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Jan 4, 2013

Ex-teammates Arnold, Popovic set for clash

The sage advice from Graham Arnold to his old chum Tony Popovic has dried up this week, as the Central Coast mentor strives on Sunday to plot the downfall of Western Sydney.

A crowd of over 15,000 is tipped at Parramatta Stadium where the Wanderers and their fervent fans will be hoping to rejoice in an upset A-League win.

While Central Coast entered the round on top, Arnold rated the fledgling Wanderers franchise as probably the competition's form team.

They have won four and drawn one of their last five games, while the Mariners have won eight and lost just one of their past 11.

Arnold, who described Popovic this week as like a "little brother," never doubted his former national squad teammate would make a good coach.

"He's obsessed by the sport, he's a real student of the game and it was no surprise that he would do this type of job down at Western Sydney," Arnold said.

Popovic, who also played under Arnold when the latter was Socceroos coach, revealed he had frequently tapped into his old friend's large reservoir of knowledge.

"I have the utmost respect for Arnie, we've been through a lot together both in terms of playing when I first started out," Popovic said.

"Now in coaching he's someone that I spoke to a fair bit before I took on this job and he's always been there to lend some advice whenever required.

"He does have 15 years of coaching experience and he's always been someone there that I can have a chat with at anytime.

"He hasn't given me any advice this week, but I'm sure we'll be back on the phone with each other next week and all will be back to normal."

Arnold faces some pleasant selection headaches, with captain and midfielder John Hutchinson and leading goalscorer Daniel McBreen both back from suspension.

With captain Michael Beauchamp and Youssouf Hersi both unavailable, Popovic will also make enforced changes.

Midfield playmaker Aaron Mooy returns from suspension, while central defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley takes the captains armband from fellow defender Beauchamp.

Arnold was anticipating a very physical Wanderers outfit after watching there recent win over fellow high flyers Adelaide and Melbourne Victory.

German defender Jerome Polenz on Saturday became the fifth Wanderer to re-sign with the club in the last ten days.

Popovic didn't rule out adding more players to his squad in the January transfer window.

He was relaxed about the process of trying to re-sign Japanese marquee player Shinji Ono, who has hit top form in recent weeks.

He's a quality player and we're quite comfortable with our situation at the moment with him, he's happy, we're happy and I'm sure those talks will happen in due time," Popovic said.

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