Match Preview: Western United vs Central Coast Mariners

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As we head into the pointy end of the 2021/22 A-League Men season, Saturday afternoon’s clash between Western United and Central Coast Mariners has big implications for both teams.

The game will be played at MARS Stadium in Ballarat, which will be the green and black’s second trip there so far this season. They defeated Newcastle Jets 2-1 earlier in the year thanks to a brace from Swiss defender Leo Lacroix.

It is a home away from home for the Tarneit-based outfit, giving them considerably more of an advantage than at GMHBA Stadium or AAMI Park.

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John Aloisi’s side will definitely be hoping to make the most of the fixture and secure another vital three points in rural Victoria.

For the Mariners, it presents a unique challenge, having never previously played at the venue before.

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The history between the two sides is as even as it gets. They have met six times in the domestic league, with three wins apiece.

None of those games have occurred this season, and given the context, it shapes up to be a tight contest.

Western United currently sit in second-place behind last year’s champions, Melbourne City.

Behind by three points and with two games in hand, the pressure to keep winning games and picking up points has never been so high.

The same can be said for Central Coast, who picked up a crucial win against Adelaide United last weekend after a dip in results.

They currently sit in eighth-place, but only two points behind sixth-placed Sydney FC and a spot in the finals.

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Who to watch out for:

Jason Cummings has started to look like the star Central Coast fans hoped he would be when he arrived in the January transfer window. His hold-up play and vision will be an important feature against a Western side that has conceded a league-best 20 goals so far this season.

Mariners fans will be hoping that he replicates his goalscoring form from Saturday’s win against Adelaide, which broke a run of seven games without a goal for the charismatic striker.

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Aleksandar Prijovic has been directly involved in 10 goals through his first 16 matches in the A-League Men. It has been a great return for the marquee man that John Aloisi has entrusted with leading the line.

Given the speed that occupies the wings, the Serbian will be hoping for great service against a vulnerable Mariners backline that has struggled to keep clean sheets this season.

Prediction:

Given the state of play for both teams, it is likely to be a cagey affair.

The first goal looks to be the all-important one, as Western United very rarely lose after scoring the opener. In saying that, 1-1 looks to be the likely scoreline between the two sides, paving the way for a first ever draw between them.

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Dillon Izon
Marketing graduate at Monash University. Sports addicted, fan of Manchester United and Melbourne City. My gran “knows” Gareth Bale.

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