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Preview: Central Coast Mariners vs Sydney FC – 11/12/21

Season Preview

A-League Men’s Round 4: Central Coast Mariners vs Sydney FC

Kick-off: 6:15pm

Venue: Central Coast Stadium, Gosford

Live stream: Paramount+

Last time they met: Central Coast Mariners 2 (Urena 6′, Simon 41′), Sydney FC 2 (Ninkovic 45+2′, Buhagiar 83′) at Central Coast Stadium

Sydney FC travel north up the M1 on Sunday to face the Central Coast Mariners in Gosford.

After two draws and a loss to open their 2021-22 A-League men’s campaign, Sydney players, coaches and fans are starting to get restless.

One could point to the fact that this is the club’s worst start to a season in ten years shows how successful a decade we’ve had, but it also means we have become accustomed to winning, and going three games without a victory is pretty much unheard of.

The fact is, everyone in the club expects success from this squad this year – it might be too ambitious to be expecting trophies, but this is a top-four squad. Going four games without a win won’t be palatable, so there is a fair bit on the line in this clash.

Last Saturday’s clash with the Jets started well enough, with Adam Le Fondre opening the scoring from the penalty spot within the first ten minutes, and Elvis Kamsoba – who I thought would be our new whipping boy – doubling the lead 20 minutes later.

Going into the sheds with a two-goal lead, at home, is really a position you should be claiming three points from basically every time. I’m too lazy to look up the stats, but our winning percentage from this position in the last five or so years would be high, I’m sure.

The second half at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium was quite a different story, however, with the Jets putting plenty of pressure on the Sydney goal – and that pressure told when Valentino Yuel got one back for the visitors, then levelled the game seven minutes later. It ended 2-2 on a not-so-pleasant evening in Kogarah.

We are already missing Luke Brattan in the engine room – dearly, I might add – and with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting that Rhyan Grant is the Sydney FC player who has tested positive to COVID-19, that’s now two cornerstones of our recent success missing from the XI.

The last few lines in that article do mention Sydney are “hopeful” that Bobô and Kosta Barbarouses will be available for this game, which is something, at least.

Moving on to the Mariners, Nick Montgomery’s side have had a lukewarm start to 2021-22 – at least results-wise. They were good value for their 2-1 win over Newcastle in Round 1, but since then they’ve suffered consecutive losses to Wellington and Macarthur.

From what I caught of the loss to Macarthur, they were unlucky to go down in that one, so the results may not be showing a clear picture of where they are really at.

Mark Birighitti will slot straight back in between the sticks after he served his one-game suspension – sustained in the FFA Cup win over Wollongong Wolves – on Sunday.

Marco Ureña is one to watch up-front for the home side. The underrated Costa Rican is always dangerous and is due for another goal soon after being denied in his last two games.

One thing for certain is that with Sydney FC’s form, and the Mariners much improved from what they’ve shown for most of the last few years, this is going to be a challenging game for the Sky Blues.

Check back on Sunday for the post-match wash-up.