Western Sydney and the Central Coast will both be eyeing second spot on the A-League ladder and the perks that come with it.
Now the premiership’s gone, the battle for second spot hots up with Western Sydney and Central Coast equally desperate to secure the runners-up position.
With second place comes big advantages – the opening week of the finals series off, for one, and a spot in the Asian Champions League (ACL).
Being part of the ACL campaign and the hectic schedule that comes with it, the Wanderers and the Mariners know just how important those perks would be.
Western Sydney occupy second but will surrender it to the Mariners with a loss at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday.
Wanderers gloveman Ante Covic says now Brisbane have taken their Premiers Plate, his side don’t intend to give up second spot.
“The premiership was always a goal of ours, but now we’ve got to focus on achieving the next best thing and that’s second place,” he said.
The Wanderers have not lost to Central Coast since the 2013 grand final. Their first encounter this season ended in a draw and Western Sydney won their last clash in December 2-0.
After losing every game they played in February, the Mariners have pulled themselves back to post four wins in their past six outings.
Covic knows the defending champions will be no easybeats on Saturday.
“This year there were probably stages there when you’d write them off and say, ‘They’re not like their former selves last year’, but they always seem to bounce back,” he said.
“They’re going to be wanting the win this game just as much as we are … but whatever they bring to the plate we’re going to match it.”
Both teams come into this crucial clash off victories – the Wanderers a 3-0 thumping of Perth and the Mariners a 2-1 win over Melbourne Heart.
Central Coast coach Phil Moss says his side came away with plenty of confidence from their come-from-behind victory last week.
“We’re expecting a very physical encounter,” Moss said.
“How high we can finish is yet to be seen. It’s still very tight. One result either way can change things overnight, but there’s a lot of belief in the squad.”
Wanderers coach Tony Popovic says defender Adam D’Apuzzo will be sidelined again this week, while centre-back Matthew Spiranovic is a “day-by-day” prospect after straining his hamstring last week, but Popovic hopes he’ll be available.