It doesn't get any better than this!
If the A-League hasnt announced itself yet as a true challenger to the throne of Australian sport, then by weekends close David Gallop will be screaming it from the top of Mount Kosciuszko.
And if twilight Sunday's clash between Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory doesn't get your football tastebuds tingling, then look no farther than Pirtek Stadium on Saturday night as last years Grand Final combatants will face off in a true tactical battle for a place in next weeks showpiece event.
The Mariners come into the clash on the back of consecutive clean sheets in their last two A-League fixtures, including holding the premiers to nil at Suncorp, however will be burdened by a gruelling travel itinerary that has the reigning champions arriving back on Australian shores just over 24 hours before the match following an unsuccessful trip to the land of the rising sun midweek. Bernie Ibini and Nick Fitzgerald were unused substitutes in Japan where the Central Coast's ACL campaign came to a close, but should feature prominently as the yellow and navy look to qualify for their fifth A-League Grand Final.
Contrastingly in Sydney's west, Tony Popovic's much maligned rotation policy has delivered significant results with the Wanderers finishing their second campaign in Australia's top flight in second place, whilst a ruthless performance on the Asian stage on Tuesday saw the red and black progress through to the Round of 16 in the ACL atop Group H with a 5-0 win over a happless Guizhou Renhe. Second season blues have not been evident for the A-League newest side, and a win on Saturday will go a long way to avenging their Grand Final loss last year to Phil Moss' men.
The Form Book:
The Mariners and Western Sydney have fostered a titilating rivalry in their seven previous meetings where the Central Coast hold the slightest of advantages over their southern neighbours - winning three times to the Wanderers two.
CCM last five fixtures: WWLWW
WSW last five fixtures: WDLWD
Last Time They Met:
In what was billed as Mile Sterjovski's send-off game, the Mariners provided much to cheer about as Bernie Ibini's 90th minute strike sealed a 2-1 win for the home side infront of a parochial Gosford crowd.
Western Sydney Wanderers: 1.Ante COVIC (GK), 2.Shannon COLE, 3.Adam D’APUZZO, 4.Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 6.Jerome POLENZ, 7.Labinot HALITI, 8.Mateo POLJAK, 9.Tomi JURIC, 10.Aaron MOOY, 11.Brendon SANTALAB, 13.Matthew SPIRANOVIC, 14.Kwabena APPIAH, 17.Youssouf HERSI, 18.Iacopo LA ROCCA, 19.Mark BRIDGE, 20.Jerrad TYSON (GK), 21.Shinji ONO, 22. Dean HEFFERNAN
Central Coast Mariners: 1. Justin PASFIELD (Gk), 3. Josh ROSE, 5. Zac ANDERSON, 6. Brent GRIFFITHS, 7. John HUTCHINSON (C), 8. Nick MONTGOMERY, 9. Mitchell DUKE, 11. Nick FITZGERALD, 12. Liam REDDY (Gk), Storm ROUX, 17. Anthony CACERES, 19. Matt SIMON, 20. Bernie IBINI, 21. Mile STERJOVSKI, 25. Eddy BOSNAR, 26. KIM Seung-yong, 27. Isaka CERNAK, 28. Glen TRIFIRO, 29. Matt SIM
The Game Breaker:
It is very hard to say in all sincerity that a game can be changed between the posts, but after a string of impecably impressive performances by Mariners gloveman Liam Reddy, it is high time we give the reformed keeper the recognition and respect he has so commanded through his play. The former Sydney FC shot stopper has revitalised an ailing career on the Central Coast, and has won the Gosford club multiple matches of the back of his own play both domestically and abroad. Another imposing game by the man nicknamed "Rocket" will be less of a hope than a requirement for the Mariners #12 as he, along with the back four, will look to repel a number of crafty attacking players wearing red and black.
A history of tight tustle leads me to believe we are in for another nail biter in Sydney's west. Western Sydney have momentum and revenge on their minds but the Central Coast thrive with their backs against the wall. If the season was to end here for the away side, it will still have been successful, but I have a genuine sneaking suspicion that the Mariners could get the job done in Wanderland. I dont think the boys can keep out the Wanderers for 90 minutes however, so I am predicting a repeat of the sides last encounter to do the trick - a 2-1 win to send the visitors through the the Hyundai A-League Grand Final.
You heard it here first.