ADELAIDE United and Central Coast Mariners will meet in Round 10 of the 2013-14 A-League season at Coopers Stadium on Saturday at 5.30pm.
Past five matches:
The Mariners have struggled to rediscover their championship-winning best of last season so far in 2013-14, but this weekend's game away to Adelaide represents a good opportunity to build momentum. Fresh from a 1-0 win at home to in-form Sydney FC and a battling point in a 0-0 draw against a visiting Melbourne Victory the week before, Phil Moss and his players now go away from home for the first time since their dramatic last-gasp victory over Perth Glory in Round 7.
They will be up against an Adelaide team still getting to grips with a bold new approach under Spanish coach Josep Gombau. Attempting to introduce a possession-focused game, complete with pressing in advanced areas and a high defensive line, it hasn't clicked yet for the South Australian team, who went down 2-1 at home to Brisbane Roar last time out, albeit after a performance much improved from some of their previous efforts.
The big issue:
Adelaide – Consistency and confidence is key to Adelaide's new strategy coming good. They did well in the first half against the Roar, but didn't get the reward their efforts deserved, allowing Brisbane's poacher-in-chief Besart Berisha to snaffle one improbable goal and claim another from the penalty spot. Taking on the reigning champions will not be an easy assignment for a team still displaying their 'tiki-taka' L-Plates, but they have no choice other than to give it a go, and a second win of the season needs to arrive soon.
Mariners – Team selection may be giving Moss some headaches at the moment. Dutch centre-back Marcel Seip, signed to replace retired compatriot Patrick Zwaanswijk, hasn't entirely settled in just yet, while young guns Trent Sainsbury and Zach Anderson have continued to progress steadily, meaning there is healthy competition for places in central defence. Further forward, Mat Simon is yet to fire following his return to the club from a stint in Asia, but the evergreen Daniel McBreen re-opened his Mariners account last week, and is likely to keep his place in the starting XI ahead of his younger colleague, ably supported by the hard-working Mitchell Duke.
The game breaker:
Jeronimo Neumann - the Argentine was benched for the visit of Roar, coming on in the second half for Bruce Djite. Neumann is an undeniable talent, arguably one of the best forwards in the competition on his day. But he hasn't scored since the Round 2 draw with Melbourne Victory, and the Reds need him at his deadly, unpredictable best if they are to start winning games and climbing the table. It remains to be seen if Gombau will restore him to the starting line-up or keep faith with Djite, but if the former River Plate and Estudiantes man does get a chance, he needs to take it.
Prediction: Adelaide 1-1 Central Coast
The Mariners are sure to stick to their usual script and seek to keep it tight on the road, and Adelaide will be all too happy to have the ball and play around with it. The key question is whether or not the Reds can prevent their visitors from pouncing on the counterattack, which is something the title-holders have proven adept at in recent season, and is also one of Adelaide's major vulnerabilities. At the other end the home team must find a way to turn possession into goals, and that will not be easy against a Mariners side which has kept a clean sheet four times this season, including against the Reds at home in a 1-0 Round 3 win.