Preview: Sydney FC v Central Coast Mariners

Master v apprentice. This week the media have been all about Arnie facing his former assistant coach at the Mariners, Phil Moss. There’ll be plenty of feeling on the pitch too with former Coasties Bojic and Ibini set to line up against their former teammates in this intriguing NSW derby.

Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-Off:  5:00 pm (Local)
Broadcast coverage:  TV Live and exclusive coverage on FOX SPORTS 1HD & 1 from 4.30pm (AEDT)
Referee:  Strebre Delovski

Sydney FC:  1.Ivan NECEVSKI (GK), 2.Sebastian RYALL, 3.Sasa OGNENOVSKI, 4.Pedj BOJIC, 6.Nikola PETKOVIC, 7.Corey GAMEIRO, 8.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 11.Bernie IBINI, 12.Hagi GLIGOR, 13.Christopher NAUMOFF 14.Alex BROSQUE (c), 16.Alex GERSBACH, 17.Terry ANTONIS, 19.Nick CARLE, 20.Vedran JANJETOVIC (GK), 21.Mark JANKO, 22.Ali ABBAS.

***two to be omitted***

Ins:  6.Nikola PETKOVIC (return from suspension), 9.Shane SMELTZ (return from injury), 19.Nick CARLE (promoted)
Outs:  25.Aaron CALVER (omitted)
Unavailable: 23.Rhyan GRANT (knee – 1 week), 5.Matthew JURMAN (knee).

Central Coast Mariners:  1. Matt NASH (gk), 2. Storm ROUX, 3. Josh ROSE, 4. Jacob POSCOLIERO, 5. Zac ANDERSON, 7. John HUTCHINSON (C), 8. Nick MONTGOMERY, 9. Mitchell DUKE, 10. Anthony CACERES, 11. Nick FITZGERALD, 12. Liam REDDY (Gk), 14. Malick MANÉ, 15. Matthew SIM, 18. Glen TRIFIRO, 19. Matt SIMON, 23. Isaka CERNAK, 25. Eddy BOSNAR, 26, KIM Seung-yong 

***two to be omitted***

Ins: 19. Matt SIMON (promoted), 23. Isaka CERNAK (promoted)
Outs: Nil
Unavailable: 6. Brent GRIFFITHS (injury – 4 weeks)

It will be an extra special occasion for Sydney boss Graham Arnold, who goes up against former club Central Coast for the first time since leaving a year ago.

Arnold had three hugely successful seasons at the Mariners, guiding them to the title in 2013 with Phil Moss – current Central Coast coach and good mate – as his assistant. But there will be no room for sentiment as he looks to continue the Sky Blues' sensational start to the season.

Given Arnold’s intimate knowledge of the club it will be interesting to see if the Mariners opt to change up their game-plan a bit to try and shock the home side.

Sydney have been boosted by the return of defender Nikola Petkovic, who missed last weekend’s win over Brisbane Roar through suspension. The Serbian is likely to come straight back into the starting side, forcing Seb Ryall to right-back and pushing Pedj Bojic back to the bench.

Kiwi international striker Shane Smeltz has been included in the squad and is likely to win a spot on the bench for his first match of the season.

It will be interesting to see if Moss opts to change things up with his starting side following their disappointing home defeat two weeks ago.

The Mariners were uncharacteristically subdued on that occasion and Moss might try to freshen things up and add a bit more pace and energy to his side against the energetic Sydney pressing game.

Moss has resisted the urge to make too many changes to his squad despite their last-up defeat, adding Matt Simon and Isaka Cernak to his options.

-Sydney FC have suffered three consecutive defeats to the Central Coast Mariners.

-Central Coast Mariners have not drawn any of their last 17 Hyundai A-League matches, including finals.

-The Sky Blues have fired in 26 long throws in the Hyundai A-League this season – more than any other side.

While it’s been Sydney’s star-studded attack that has scored some vital goals in recent weeks it’s the midfield dup of Terry Antonis and Milos Dimitrejevic that have really been key to the Sky Blues success.

They get through a mountain of work and their quality of passing has been a feature of Sydney’s play.

Moss will have recognized the threat and it will be no surprise if he decides to pack his midfield to try and subdue the pair and he might look to add a more ‘legs’ in the middle of the park by going with the younger and quicker Anthony Caceres and/or Glen Trifiro.

Malick Mane has been the Mariners standout attacker over their first two games but will find it hard against Sydney’s experienced and physical central defence.

While Arnold’s ties to the Mariners have been the big story in the build-up to this one, Sky Blues attack Bernie Ibini also has history on the Central Coast. Ibini was part of the championship-winning side in 2013 and also played at the Mariners last season.

He may have offended some at his former club this week by declaring he joined Sydney as they had “more ambition” than the Mariners. It will be interesting what kind of reception the 22-year-old gets from the away fans. 

The Sky Blues are enjoying their best start to a season ever with two wins and a draw from the opening three rounds.

Last weekend’s 2-0 win over the Roar in Brisbane was the side’s first win at Suncorp in seven years.

It hasn’t been so smooth for the Mariners, who are one win and one defeat from their opening two matches following their 2-1 defeat to Wellington Phoenix a fortnight ago.

But they do enjoy a great record against the Sky Blues which must give them confidence heading to Allianz.

Sydney FC are unbeaten in seven successive Hyundai A-League games at home despite conceding a goal in every one of those matches. The run has included five wins and two draws.

Sydney FC 2-0 Central Coast Mariners

The Sky Blues have really struggled against Central Coast in recent seasons, losing all three encounters last season. But Arnold has got his side playing brilliantly so early in the campaign and as they showed by winning in Brisbane last week, history really does count for nothing.

Sydney have simply have too much firepower and have shown a lot more in the early weeks of the season to see them dropping this one, especially in front of their home fans. Given the character of both coaches, it will be gritty and hard-fought throughout but expect the Sky Blues’ bit of extra class to shine through in the end.

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