Head coach Paul Okon says his Central Coast Mariners know what they need to do to stop Adelaide United in this Sunday's vital clash at Coopers Stadium.
Fresh off the back of a 1-all draw with last season's runner-up Western Sydney, Okon was full of cautious praise for his charges ahead of the weekend's showdown with the reigning Hyundai A-League champions.
"We're confident. We're playing good football at the moment," said Okon. "If we head across to Adelaide and deliver a similar performance to last week, we give ourselves a good chance of a result."
"I was disappointed with our shape [the week before] against Brisbane, we stretched our lines too much, which allowed Brisbane's midfield to dictate the play too much for our liking. We worked on that during the week, knowing the Wanderers use two wingers playing inside, and if you leave pockets of space available they're dangerous and can punish you. We probably sat too deep in the first half, but at halftime we spoke about where we needed to be better, and our defensive structure, our block, was better."
Okon says the feedback from the playing group is that they're enjoying the new structure, which has seen the side created a lot of chances.
"Unfortunately we haven't converted a lot of those chances, for whatever reason, but ultimately we believe this style will get us results. Again last weekend we conceded a sloppy goal after 90 seconds, but on the positive side we didn't concede again for the rest of the game. We can't give away early, cheap goals - we're confident if we erase that from our game, we're a good chance of winning," Okon said.
Part of Okon's decorated playing career saw him line up alongside current Adelaide United coach Guillermo Amor at ACF Fiorentina during the 1999 UEFA Champions League group stage. The Mariners' coach spoke highly of Amor:
"They're some great memories - both legs against Barcelona were a great experience. He's a gentleman, a great guy and it's fantastic to see him in Australia passing on his knowledge to local footballers here. I don't need to talk him up as a football manager - last season sepaks for itself with that.
"We've stayed in touch, we used to have long chats in the dressing room - Barcelona was my team in the 90's so I was always trying to pick his brain on what they were doing. I'm looking forward to seeing him again on Saturday - and trying to beat him."
Adelaide United squad: 1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk) (c), 3.Iacopo LA ROCCA, 4.Dylan McGOWAN, 8.ISAÍAS, 9.Sergi GUARDIOLA, 12.Mark OCHIENG, 13.Marc MARINO, 14.George MELLS, 15.Ben WARLAND, 16.Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 18.Riley McGREE, 19.Ben GARUCCIO, 20.John HALL (gk), 21.Tarek ELRICH, 22.Ryan KITTO, 24.Jordan O’DOHERTY, 25.James HOLLAND
**one to be omitted**
Ins: 12.Mark OCHIENG (promoted), 15.Ben WARLAND (promoted), 25.James HOLLAND (returns from injury)
Outs: 5.Taylor REGAN (omitted), 45.Danny CHOI (foot – to be assessed)
Unavailable: 2.Michael MARRONE (Achilles – 8 weeks), 10.Marcelo CARRUSCA (foot – 1 week), 7.HENRIQUE (knee – 5 weeks), 11.Sergio CIRIO (knee – 7 weeks), 17.Nikola MILEUSNIC (quad – 2 weeks), 23.Jordan ELSEY (knee – season)
Central Coast Mariners squad: 2.Storm ROUX, 3.Scott GALLOWAY, 6.Blake POWELL, 7.Fabio FERREIRA, 8.Nick MONTGOMERY (c), 9.Roy O”DONOVAN, 10.Mickael TAVARES, 11.Connor PAIN, 12.Trent BUHAGIAR, 13.Kwabena APPIAH, 14.Adam BERRY, 16.Liam ROSE, 17.Josh BINGHAM, 19.Jacques FATY, 20.Paul IZZO (gk), 21.Michael NEILL, 22.Jake McGING, 30.Adam PEARCE (gk)
**two to be omitted**
Ins: 8.Nick MONTGOMERY (returns from injury), 13.Kwabena APPIAH (promoted)
Unavailable: 23.Jake Adelson (ACL – indefinite), 4.Jacob POSCOLIERO (quad strain – 1 week)