1,000 words, thoughts and musings on the coming weekend’s A-League finals game which will determine the 2014/15 grand finalists.
Melbourne Victory v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships, Friday – Etihad Stadium
Despite getting beaten by Perth and Adelaide in consecutive weeks before the finals, Melbourne City shocked Wellington in New Zealand to claim a spot in the final four despite having only won nine of their 27 games during the regular season.
There was one jammy goal for the hitherto under-performing City/Heart franchise, franchise, but despite deflections leading to goals, John van’t Schip’s men will enter the game with confidence.
With the week off, the original Melbourne A-League side have had the chance to sharpen combinations in training, but Kevin Muscat may have had to change his tactics slightly after having placed the ‘Melbourne City’ file in the trash can of his laptop (lucky he didn’t hit delete on Friday afternoon).
That said, I’m convinced, given the amount of times teams play each other in the A-League and the ability of their squad, the ‘navy blues’ will have their light blue neighbours worked out. Muscat would have gone to school on how City nullified Wellington and we can expect to see pressure on the wings on Friday night, with Kosta Barbarouses likely to hound Jonatan Germano and/or Kew Jaliens for the entire 90 minutes.
Former Jet Craig Goodwin was crucial for Adelaide to start the finals last weekend and another ex-Newcastle player in the form of Dutchman Jaliens will be critical if the ‘visiting’ team hope to cause an upset here. With Patrick Kisnorbo and Connor Chapman paired in the heart of defence, the versatile Dutchman will likely be deployed on the right after he was suspended for the game in the New Zealand capital.
An interesting subplot to the game will be the fans in the Southern Cross Station Dome with Victory members able to access only one ticket linked to their membership compared with their opponents who can get four per member. Talk about a disparity? I do hope someone has set aside a ticket for David Villa
Futhermore the officials have seen fit to merge the two Victory fans groups who normally sit at the northern or southern end into one collective at the northern end. I mean what could possibly go wrong?
Big game for: Besart Berisha. When the 29 year-old joined Melbourne from the Roar, it was with a view to him performing – and scoring goals – in games just like this. No pressure then.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Despite the fear Wellington fans had about falling victim to a dodgy goal (or two) which was proven that will be nothing on the amount of tension the Victory faithful will be feeling as the week rolls on. A lateral idea could be a Heart Foundation promotion testing fan blood pressure before the game.
Sydney FC v Adelaide United, Saturday – Allianz Stadium
Sydney FC mentor Graham Arnold said last week his side should have won the Premier’s Plate, so he has set the benchmark already for this game, and the ‘path to redemption’ so to speak includes the Sky Blues seeing off a side they are yet to beat this season. Arnold says Sydney was denied top spot in the league because of injuries, but conveniently omitting the fact his key mid-season acquisitions of Jacques Faty and Mickaël Tavares wouldn’t have joined the club if not for said injuries.
Sydney undertook a simulated training game on the weekend, so haven’t had the ‘week off’ in the strictest sense, with Arnold keen to make sure his returning players are sharp enough to execute his game plan.
After Goodwin’s early strike from a free kick it appeared the Reds would coast home at the Adelaide Oval, but that wasn’t the case as Brisbane worked hard, broke up play and got an equaliser after 27 minutes via their key man Thomas Broich, who played in more of a left wing role as a traditional number 10. Even after the goal, you felt Adelaide would take control as they had 55 per cent of possession and six shots on target to Brisbane’s three, but it took until substitute Awer Mabil netted late on to secure progress for Josep Gombau’s side.
With Marcelo Carrusca playing well on his return, until he made way for Mabil, and showing solid discipline in conceding only six fouls, the Reds do look a side that can trouble Sydney and have proved that already this season, including when they knocked them out of the FFA Cup at the quarter final stage.
It will be interesting to see if Gombau plays Carrusca in that more withdrawn role against Sydney and continues with Jimmy Jeggo pushing further up on attack ahead of Isaias. This will make the role of Milos Dimitrijevic and Tavares more important as they may have to break up the alternating play if this attacking midfield structure changes, especially if Mabil comes on earlier in this game if it’s deemed Carrusca is still hindered by his injury.
Big game for: Graham Arnold. Much like Berisha for Melbourne, this is why Arnie was brought to Sydney. Surely now he has created depth and creativity across the team to ensure his tenure at the club? Surely the club won’t overreact to a loss which could only leave them with a one-off shot at Asian Champions League group qualification?
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Marc Janko. The Austrian hasn’t scored in four games and there is no time like the present to prove his value to any wavering fans. Some eyebrows may have been raised amongst the Cove faithful to learn Janko has been offered a, new, $1.4 million deal. Even for his goal-scoring feats this season the $400,000 upgrade on what he is earning this season would probably be deemed worth it if he netted here.
The betting bit, one serious one not
Well it’s egg of face stuff after Wellington capitulated but we go straight to Friday night and with our bank go for Melbourne Victory to secure a grand final spot ($1.40 @ TAB.)
Profit: 9.20 (Based on ten unit investment)