A-League finals exile to end for Mariners

After years of underachievement, Central Coast will end a seven-year A-League finals exile when they host expansion club Macarthur on Saturday.

ALEN STAJCIC.
ALEN STAJCIC. Picture: Filipe Farinha/Getty Images

It's taken seven years and four wooden-spoon finishes but Central Coast will return to the A-League finals on Saturday.

After years of underachievement, the Mariners will host expansion outfit Macarthur FC in the opening elimination final of the 2020-21 season in Gosford in their first post-season appearance since 2014.

The game looms as a massive moment for both clubs with 2013 champions Central Coast taking on a Bulls team which has made an instant impact in its first A-League season.

"We're excited from the perspective of the club not having made it for a long time and the opportunity for the fans to come out and and watch us in a home final," Mariners coach Alen Stajcic said.

"We're expecting a big crowd - so from that perspective, it's going to be a massive occasion tomorrow night.

"We can't wait."

Stajcic's team head into the finals having won all three matches against Macarthur during the regular season.

But while the Bulls are league newcomers, Stajcic is wary of a team which boasts the experience of ex-Socceroos Adam Federici, Mark Milligan and Ivan Franjic as well as overseas stars Matt Derbyshire, Benat Etxebarria and Markel Susaeta.

The Mariners have suffered a setback with influential captain Oli Bozanic ruled out due to a leg injury.

Academy product Josh Nisbet said despite being sidelined Bozanic, along with veteran forward Matt Simon and Costa Rican international Marco Urena, had been key influences to the squad ahead of the biggest game of his career.

"Oli being being the captain, Simmo having the experience and then Marco, those three are pretty key to our leadership and making sure the boys are confident going into the finals," Nisbet said.

"I don't think I've played a final since I was maybe 12 and it was local league and stuff like that.

"So it's pretty exciting and it's a great opportunity to play well.

"Everyone wants to play well in the big games so that's what I'm aiming to do."

Both teams have also been affected by Socceroos call-ups, with Mariners defender Ruon Tongyik and Macarthur midfielder Denis Genreau both away on international duty while the Bulls are also without suspended French midfielder Loic Puyo.

KEY MATCH STATS

* Central Coast have played three, won three in the A-League this season against Macarthur including a 2-1 win when the teams last met on May 27.

* Macarthur, who'll be making their first finals appearance in their debut A-League season, haven't lost in their past four away matches.

* Central Coast haven't played finals since 2014 but have won their past two finals matches in Gosford.