Melbourne Victory travel to Gosford this Saturday night to take on table-toppers Central Coast Mariners as they aim to get back into the top two. Both sides are coming off defeats last round and will both be keen for a quick return to the winners list. Victory fell off the pace of the top two last week as they were toppled by second placed Western Sydney Wanderers 2-1 at AAMI Park. Central Coast Mariners were given a rare defeat at the hands of Perth Glory last Saturday, only their third defeat of the season. A lot is on the line this Saturday night at Bluetounge Stadium, a win for Mariners will increase their lead on top of the table, while a defeat could see them fall from first. Victory need the three points to stay in touch with third placed Wanderers, while a loss may see them drop behind Adelaide on the ladder.
Neither side has been able to defeat the other this season, with both games so far ending in a draw. Many people during would have predicted this to be a grand final preview. Two straight losses have seen Victory’s hold on second place become thin. Melbourne’s form has dropped off, resulting in a disappointing loss to new boys Western Sydney. Melbourne struggled with the loss of key players Adama Traore and Archie Thompson. Both will be missing again tonight. Archie Thompson will again miss with a hamstring injury. Victory looked flat last week in attack without their all-time leading goal-scorer. Victory will need to lift in attack if they are to get the better of the Mariners.
Both games against each other have been tight affairs, the round seven clash produced some of the best football seen this year in a 2-2 draw. The second clash in this fixture took place in Tasmania ending 1-all, a game in truth Melbourne should have took all the points. Melbourne need to lift their game if they want to take this one. Central Coast are coming off a loss of their own and may be vulnerable and ripe for the taking.
Melbourne have somewhat lost the attacking spark that produced some serious form. Archie Thompson going down has not helped the cause. Andrew Nabbout didn’t have the game he would have wanted as the replacement for Archie Thompson. Melbourne need him to lift. Marcos Flores has become the senior figure in the Melbourne attacking line. A lot of pressure has now fallen on his shoulders which he must rise to. Melbourne will find themselves in the rare position as underdogs in this one, how they account for themselves in this game will be a true test of character heading into the final series.
I’m going to have to make the brave call again to not call a winner. With both teams coming off a loss a 1-1 draw again looks likely.
Follow Brad on Twitter: @BradHutchings_