Less than a year after watching Sydney FC crush Central Coast, Alen Stajcic has the task of trying to mastermind the Mariners to an upset win over the Sky Blues on Saturday .
Sydney and Wellington are the only sides Stajcic has yet to coach against in the A-League since he started with the Mariners last March.
Last January Stajcic, who would be sacked from the Matildas job a couple of weeks later, was in the crowd at Sydney's Jubilee Oval, the venue for Saturday's game, watching the Mariners take an early lead before losing 5-2.
"I remember the Mariners being well on top until that red card (to Kalifa Cisse) in the 26th minute," Stajcic recalled.
"I think we've improved a lot this year and we've shown a lot of people that we are competitive week in, week out.
"We're going to have to be at our best to be competitive against them (Sydney) and I know we can be, I know we will be."
The ladder might suggest otherwise as Sydney are top and Central Coast bottom.
But the Mariners have already had two byes and entered the round one win off sixth, and two victories off the fourth-placed Western United who have played two more games.
So tight is the ladder, Central Coast rocketed from 11th to sixth on the back of one win.
"The draw is a little bit of an anomaly, we've only had three home games and it's round ten and (we've had) two byes," Stajcic said.
"That will even out by the end of the competition, so it's not something to worry about.
"The ladder doesn't lie despite having a couple of byes and a lot of away games.
"We're still at the the bottom at the moment, even though we are in touching distance, so we know how hard we have to work to ensure we give ourselves every chance of making the finals."
Brazilian forward Jair is available to make his Mariners debut after finally recovering from a quadriceps injury.
Australian Associated Press