Men’s Preview: Sydney brace for Mariners fight

Sydney FC will travel north to face second-placed Central Coast Mariners, where, if they win, they will re-enter the top six if results fall their way. 

A win against the Mariners would move the Sky Blues within five points of Central Coast and put their goal differential ratio to positive for the first time this Isuzu UTE A-League season. 

The Sky Blues will have to create a better performance than they did against Western United, as they played out a 2-2 draw in Hobart after Noah Botic and Ben Garuccio cancelled out goals by Fabio Gomes and Jake Girdwood-Reich. 

By earning a point, Sydney FC continued their recent undefeated form, only losing once in their last seven A-League appearances, which helped them stay one point behind the sixth-placed side, Melbourne City. 

For Central Coast, they continued their fourteen-game unbeaten streak across domestic and international competitions, following a 0-0 draw to ladder leaders, Wellington Phoenix in Wellington. 

Both sides’ defences proved too strong for their attack. The Nix and Mariners only recorded three target attempts each, and both goalkeepers mainly remained unchallenged. 

One’s to Watch: 

Luke Brattan:

Luke Brattan seemed to be everywhere against Western, touching the ball 104 times, making three clearances, delivering 20 long balls and tackling five players to keep Sydney within the game. With the Sky Blues having 406 passes, Brattan was involved in 65 of them, the most out of any player, which made him a vital asset to the team’s midfield. 

Jordan Courtney Perkins: 

With the omission of Joel King and Jack Rodwell due to injury, Jordan Courtney-Perkins has slotted into the left-back role ideally, using his position to reinforce Ufuk Talay’s high-risk, high-reward strategy. Against United, Courtney-Perkins was a playmaker, particularly in the first half, by crossing the ball into the box, which troubled Western’s defence. 

Jordan Courtney-Perkins tussling with Daniel Arzani.

Mikael Doka:

Ufuk Talay’s aggressive attacking style has caused some teams’ defences to crumble. On Tuesday against Wellington, Mikael Doka was a key defender in stopping Wellington from generating goal-scoring opportunities. The defender had the best game on the pitch, clearing the ball five times, tackling five players and intercepting it. As he is the Mariner’s left back, he will come face to face with Max Burgess or Robert Mak, who will aim to find form, especially Mak, after he played for 45 minutes on Saturday, the most in a month after a groin injury.

Head-To-Head- 2023/2024

8-4-4CCM – RECORD – SYD6-2-7
4-1-5H2H in GOSFORD IN LAST 10 GAMES5-1-4
46.1{98698ff7ed92b99d4e0cecdfdc9e4dccf4922e0a04ff9db373daf4aa83b73fe2}POSSESSION PG55.7{98698ff7ed92b99d4e0cecdfdc9e4dccf4922e0a04ff9db373daf4aa83b73fe2}
14.4SHOTS PG20.1

How Sydney can win:

Sydney has a good history in Gosford, winning five of the last six encounters with the Mariners. 

But they might need more than that if the Sky Blues can match up to the Mariners. 

To generate chances, Sydney FC must replicate their high number of passes and larger possession percentage per game than their opponents.  

Joe Lolley on the ball against the Mariners in the last meeting in the Australia Cup

Talay has been adamant over the last few weeks that the side would benefit from holding the ball for longer to generate more chances in front of the goal. 

Possession and high press will be crucial. Central Coast has ruthlessly defeated opponents over the past weeks through aggressive attacks. To be clinical, the Sky Blues midfield must keep composed and stay on top of the ball. 

How the Mariners can win: 

The Mariners only have a five-day turnaround from playing Wellington on Tuesday, but the Sky Blues should not let that phase them, as the Mariners have been playing mid-week football due to their participation in the AFC Cup. 

Last year’s champions have scored nine goals in five appearances since the new year began, scoring four against Adelaide United last weekend. 

The Mariners’ attack is dangerous, but their defence is equally solid, recording six clean sheets and an average of 1.2 goals conceded. As Central Coast has less possession than the Sky Blues this season, they also might sit back, like they did against Wellington and let Sydney FC try to find an opener. 

As the side has had 27 successful counterattacks this season, the most out of any side, the Mariners also may spring forward.  

Last time out: 

Sydney FC last faced the Mariners in the opening round of the Australia Cup. Both sides played out a dramatic 3-3 all draw, where goals to Robert Mak, Pat Wood and Jaiden Kucharski were enough to reach a penalty shootout. 

At 9-all, Andrew Redmayne saved Jack Warshawsky’s penalty before scoring his own, which saw Sydney FC win 10-9 on penalties and progress to the second round. 

Sydney FC in the Penalty Shootout against the Mariners las time out

The key takeaway from this game was that Sydney FC dominated possession and were clinical, which saw them stretch out a 2-0 lead. 

The times the Mariners scored were from attacking pressure and a counterattack, which the Mariners have done again in the A-League season.  

Team News:

Sydney FC will be without Jack Rodwell and Joel King but is nearing a return in the coming weeks.

Central Coast will continue to be without Brad Trapp and Harrison Steele, as they have sustained injuries.   

Match Details:

Central Coast Mariners v Sydney FC
Isuzu UTE A-League Round 16
Saturday 10th February, 2024
Industree Group Stadium, Gosford, NSW
Kick Off: 7:45PM
Gates Open: 4:00PM
Broadcast Live: Paramount + and 10BOLD
Tickets: Click Here