Preview: Sydney FC v Central Coast Mariners

Sydney FC and the Central Coast Mariners will meet in a Round 15 fixture of the 2013-14 A-League season at Allianz Stadium on Saturday, January 18 at 7.45pm AEDT.

Sydney FC and the Central Coast Mariners will meet in a Round 15 fixture of the 2013-14 A-League season at Allianz Stadium on Saturday, January 18 at 7.45pm AEDT.


Played: 26 - Wins: Sydney 10, Central Coast 9, Draws: 7

Previous encounter:

Central Coast 1-0 Sydney FC, December 7, 2013

Form: Past five matches:

Sydney: LDLLW Central Coast: DDWLL

The Game:

Sydney's poor run of form increased to one win from their last six games after their agonising late loss to the Western Sydney Wanderers in last weekend's local derby. The Sky Blues have now fallen out of the top six for the first time since round 5 and with two away games in Melbourne to follow this, Frank Farina's side are in desperate need of three points. They will be boosted by the return of Nicky Carle from suspension while Sebastian Ryall and Richard Garcia could both be fit to start and playing no part against the Wanderers. Young attacker Corey Gamiero may also win a spot in the starting XI after impressing off the bench the last three weeks.

The Mariners have had a tough start to life without Michael McGlinchey and Marcos Flores, held to two draws over the last fortnight. Despite their inconsistent form they are still well-placed in fourth spot heading into this clash. Phil Moss will be without his skipper John Hutchinson through suspension after he picked up a fifth yellow card in the 1-1 draw with Wellington last Sunday. Young gun Anthony Caceres is the most likely option to start alongside Nick Montgomery in midfield. While Sydney have a strong home record, they have won just two of their last 10 matches against the Central Coast.

The big issue:

Sydney – Defensive lapses. The Sky Blues looked certain to emerge with a draw in the derby until a momentary loss of concentration at the back allowed an unmarked Brendan Santalab to score. It's a trait that's plagued Sydney all season, with Farina's side possessing the second worst defensive record in the competition, ahead of only the winless Melbourne Heart. Unless they can start plugging the holes and cut out periods where they switch off, it might be hard for the Sky Blues to get back into the top six.

Central Coast – Finding the right No.10. The Mariners hopes of defending their title has taken a hit with the departure of Michael McGlinchey and the season-ending injury of Marcos Flores. The pair were the creative lynchpins of the Central Coast attack and without them goals could prove hard to come by. While Daniel McBreen has covered the role admirably in the past, he is a genuine goal-scorer and will be better used further forward. Unless the Mariners can use the transfer window to strengthen that position, it's hard to see them challenging the likes of Brisbane, Western Sydney and Melbourne Victory.

The game breaker:

Matt Simon – The former Socceroos striker has taken a bit longer than expected to find his feet again in the A-League but the signs are good he is approaching his top form. Simon grabbed his first goal of the season in the hard-earned draw with the Phoenix last weekend and his physical, all-action style is sure to put the leaky Sky Blues defence under pressure.