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Elimination final preview: Adelaide United versus Central Coast Mariners

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Roar Guru
5 days ago
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The A-League Men’s two most in-form teams clash in what should be an entertaining affair this Sunday at Coopers Stadium in Adelaide.

Adelaide United and the Central Coast Mariners are on five-game winning streaks that have been highlighted by exciting attacking play as well as dogged defending.

They are two of the most under-resourced clubs in the league and many pundits and fans weren’t expecting either side to be credible title challengers this season due to their reliance on youth.

It may surprise some people to know that Adelaide has a younger squad on average than the Mariners – an average age of 23.97 compared to 24.25. Adelaide have nine players aged between 17 and 19 and the Mariners have 11 between the ages of 20 and 22. 

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The season’s passing stats of the sides are near identical, but it’s the shooting and goal attempts where the stats start to separate.

Adelaide finished the season as the team with the second most attempts on goal throughout the campaign, highlighted with star player Craig Goodwin finishing first in the ‘most created chances’ category

The side’s reliance on crossing and set pieces has seen a staggering 81 headed attempts at goal – more than double the Mariners.

However, the Mariners are a far more clinical side – they take fewer shots and convert at a higher ratio, through the predatory instincts of Jason Cummings and co.

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Jason Cummings

(Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

Adelaide has unfairly been branded as a team known for the dark arts of defending, but the sides are almost even when it comes to tackling, duels and fouls per game. The Mariners average 1.4 yellow cards as opposed to 2.3 for Adelaide.

With Adelaide playing at home, they will instantly be classed as favourites and this is backed up by the betting margins for the game.

Adelaide has never been a happy hunting ground for the Mariners, with only two wins since 2013 – the last was in 2016.

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Losing a quarter of the stadium due to reconstruction will lower the noise and intimidation of the crowd, but Coopers Stadium is still one of the most difficult stadiums for interstate sides to visit. Adelaide finished the season with the league’s third best home record.

In terms of ins and outs, there are some fitness concerns for both sides, in particular Adelaide.

Lynchpins of the midfield, Isiais and Juande, are both carrying knocks and are in a race against time to be fit for Sunday while the Mariners will likely be without the underrated Dan Hall and Moresche.

Craig Goodwin is the all-time leader in goals and assists in this fixture and the Mariners will be wise to double team a player many expect to go close to winning the Johnny Warren Medal at season’s end.

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Craig Goodwin

(Photo by James Elsby/Getty Images)

Jason Cummings will loom large as the Mariners’ danger man. His unpredictability in and around the box has caused mayhem against all sides since January and helped the Mariners to finish second in goals scored this season with 49.

Adelaide are normally known for their attacking play, but it is the defence that has kept them in the top four for a lot of the season.

The makeshift pairing of the country’s best NPL centre back Lachlan Barr and promising teenager Alexander Popovic has helped the team to the league’s third best rearguard this term.

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Both sides have had to deal with their share of player issues as well, with Stefan Mauk and Ben O’Halloran being sold in January and Ruon Tongyik and Oliver Bozanic having personal issues.

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The clashes over the past two seasons between the sides have seen multiple controversial refereeing decisions and it would surprise no one to see further flash points in this match.

There is x-factor aplenty with both teams possessing teenagers that have no fear and are able to dribble past opponents at will.

The clubs’ futures look assured as well with Pelligra Group taking over United and Richard Peil on board as chairman and investor for the Mariners.

Adelaide will start as heavy favourites, but the Mariners will be quietly confident of an upset in a contest that sees one side losing their five-game win streak.

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