Preview panel for week three of the A-League finals.
SATURDAY, April 14
Grand final qualifier
CENTRAL COAST MARINERS v PERTH GLORY, Bluetongue Stadium, 5pm AEST
Head-to-head: Mariners 13 Glory 3 Drawn 5
March 11, 2012: Glory 1 bt Mariners 0 at nib Stadium
Dec 23, 2011: Mariners 3 bt Glory 1 at nib Stadium
Oct 29, 2011: Mariners 2 bt Glory 1 at Bluetongue Stadium
TAB Sportsbet: Mariners $2.10, draw $3.30, Glory $3.30
Minor premiers Central Coast will be desperate to get another crack at arch rivals Brisbane Roar in the grand final but an in-form Perth are threatening to spoil the party. While the Mariners have a strong record against the Glory, the westerners appear to have plenty in their favour. They’ve been keen to point out the pressure is all on the table-topping Mariners and confidence is soaring among Ian Ferguson’s squad after three straight wins. Both sides should be virtually full strength but the Mariners have had a much heavier schedule due to the Asian Champions League, though coach Graham Arnold insists he’d rather be playing than risk losing rhythm. Shane Smeltz wasn’t among the scorers in the Glory’s minor semi-final defeat of Wellington but remains the biggest threat with seven goals in three games. The Mariners’ hopes could rest on how young stars like Tom Rogic, Mustafa Amini and Bernie Ibini handle the pressure of the big occasion.
Key: Defence has been the key to the Mariners’ successful season but copping five goals in two games against the Roar shows they have some holes to plug against the Smeltz-led Glory.
* Winner faces Brisbane Roar in A-League grand final at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday, April 22 at 4pm AEST.