Finals football is back! Treble-chasing Mariners vs Sydney Preview

Central Coast Mariners make the short trip to Sydney FC on Friday evening (7:45pm kick-off), as our 23/24 Finals journey gets underway.

The Mariners are looking to take the next step towards a potentially historic treble by retaining the Championship, in doing-so (over two legs) Mark Jackson’s team would break yet another club record this season. The club has never reached, let alone won, two Grand Finals in a row.

Last season’s magical Semi-Final tie with Adelaide is one of the fondest memories in recent Mariners history, a 2-1 first leg win in South Australia was backed up by a 2-0 second leg victory in front of a sold out Our Paradise. The Mariners will be hoping for more of the same this time around.

A seat on our Official Supporter Buses is the best way to make your way to the game this Friday, with no trains running back to the Coast after 5pm.

Sydney FC: Form, team news & ones to watch

Standing between the Mariners and history are Sydney FC, the only team to have beaten the Jackson’s team since November, and the only team we have failed to beat in the A-League this season, so two exciting and challenging games are in store.

Sydney’s home form has been particularly strong, they are unbeaten in their last 10 at home and roll into this game having scored 11 goals in their last two home matches, a 7-1 demolition of Perth Glory on the final day of the regular season and a 4-0 win over Macarthur in their Elimination Final.

At home this season, Sydney have taken 26 points from 14 games, only bettered by ourselves and Wellington Phoenix.

However, it’s not all good news for Sydney. The Sky Blues will be without star man Joe Lolley for both legs against the Mariners after he suffered a season-ending hamstring injury in their Elimination Final against Macarthur.

Lolley scored one of the goals of the season on 50 minutes, but limped off less than two minutes later, with Ufuk Talay later confirming that it is a season-ending injury. Talay also revealed that Luke Brattan is ‘touch and go’ with an ankle knock, saying ‘there is no need to play mind games’ when questioned why he was revealing his team news.

Lolley has been unquestionably Sydney’s main man this season with 17 G/A, the fifth-highest combined goals and assists in the A-League.

No matter how much of a loss Lolley is, Sydney have plenty of other quality players for the Mariners to keep tabs on.

Fabio Gomes has 11 goals this season whilst experienced forward Robbie Mak finished the regular season with eight goals and scored two against Macarthur, making it four in his last two games.

And in terms of providing those goals and chances, Sydney have the player second only to Josh Nisbet in the A-League assist charts. Our number four finished the season with a league-best tally of nine, Anthony Caceres following with eight.

Your Mariners

Jacko, like Talay, saw no need for keeping secrets when it came to his team news, revealing Miguel Di Pizio is the only doubt for Friday evening.

They come into the game after winning two trophies in the last two games, clinching the Premiers Plate at home to Adelaide and lifting the AFC Cup in Oman on Monday morning.

The Mariners are the form team in the competition, winning seven of their last games as they stormed to the title. Sydney on the other hand have had an inconsistent second-half to the season, their last two outings the first time they have recorded back-to-back wins since February.

Also, on the flip side of Sydney’s impressive home form however, is the Mariners top-of-the-league away form. No team took more points away from home than Jackson’s men, who won eight and drew two of their 13 away games this term.

Despite two defeats against Sydney previously, the Mariners can not possibly go into this game lacking in confidence.

Both Jacko and Max Balard spoke to the press on Thursday morning, insisting the Mariners will not be focussed on the absence of Lolley, previous defeats against Sydney or the short turnaround from AFC Cup action on Monday morning.