Talking points preview: Mariners vs City
Melbourne City heads to Gosford this week to tackle a Central Coast Mariners side that is high on confidence with four wins in a row under their belt in all competitions.
Whilst our beloved City isn't short on self-belief, their form line isn't currently as good as this week's host, with no wins in all competitions since December's triumph over Perth Glory. The boys will be keen to buck that trend and climb up the A-League Men's ladder.
Here are three talking points heading into this crucial game:
Get ready to see a young defence
Suspensions and illness are preventing the likes of Nuno Reis, Scott Jamieson and Rostyn Griffiths from playing this week which could mean that Kerrin Stokes, Jordan Bos and Jordan Hall may have to step up to their biggest challenge to date for the club, playing as part of a back four altogether for the first time.
The experienced heads of Scott Galloway and/or new signing Carl Jenkinson will hopefully give the young trio some guidance. However, it would ultimately be up to the three young lads to do the bulk of the defensive duties that will help us on the way to three points.
Must. Stop. Ureña.
The possibility of an extremely young back four looks daunting for City already, but the fact that they'll have to contain the in-form Marco Ureña will only make tonight's challenge more difficult.
The Costa Rican has netted three goals and provided two assists in the eight matches he's been a part of this season, and in all the times he's scored for his team this season, bar one, the Mariners have gone on to win.
Keeping Ureña at bay should be a priority that would be in the best interests of Patrick Kisnorbo and the back four he ends up picking.
Our front three must be on their A-game
Whether it's tactics or personnel or both, we need to have a plan to smash the Mariners 'Brick Wall' down and stop them from rebuilding it throughout the game.
Why are we up against a brick wall this week? Because they have conceded just five goals in their nine matches across all competitions so far this season, and only once have they conceded multiple goals.
If there is an attack that can do that then it's ours, especially given that our goals-scored tally sits at 16 from 10 games in all competitions. On a per-90-minutes basis, that ranks us second in the league with 1.57 goals, whilst we lead for total shots per 90 with 18.00.
This is largely thanks to Andrew Nabbout and Jamie Maclaren, who individually are both in the top five players for shots per 90, and it will be these two, in addition to the resurgent Mat Leckie, to score us the vital goals later tonight.