Mariners ready to Roar

Central Coast Mariners Head Coach Graham Arnold has issued a simple message ahead of tomorrow’s blockbuster Hyundai A-League Major Semi Final first leg against Brisbane Roar at Bluetongue Stadium – “we’re ready.”

Central Coast Mariners Head Coach Graham Arnold has issued a simple message ahead of tomorrow-s blockbuster Hyundai A-League Major Semi Final first leg against Brisbane Roar at Bluetongue Stadium – “we-re ready.”

The Mariners have finalized preparations for the clash with the squad coming through their last training session unscathed and are full of confidence coming off the back of their most successful season to date, which has seen them net 50 goals and concede just 31 over the 30 match campaign.

Arnold says while his team is flying high, Brisbane deservedly holds the tag as the one to beat.

“After 25 games unbeaten they are the form team, and the team that has raised everyone-s level of football in the A-League this year,” said Arnold.

“I think the pressure is on them, even their players are saying they feel like they have won nothing until they have won the Grand Final.

“All the pressure is on them, we-re in good form as well, we have only lost once in the last 15 games and we have developed a lot as a team over the year, and I-m definitely sure we-re ready.”

The Mariners proved to themselves following a dominant 3-all draw with the Premiers that they are more than up to the task, and Arnold wants his side to prove the Roar is beatable, in front of what is hoped will be a bumper Bluetongue Stadium crowd.

“We have to make sure we stay disciplined tactically and structurally, that has been one of our strengths this year the way the players have carried out our game plan, and played the way they have. I think the pressure is on them. They are coming here to win the game but our form here at Bluetongue has been fantastic, and hopefully we will have a big crowd behind us, our 12th man, and help us all the way,” Arnold said.

In good news for the Mariners, Matt Simon is expected to complete his return from a knee injury, while Arnold will decide close to kick off, whether to return Rostyn Griffiths to the starting line-up, or allow John Hutchinson to continue his recent good form at the base of the Mariners midfield diamond.

“It-s a good headache to have, Hutch has done exceptionally well in the last two games and before that Rostyn was having a great season, but I will probably leave that until matchday.

“17 or 18 players know what their jobs are if required tomorrow night, Matty Simon looks like he is fit, so he will come back into the side, he has been fantastic this year scoring 11 goals, he-s a real menace, and I think if we have one edge over Brisbane it-s our aerial presence and physicality up front,” said Arnold.

A total of 14 goals have been scored in the three clashes between the two teams so far this season, but Arnold is expecting goals to be at a premium this time around, as the Mariners look to head to Brisbane with their 14th clean sheet this season, and a record 13th clean sheet for rookie goalkeeper Mathew Ryan.

“Whatever happens tomorrow night you have to remember it-s still only half time, and there-s a return leg. We-ll be doing our best to keeping a clean sheet, that-s the key tomorrow night is no goals against and even if we go away at 0-0 we go up there with a good chance on away goals, but I don-t thing either team can do that, we can-t go out there and defend for 90 minutes against a team like that.

“I don-t think it will be a goal fest but it will be close, I think it will be a fantastic game, I can-t wait, I-m really excited.

“We-ve got nothing to lose, the boys have done fantastically this year, I-m so proud of them, and now is what you play football for, finals is why you play football.

“As long as they go out there and play the game plan and enjoy themselves, enjoyment is what it is all about,” said Arnold.

The Central Coast Mariners first match of the Hyundai A-League 2011 Finals Series will be against Brisbane Roar this Saturday, 19 February at Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford. Kick-off is at 7:00pm AEDT and Tickets are available online by CLICKING HERE or by phoning 132 849.

Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 3, FS3 HD and Sky Sports 3 (NZ). Hyundai A-League partner is 96.3 Coast FM (Gosford).

Head-to-Head:All matches (played 20): Central Coast Mariners wins 3, Brisbane Roar wins 10 (7 draws)

Central Coast Mariners: 2. Daniel McBREEN, 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 10. Patricio PEREZ, 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 16. Trent SAINSBURY, 18. Alex WILKINSON, 19. Matt SIMON, 20. Mathew RYAN (gk), 22. Mustafa AMINI, 23. Adam KWASNIK, 24. Bernie IBINI ISEI, 25. Mitchell DUKE, 30. Paul HENDERSON (gk)
*three to be omitted*

In: Matt SIMON (return from injury), Rostyn GRIFFITHS (promoted), Mitchell DUKE (promoted)
Out: Nil
Unavailable: Brad PORTER (knee – four weeks), Nik MRDJA (knee – six weeks), Jess VANSTRATTAN (knee – season)

Brisbane Roar: 1. Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2. Matt SMITH, 4. Shane STEFANUTTO, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 6. Erik PAARTALU, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Massimo MURDOCCA, 9. Jean Carlos SOLORZANO, 10. HENRIQUE, 12. Matt MUNDY, 14. Rocky VISCONTE, 15. Matt McKAY (c), 17. Mitch NICHOLS, 20. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 22. Thomas BROICH, 23. Milan SUSAK
*one to be omitted*

In: Massimo MURDOCCA (returns from injury), Jean Carlos SOLORZANO (returns from injury)
Out: Chris BUSH (omitted)
Unavailable: James MEYER (toe injury 4-6 weeks)

Referee: Matthew Breeze