1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on the A-League’s fourth round which commences in Melbourne on Friday and wraps up in the Victorian capital on Melbourne Cup eve.
Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships v Newcastle Jets, Friday – AAMI Park
After vanquishing the Victory, Newcastle will look to take another southern scalp on Friday, but I fear their
injuries might start to become problematic. Leonardo wasn’t involved in the main training group in the first half of the week, which wouldn’t be as much of a concern if the game was Sunday, so it could be another patchwork squad for Scott Miller. They will need to be more ruthless in front of goal as if they rely on a set piece coming off as it did on Friday, they may struggle here. Milos Trifunovic missed a hatful of chances in the first half as both sides stuttered in the final third and the big Serbian needs to find a ruthless streak in front of goal. The home side played their part in an entertaining fixture last weekend beating the Mariners, with Bruno Fornaroli netting twice in the second half after a frenetic start to the game when each side scored inside 13 minutes.
Big game for: Lachlan Jackson. The former Brisbane defender has been the beneficiary of early absences in the Newcastle defence this season and could get a chance to continue to show his worth. If not he will be pushing for a start at training in coming weeks.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: More from Corey Gameiro. The former Olyroo is in danger of entering the ‘Cernak Zone’ of a budding young hopeful that can’t settle. 22 years-old once of Fulham and now onto his third A-League club (yes one of those was on-loan), the New South Welshman has a big chance to prove his worth in Melbourne.
Central Coast Mariners v Sydney FC, Saturday – Central Coast Stadium
After #tifogate when Sydney FC fans had their banner swiped, presumably by some juvenile Western Sydney fans, they swept to a late victory over the Wanderers on the back of Milos Ninkovic’s goal. Graham Arnold’s side leave the mansion this weekend and head to their weekender up the coast. Gone are the days of Arnold leading the Mariners with burgeoning youngsters like Tom Rogic; these days Tony Walmsley is in charge at Gosford but there is still the young talent. However, the side was beaten easily in the end in Melbourne despite providing a good contest. Walmsley won’t abandon his attacking style and his best hope may be try to exploit any weaknesses by using the width as they did in their round one over Perth. That Ninkovic has managed to find form early for Sydney is hugely beneficial for Arnold. Compared with visa signings elsewhere, it’s exactly what Arnold would have expected.
Big game for: Paul Izzo. The deputy ‘keeper could have done better with the third goal, which pretty much put the light blues in control last week. With the future of Liam Reddy uncertain, it’s worth remembering Hume City keeper Chris Oldfield did trail with the Mariners recently, so former Adelaide man Izzo needs a solid effort here.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Nick Fitzgerald starting to become more significant. Another ex-Roar player, the Mariners forward did well with his 13th minute strike but needs to have a more consistent impact.
Brisbane Roar v Adelaide United, Saturday – Suncorp Stadium
Brisbane’s short passing and possession game worked for most of Saturday in the New Zealand capital, until the Phoenix started taking their small chances, but two goals will probably be enough to see off Adelaide, so if their midfield can continue to cut off supply to the opposition forward line, John Aloisi’s side have the forwards in the likes of Jamie Maclaren to see them pick up the three points. Last week we looked at how Adelaide had logged only 17 attempts on goal for their opening two games, and it didn’t get much better against Perth on the weekend; despite having 69 per cent possession, Guillermo Amor’s side have now registered just five shots on target in their first three games. For all the possession, Adelaide play with as if they hit a virtual force field 25 metres from the opponent’s goal. The Red’s strike force will need to awaken because if they wait until Star Wars VII opens, they will be well adrift.
Big game for: Adelaide’s bench. Bruce Djite wasn’t deemed fit to play in the end for the game in Perth and the Reds bench was virtually faceless, with Michael Marrone the only player of note. Adelaide’s starting eleven are struggling but without people screaming out to make a difference on the bench it makes things harder.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Thomas Broich has not been to the fore for Brisbane in the first three games but he is key in holding this side together from defence to attack.
Western Sydney Wanderers v Perth Glory, Sunday – Pirtek Stadium
For all their dominance in attack, 12 shots to Sydney’s four, the Wanderers left the Sydney Derby empty handed (oh except for The Cove’s tifo they pinched). To make matters worse, Romeo Castelen will be missing for Tony Popovic’s side this weekend who are still yet to find the key in their link from midfield to attack. They did get the link working between Mitch Nichols and Jashua Sotirio once, but had a goal ruled out for off-side. More of that is needed. Kenny Lowe’s gamble to bench two of his key visa players on the back of the FFA Cup triumph paid handsome dividends, as both Diego Castro and Guoyn Fernandez scored against Adelaide, and the squad rotation may be in affect again ahead of the trip to Sydney with the FFA Cup final in Melbourne the following Saturday. A multiple goal-scorer in recent weeks, Gyorgy Sandor turned provider for Sidnei Sciola and was again one of Perth’s best.
Big game for: Missing from the start of this game after his early departure from the Sydney Derby Castelen’s absence is huge for the red and blacks and makes the work of Nichols more important.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Perth’s team line-up will be interesting again given they are now playing in Melbourne for the FFA Cup instead of in Perth against the Victory.
Melbourne Victory v Wellington Phoenix, Monday – Etihad Stadium
After returning from their footballing Bermuda Triangle in Newcastle, the Victory got back in the winner’s circle with a 3-0 FFA Cup triumph over Hume City. That score line flattered the Victory, who benefitted from two penalty calls, one which they scored and one which was denied to Hume, and jagged two goals late on. This is not (yet) the Victory of 2014/15, but they are still capable as evidenced by Wednesday’s result. Wellington go in search of their first win in Australia since they were officially told their ongoing A-League future is in severe doubt, but Ernie Merrick will no doubt be able to get the side to focus given his vast experience. Melbourne were limp in attack in Newcastle and not a great deal better against Hume, and given Wellington’s ability to win from behind even an early goal to the home side won’t phase the visitor’s. With both sides boosting multiple goal-scorers already this season, it promises to be an entertaining game. Wellington’s Michael McGlinchey will be salivating over any free kick options given Melbourne’s failure to read the play for David Carney’s goal for Newcastle on Friday last weekend.
Big game for: Wellington’s defence. Andrew Durante’s absence from the game would make things harder even allowing for their recent form without him.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: If the home side do go behind early can we have an in-game interview with Kevin Muscat please?
The betting bit – One serious one not:
Our call last week for a famous Sydney FC fan to be on the tifo was taken too literally last week by some fans who maybe tried to do that themselves without telling The Cove. This week we ride with Brisbane ($2.10) into some form of refereeing controversy in Melbourne Victory’s favour just to cap the weekend for Wellington fans. Actually no, that’s not funny I did not mean that!
Profit: 13.95 units (ten units per investment)
Images via zimbio.com and smh.com.au