Brisbane Roar coach Mike Mulvey says he is not fooled by yet more Central Coast player departures, saying they will respect the Mariners on Sunday.
A change is as good as a holiday, they say.
But while Central Coast have endured plenty of the former, ladder leaders Brisbane Roar coach Mike Mulvey is not expecting the latter in Sunday’s top four A-League clash at Suncorp Stadium.
Defending champions Central Coast appear vulnerable again after young defender Trent Sainsbury (Dutch club PEC Zwolle) and veteran striker Daniel McBreen (Chinese Super League club Shanghai SIPG) this week announced they were moving on.
They join an exodus that included four players before the season had started, the departure of inspirational coach Graham Arnold to Japan and even a new CEO.
Still the Mariners juggernaut has rumbled on to third spot with an unbeaten five match run – and Mulvey did not expect anything different on Sunday.
“I’ve got the headline for you – the champions are coming to town,” he said.
“Don’t let them fly under the radar because (new coach) Phil Moss is doing a fantastic job in playing down what he has under his bonnet.
“They have had plenty of changes but it doesn’t matter – they are the reigning champs.
“We will treat them with the utmost respect.
“They are a dogged team, they have quality, they never given in – it is going to be one hell of a fight.”
Brisbane playmaker Thomas Broich said the Mariners were similar to the Roar in that their tried and tested system ensured they remained a success no matter who they had on the field.
“Their system is different to ours but in terms of understanding the gameplan and executing it they are an excellent team and quite ruthless – they are always a danger,” he said.
“It’s not easy after winning a championship to be a top team straight away again.
“They have lost players and had a change of coach but they look to have dealt with the changes and become serious title contenders again.
“We have to be real careful because we know what they can do.”
The Mariners have a horror record against two-time champs Brisbane, with just six wins from 32 games.
And their odds don’t look like improving against a Roar side welcoming back star striker Besart Berisha from suspension and possibly new signing Jean Carlos Solorzano, depending on the Costa Rican’s international clearance.
But Mulvey has put a line through the names of Socceroos Ivan Franjic (stomach strain) and Matt McKay (ankle).