This week the Champions face a familiar foe in Brisbane Roar, a team we have faced many times in recent years, and often in the pressure cooker situation of A-League finals. Despite the loss of a couple of key players during the January transfer window, we should do it with plenty of confidence.
While this week’s player losses might lead to some questions of our defensive line up in this match, the attacking end showed great improvement in last week’s F3 Derby. Leading into the derby we were making enough opportunities to trouble any team but our finishing was letting us down on the scoresheet. The derby marked the return of some quality striking and it was shared around the team, with great goals from Anthony Caceres, Daniel McBreen and Matt Simon.
The end of the week was full of surprises, but nothing the club and its fans haven’t dealt with on plenty of occasions in the past. While this time can often be frustrating for Central Coast fans, as I’ve seen stated elsewhere – the only reason we suffer the loss of our best players each year is that we continuously develop more of them, and we are continuously succeeding despite everyone’s predictions of our demise. It was gloom and doom when Tom Rogic left last year and this time the losses of Daniel McBreen to China and Trent Sainsbury to the Netherlands is measured by some as more of the same. From the depths of last years supposed “despair”, the team somehow won its first A-League Championship, and for a club where the team means a hell of a lot more than the individual, I believe we can rise from this year’s transfer period too.
The fresh news of our signing Eddy Bosnar will not do any harm to the cause and for fans more used to having our quality stolen from under our noses, snaffling a decent signing from under the noses of our sky blue neighbours holds some extra satisfaction. Bosnar will bring plenty of experience to the side, and being a left footed central defender, he will fit right into the stocks of talent we already have. This will provide some much needed defensive depth as we head into the AFC Champions League and I for one can’t wait to see whether he can produce one of those free-kick thunderbolts he’s known for. News of the possibility of other signings on the Phil Moss radar will also be heartening for the yellow faithful.
To this weekend’s first versus third battle in Brisbane – matches between the Roar and Mariners in the past few years have provided some incredible theatre – who could forget the Roar’s come from behind penalties victory in the 2011 Grand Final? Certainly not Central Coast fans! This one will be more than interesting for a variety of reasons and with both sides missing key personnel it will be much more difficult to predict than the points difference on the table might suggest.
Assuming he manages to get through the match without a brain explosion, the return of Besart Berisha to the Roar’s team will certainly add a degree of difficulty to the Mariner’s defensive duties. On the other hand Matt Simon returning to somewhere near the form he had established before leaving the Mariners for Korea, will provide something similar for Brisbane defenders to deal with.
A significant interest point for this weekend will be how the Mariners handle selections in the midfield with Caceres surely impossible to oust from the team, while Captain John Hutchinson waits on the bench. The loss of McBreen will give Mossy some decisions to make in the front of the midfield, with Nick Fitzgerald one possible solution to filling the vacant attacking midfield spot. If I were choosing the team this weekend though, I’d be giving some serious consideration to allowing Hutchinson back into the team to partner Nick Montgomery holding the midfield and pushing Caceres forward into that role. While he hasn’t got too much first team experience yet, that would be his natural position, and with his confidence sky high after scoring a cracking first A-League goal, I’d be banking on him to make the attacking play.
These two sides have the two tightest defences in the A-League so far this year and the key to the encounter will be who can find the method to break the other down. I think this will make for a close game with both sides priority to ensure they maintain a tight back third. While most will predict a Brisbane win in this one, I think it will likely end in a draw or a narrow Mariner’s win.
My prediction – Mariners by 1Google+