A-League Preview: Wanderers look to seal finals spot
The Wanderers sit second in the A-League table with 38 points, six clear of Newcastle Jets and Sydney FC, who occupy sixth and seventh respectively, with three rounds remaining.
League leaders Brisbane Roar are the only team to have clinched a spot in the finals, while they also wrapped up the premiership last week with a 1-0 win over Melbourne Victory.
But Western Sydney could join Brisbane in ensuring they will finish in the top six this weekend, as another three points will see Tony Popovic's men move out of reach of both Sydney and Newcastle.
In a repeat of last season's A-League Grand Final, Western Sydney could exact some revenge against the Mariners, as a win will see Popovic's side finish the regular season undefeated against Central Coast.
In the opening round of the 2013/14 campaign, Tomi Juric scored a late equaliser to hand the Wanderers a 1-1 draw in Gosford, while in December, Juric and Youssouf Hersi both struck to give the reigning premiers a 2-0 home win against the Mariners.
On Saturday, Western Sydney will travel north to Gosford to take on the reigning champions again.
Juric could be crucial for the Wanderers again, as the 22-year-old striker has started to find some form after missing a chunk of games with injury this season.
With two goals in his past three A-League matches, including one in the Wanderers' 3-0 triumph over Perth Glory last week, Juric has seven in 15 games this season.
Western Sydney have the second-worst attack in Australia's top flight (behind Central Coast) with 29 goals from 24 matches but, with Juric and last season's top-scorer Mark Bridge (two in four in all competitions) starting to show some composure in the front third, Popovic's team may be turning the corner just at the right time.
If the Mariners can win at home and register their third straight triumph on the domestic front, they could move into second position in the table, if Melbourne Victory fail to win against Sydney.
Victory will host the Sky Blues in the late kick-off on Saturday in the first meeting between the two clubs since Sydney humiliated their arch-rivals 5-0 in Melbourne in January.
Fresh from lifting the Premier's Plate last week as the best team in the regular season, Brisbane will kick off round 25 by welcoming Melbourne Heart to Queensland.
Fifth-placed Adelaide United will be ready to pounce if the Mariners or Victory lose, as they could move as high as third with a win against Wellington Phoenix on Sunday, while bottom club Perth will host the Jets.
The Glory have not won in 10 matches, while Newcastle will be desperate to build on their 5-0 demolition of Wellington last week, as they continue to fight for a finals berth.