Brisbane face battle at Bluetongue

Bluetongue Stadium has been a happy Hyundai A-League hunting ground for Brisbane Roar, having never tasted defeat at the Gosford venue.

Bluetongue Stadium has been a happy Hyundai A-League hunting ground for Brisbane Roar, having never tasted defeat at the Gosford venue.

However that record faces a stern test on Saturday when they face runaway Hyundai A-League leaders the Central Coast Mariners.

In eleven meetings so far in the competition-s history the Queensland club has secured seven wins, with four matches ending in a stalemate.

Roar midfield enforcer Erik Paartalu, in just his second Hyundai A-League season, has nothing but fond memories of his trips to Gosford but conceded it would take an almighty fight from him and his teammates to overcome the Mariners, who sit 11 points above the reigning champions.

“I played the games last year when we won 5-1, drew 3-all and then the 2-0 in the first leg of the semi,” Paartalu said.

“We-ve got a pretty good record there but football is a funny game and it-s certainly changed over the past few months with the Mariners sitting on top of the table.

“But we go there full of confidence and we really feel this is a game that we can win and push ourselves into finals.

“Its unfamiliar territory for us, well for me since I-ve been at the club, but it-s great.

“This is what teams must-ve felt when they were playing against us, trying to knock the team coming first off and while it-s a great challenge for us, it-s also a great challenge for the Mariners because they-ve got to deal with the pressure.

“So far, so good, for them but hopefully we can change things.”

Graham Arnold and his troops are undefeated in their past 15 matches but face key disruptions this week with the absence of in-form goalkeeper Mat Ryan and young pair Mustafa Amini and Oliver Bozanic, who are away on Qantas Olyroos duties.

Brisbane have their own gaps to fill with Mitch Nichols, Rocky Visconte and Matt Jurman undertaking the same international commitments but are boosted by the return of the competition-s leading strikeman Besart Berisha, who will be looking to add to his current goal tally of 11.

Head Coach Ange Postecoglou backed his star striker to hit the ground running after Berisha missed the Roar-s 1-0 home loss to Newcastle Jets with a one-match suspension.

“He-s pretty keen to get back out there and I think he-s really happy that he-ll be back and be able to contribute to us,” he said.

“Hopefully he bags a couple of goals for us and if there-s a penalty, he lets Henrique take it!

“He-s trained really well and he-s ready to go.”

A week after 19-year-old Nick Fitzgerald made his third start for Brisbane following two matches against Melbourne Heart and Wellington Phoenix back in early December, Postecoglou is expected to give another of his full-time National Youth League players his senior debut.

Midfielder George Lambadaridis, who has played the majority of Brisbane-s youth fixtures this season, has been included in the traveling squad and is expected to feature at some point against the Central Coast.

“He-s in the squad and he-s on the bench so more than likely he-ll get a run at some point,” Postecoglou said.

“It-ll be good to see him, he-s been working really hard in training and playing well in the youth league.

“We-re always trying to develop players and with a few absences this week with the Olyroos, it-ll give him and a couple of others a chance to step up.”

Saturday, 4 February 2012 Central Coast Mariners v Brisbane Roar Venue: Bluetongue Stadium Local kick-off: 5:30pm

Referees: Kris Griffiths Jones / Shaun Evans / Rod Allen / Stephen Lucas

Head-to-Head: All matches (played 25): Central Coast Mariners wins 4, Brisbane Roar wins 12 (9 draws)

Live and Exclusive on Fox Sports 1

Central Coast Mariners squad: 20. Justin Pasfield (gk), 2. Daniel McBreen, 3. Josh Rose, 4. Pedj Bojic, 5. Brad Porter, 6. Patrick Zwaanswijk, 8. Rostyn Griffiths, 9. Bernie Ibini, 10. Adriano Pellegrino, 12. Troy Hearfield, 13. Stuart Musialik, 14. Michael McGlinchey, 15. Brad McDonald, 16. Trent Sainsbury, 17. Tomas Rogic, 18. Alex Wilkinson (C), 21. Sam Gallagher, 23. Adam Kwasnik, 31. Brody Crane (gk) *four to be omitted*

In: 5. Brad Porter, 10. Adriano Pellegrino, 13. Stuart Musialik, 15. Brad McDonald, 16. Trent Sainsbury, 17. Tomas Rogic, 21. Sam Gallagher (all promoted), 31. Brody Crane (short term contract) Out: 1. Mathew Ryan (Gk) (Qantas Australian U23 duty), 11. Oliver Bozanic (Qantas Australian U23 duty), 22. Mustafa Amini (Qantas Australian U23 duty) Unavailable: 7. John Hutchinson (suspended - 1 week)

Brisbane Roar squad: Michael Theoklitos (gk), 2. Matt Smith (c), 3. Shane Stefanutto, 5. Ivan Franjic, 6. Erik Paaratlu, 7. Besart Berisha, 8. Massimo Murdocca, 9. Kofi Danning, 10. Henrique, 11. Issey Nakajima-Farran, 16. Mohamed Adnan, 18. Luke Brattan, 20. Andrew Redmayne (gk), 21. James Meyer, 22. Thomas Broich, 24. Nick Fitzgerald, 25. George Lambadaridis *two to be omitted*

In: 7. Besart Berisha (returns from suspension), 11. Issey Nakajima-Farran (promoted), 25. George Lambadaridis (promoted) Out: 14. Rocky Visconte (Qantas Australian U23 duty), 4. Matt Jurman (Qantas Australian U23 duty), 17. Mitch Nichols (Qantas Australian U23 duty) Unavailable: 19. Jack Hingert (ankle injury - 1 week)