australia and Macedonia respectively, Kosta Barbarouses in unavailable after injury prevented him from joining up with the New Zealand national team. Jason Geria, Scott Galloway and Connor Pain are all with the Olyroos.

Central Coast can expect to face a makeshift backline with Leigh Broxham at right-back and Dylan Murnane at left-back. Will the away side have enough firepower to take advantage of those disruptions? 

Carl Valeri is likely to be partnered by Rashid Mahazi in holding midfield, with a front four of Archie Thompson, Fahid Ben Khalfallah, Guilherme Finkler and Besart Berisha more than capable of breaching the visitors' backline.

WHO'S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?

With Barbarouses missing through injury, Thompson has wound back the clock, scoring against the Wanderers and netting the equaliser in Adelaide, showing great control to gather a Finkler through-ball and finish past Eugene Galekovic from a tight angle. He's still got it.

FORM LINES

Melbourne Victory: DWDLD

Victory were held to a 2-2 draw away to Adelaide last time out. Before that they smashed the Western Sydney Wanderers 3-0 on the road, drew 1-1 with Perth Glory and went down 3-2 to Wellington Phoenix, the latter two results both coming at home.

Central Coast Mariners: DLWDL

The Mariners did well to earn a point in a 1-1 draw at home to Perth Glory last weekend. Prior to that they lost 2-1 at Adelaide, beat Melbourne City 1-0 at home and drew 0-0 with fierce local rivals the Newcastle Jets.

DID YOU KNOW?

- Liam Reddy has conceded more goals than any other keeper this season (34) but has also made the most saves (84).

PREDICTION

Melbourne Victory 2-1 Central Coast

We think Victory's absentees will make this one tougher than it would otherwise have been, particularly given the Mariners have looked a little sturdier of late. 

But the Big V's deadly forwards still have what it takes to break down the visitors, so Muscat's men should notch all three points.