Western United coach Mark Rudan says Alen Stajcic's Central Coast Mariners are the best team in the A-League ahead of their clash in Gosford.
Mark Rudan has lauded Alen Stajcic as a magician for transforming the Central Coast Mariners and insists Western United will be facing the best team in the A-League on Sunday.
Perennial strugglers in recent years, the Mariners sit top with four wins from six games - including beating Sydney FC, Macarthur FC and Melbourne City.
"It's funny (the media) mentioned (the Mariners are) walking on water because right now you'd think Alen Stajcic is Jesus - because he's done a fantastic job with them," United coach Rudan told reporters.
"We all know the fantastic job that he did with the Matildas as well.
"He's a magician as far as I'm concerned - he's turned the place around again."
Rudan said the Mariners' form repaid the faith the club showed in Stajcic after a tough run last season.
"It wasn't a one-off when they beat Sydney FC, or Macarthur," Rudan said.
"They've knocked off a championship favourite in Melbourne City - (from) down 2-0 as well, playing three days later.
"This team is the real deal as far as we're concerned - they're top of the table for a reason and they deserve to be top of the table. So we play against the best team, for me, in the competition."
Rudan backed United to create opportunities at Central Coast Stadium on Sunday, but emphasised a need to match the Mariners' workrate.
"We are a team that is comfortable on the ball and we back ourselves and it's important that we match their energy levels - that's going to be important," he said.
"It's not going to be won on paper on Sunday and it's been a constant message all week - that everything that we do this week has to be perfect and we've got to do it with energy, with passion, and positivity."
United have close to a full squad to choose from, including Max Burgess, who is "up for selection" following his return from a failed transfer attempt.
Meanwhile Rudan confirmed he'd received a "please explain" from the league after making comments about controversial offside calls, officiating and the VAR in United's 0-0 draw with Melbourne Victory.
STATS THAT MATTER
* Central Coast's 12 points from six games to start this season is their best tally since the opening six games of 2012-13 (13 points)
* United have won just one of their past five A-League games and have failed to score a goal in three of those
* United have won their past two games on the bounce against the Mariners.