Adelaide United are hoping to gain some breathing space from a chasing A-League pack when they host Central Coast on Boxing Day.
The Reds enter the Coopers Stadium fixture in fifth place with 14 points, just two ahead of the seventh-placed Mariners.
"Mariners are a very good team," Adelaide defender Jordan Elsey said.
"They play good attacking football and are a little but unpredictable up front.
"They have a few playmakers we will have to nullify."
Elsey's usual central defensive partner Ersan Gulum is sidelined because of suspension, with Taylor Regan and Ben Warland candidates to fill the vacancy.
Regan tore ligaments in an ankle in round one and made his comeback last weekend from the bench.
"Reges has been biting at the bit to get back in there," Elsey said.
"And so has Benny, he has been training well.
"There is going to be a new player next to me so obviously we have to work on pressing shape, which is what the boys need."
Also expected to feature in the Reds' defence is emerging fullback Ryan Strain, who has inked a new deal with Adelaide.
The 20-year-old joined on a one-year scholarship contract before the season but has been rewarded for several confident shifts in the A-League.
"I didn't think it would happen this quickly to be honest but I'm extremely happy to have re-signed," Strain said.
"I have been working hard all through pre-season, trying to get my spot in the team. And then when it came, you just have to take your chance."
Adelaide haven't played at home since December 1 when they lost 1-0 to Sydney FC. That was followed by an away win against Melbourne Victory and last weekend's controversial 2-1 away loss to Newcastle from a contentious last-gasp penalty.
STATS THAT MATTER:
* The Mariners have lost eight of their past 10 games outside of NSW
* Adelaide have won nine of their past 13 games against the Mariners, including their last two
* Adelaide haven't scored or conceded two goals in their past 14 league matches