1,000 words, thoughts and musings on the coming weekend’s A-league action which consists of two elimination finals.
Adelaide United v Brisbane Roar, Friday- Adelaide Oval
From Hindmarsh Stadium to Adelaide Oval, the Reds home advantage has been somewhat negated as the FFA bank on a large crowd for this knockout fixture. Brisbane beat Adelaide 3-2 at Hindmarsh earlier in the month, but aside from that game their last win against a finals side was against Wellington in February. Adelaide, who won 14 games this season, four more than the visitors, have recently re-signed another of their Spanish players, Pablo Sanchez, who was causing problems for Jason Hoffman and Patrick Kisnorbo on the weekend, and he will want to retain that form which saw him sweep in for a goal against Melbourne City.
With Argentine Marcelo Carrusca back after missing the last month of action due to injury as well as influential midfielder Isaias Sanchez Josep Gombau has two of his key attacking weapons back, which will be a boost given Bruce Djite is likely to miss out after he sustained a groin injury last weekend. Michael Marrone’s suspension means changes at the back for Adelaide and this could benefit Brisbane, who will welcome back the likes of Thomas Broich, who were rested for the final game of the regular season. Players like Luke Brattan have really progressed this season and the Asian Champions League games may have even sharpened the bench/fringe players for the Queensland-based outfit.
As well as their outfield returnees it will be interesting to see if shot-stopper Michael Theo has a point to prove. Somehow the A-League title-winner keeper (five time title-winning keeper!) wasn’t the number one custodian in the PFA’s A-League team of the decade. Let’s see how the 34 year-old goes if it comes down to penalties? I’d back Brisbane if it got that far.
Big game for: Adelaide. After getting tipped out in the first week of the finals by the Mariners last season, this weekend is the chance to show Adelaide’s progress. The FFA Cup title is a good result but until that competition is linked to ACL qualification, the ‘value’ of it in it’s early editions sits well behind a Premier’s Plate or Grand Final triumph.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Farewell Frans Thijssen. The Dutchman could be coaching his last game for the Roar, with Auckland City mentor Ramon Tribulietx set to take over. Could Thijssen push his claims for future employment (in Queensland or elsewhere) with a shock win here? Can we get #farewellfrans trending?
Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships, Sunday – Westpac Stadium
For all the jibes many people, including this columnist, have made against light blue Melbourne they are here in the finals, and their attacking threats, lead by Socceroo Aaron Mooy, Robert Koren, and Harry Novillo are amongst the best in the league if given space and time. Melbourne City’s problem will be getting the ball off Wellington, who held possession well last weekend – 80 per cent completion rate in passes; 100 more passes made than Sydney – but couldn’t finish when given the chance. The ball breaking down in the final third meant the ‘Nix were ultimately consigned to playing in the first week of the finals due to their wastefulness and a repeat defeat here will mean an ultimately unsuccessful campaign for a side that was top of the tree a month or so ago.
On the Victorian’s attacking trio, the greatest fear of Wellington fans is Mooy delivering a dead ball set piece that jags a late win on Sunday, but they do have threats from their other engine room players. That said, Wellington can win this game not playing their best but Melbourne, who only won a third of their 27 league games this season, need to be at their peak to come out victorious.
The second Melbourne side, like Adelaide in the first match, are missing a defender due to suspension with former Jet Kew Jaliens facing watch the elimination match from the stands. This is a bigger blow for Melbourne in New Zealand’s capital than missing Marrone is for the Reds in Adelaide.
Big game for: Heart/City. For all the investment, John van’t Schip’s side get a chance to prove they are a football team and not just a ‘brand’ with an away win here. Even the poorly-run Gold Coast United got to within one victory of a Grand Final spot in 2010/2011, the second year of their existence. Defeat here proves Heart are no better than Gold Coast United, despite their money and connections (David Villa…who?).
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Wellington scoring from a corner. Eight corners to Sydney’s one last weekend, can McGlinchey and co conjure something from a corner in a rare event for the ‘Nix?
Betting bit one serious one not
As we move into the knockout games the selections are the final result of each game, aka the team to progress – so they could win in 90 minutes, extra-time or on penalties. The recent stats of Brisbane playing better sides is damning but will the returning players have enough continuity? All that said Wellington at home are better value to progress ($1.50 @ TAB) plus a Josep Gombau mega-leap into Eugene Galekovic’s arms after they beat Brisbane which ruptures the goal-keepers’ ACL.
Profit: 19.20 (based on ten unit investment)
Record 14/27. Jets…oh dear.