Delbridge back but City still hamstrung

Melissa Woods
Harrison Delbridge returns for Melbourne City against the Central Coast Mariners

Harrison Delbridge returns from suspension but A-League leaders Melbourne City will again have to juggle their line-up when they host Central Coast on Friday night.

City are unbeaten in four games but will have to be on their toes against a resurgent Mariners outfit, who pulled off a shock 2-1 win over champions Perth Glory last Sunday.

City have won their past six A-League games against the Mariners at AAMI Park, keeping a clean sheet in their past three.

Defender Delbridge will come back into the side after a one-match ban and Uruguayan import Javier Cabrera is set for some minutes, while midfielder Connor Metcalfe is available after pulling up sore from Sunday's win over Wellington.

But Socceroos striker Jamie Maclaren, defender Richard Windbichler and French attacking midfielder Florin Berenguer are all still out with hamstring injuries.

City coach Erick Mombaerts said Delbridge would come straight back in with Joshua Brillante moving back to the midfield, but he wouldn't reveal who would miss out.

He was also undecided on whether teenager Moudi Najjar would again start in the number nine position.

"We now have more options in the middle so that's good," Mombaerts said.

"We have also a few options with the positioning of Josh (Brillante) being a defending midfielder who can also be a (more attacking) midfielder."

Mombaerts felt he had a good read on the Mariners after the two teams met in the pre-season.

"We know this team because we had a practice game, so we know their strengths," he said.

"They have changed but their style is the same - I've seen the last game against Perth but I recognise the style of this team.

"I don't want to focus more on our opponent ... I try to focus on what we have to set up to force them to adapt to our style."

Mombaerts said the mood was good in the City dressing room after their stellar start but that there was still room for improvement.

"We need to keep concentrating as it's only the beginning of the season," he said.

Stats that matter

* Melbourne City have won eight of their last 12 A-League games against the Central Coast Mariners including a 5-0 victory in their most recent encounter.

* The Mariners are winless in their last 17 A-League games in Victoria, managing to earn just three competition points in that period.

* Craig Noone (Melbourne) has made 24 crosses from open play this A-League season, six more than any other player in the competition.

Stats provided by Opta