1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on the A-League’s eighth weekend of action which brings us another four nights of football.
Sydney FC v Wellington Phoenix, Thursday – Allianz Stadium
The Smeltz Derby sees Ernie Merrick’s side look to get back in the winner’s circle whilst a reportedly jaded Sydney FC are back from Perth. Wellington lacked something in trying to hold out for the draw but maybe the week away bonding will help the visitor’s. Sydney lacked zip against the Glory but so did their opponents so it’s hard to get a read on them given the weather conditions. Vince Lia could return off the bench for the Phoenix and one would expect Arnold to make changes depending how his team has recovered.
Big game for: Wellington’s Justin Gulley. We weren’t sure last week if he would keep his starting spot but he did and went well in defence, including clearing one crucial Wanderers attempt off the post but given injuries to Ben Sigmund Merrick may elect to surround Durante with more experienced players from an A-League point of view.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Even though he didn’t start last week, we outlined how Aaron Hughes of Melbourne City might be impacted by the heat as the season wears on and three of Sydney’s overseas quartet who featured in the game in Perth were impacted by weather, with striker Shane Smeltz stating they struggled to talk after the game. Backing up on Thursday night is a tough proposition. Whilst remembering the debate about game times, don’t forget W-League and National Youth League players have it worse off of many occasions.
Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships v Perth Glory, Friday – AAMI Park
Melbourne’s light blues couldn’t take advantage of some embarrassing moments from Brisbane’s Jamie Young last weekend and in returning home they have Ivan Franjic available after his 32 minutes off the bench last weekend. Like Sydney on Thursday, it’s hard to be confident about recovery for Perth however Chris Harold wasn’t without chances in the west on Saturday.
Big game for: As Brisbane coach John Aloisi pointed out last weekend, for a side with their resources Melbourne Heart should be able to show more flair. In our pre-season preview we noted Wade Dekker’s elevation but little has been seen of him at since the first month. Maybe some “unbelievable Dekkers” off the bench will provide some positive football. The striker has played a key role in the club’s start to the NYL season which has yielded a win and a draw from two games.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: If Perth have key players for the majority of this game they’ll give it a shake. Dino Djulbic was missing last weekend and Socceroo Josh Risdon missed the last 30 minutes. If one or both are available, Kenny Lowe’s team will be far better off.
Newcastle Jets v Brisbane Roar, Saturday – Hunter Stadium
Despite having more possession, ladder-leading Brisbane couldn’t get a win over Melbourne’s light blues, but they do get credit for grabbing a draw after going down early in the second half. The men in organge have a superb record at the Broadmeadow complex, having lost only three times in 17 encounters at Hunter Stadium, so history is against the Jets in that regard, and the rule of averages tells you it will be hard for them to hold Brisbane out. If Leonardo is available that will give Newcastle a real boost and given they got a point last week despite not having a shot on goal things must surely get better in that regard.
Big game for: Scott Miller. Despite understanding the principle of not wanting to upset a defensive unit that was doing well to hold out the home side, it was surprising to see both Jets’ substitutes, Ryan Kitto (82 minutes) and Braedyn Crowley (88 minutes), come on so late in the fixture. Such short time gave the attackers little to chance for an impact.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Plenty of goals. Newcastle did fail to score against Sydney, but have netted in every other home game this season, and Brisbane’s 12 goals (an equal-second league best) suggest plenty for the fans.
Melbourne Victory v Adelaide United, Saturday – Etihad Stadium
In a perfect tune-up before facing an abject Adelaide, Melbourne Victory got three points, were able to rest Besart Berisha (nup, didn’t see that coming) and give more time to youngsters as they saw off the plucky Mariners. Adelaide had Newcastle under the pump and a few James Jeggo blasts from range plus two other attempts in the box troubled Newcastle, with Mark Birighitti the game’s best. However, Victory shot-stopper Danny Vukovic is certainly at the same level if not better so a similar strategy will be well handled by Melbourne.
Big game for: Osama Malik in defence has been caught out on multiple occasions in recent weeks, so his early withdrawal with Jordan Elsey coming on did give the home side a more assured look on the occasions the Jets pushed forward. Elsey, 21, could cement a starting spot in the coming weeks.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: More tasty wing back encounters. Tarek Elrich’s running battle with David Carney was a highlight of the Adelaide Jets fixture last weekend. More of the same please.
Central Coast Mariners v Western Sydney Wanderers, Sunday – Central Coast Stadium
With two of the easiest goals he will ever score in his career, Wanderers’ striker Federico Piovaccari has the smell of blood in the (Brisbane) Waters and Tony Popovic would have his tail up. On the other hand, the Mariners are still recruiting, which is weird as the season started two months ago. Tony Walmsley has added two recruits in recent weeks and Tomislav Uskok, like Jake Adelson last week, could debut with the defender perhaps in line to shore up a flimsy defence in a side beset by injuries to keys players including wide men Fabio Ferreira and Mitch Austin.
Big game for: General soreness. Berisha was rested last Thursday against the Mariners, and I wonder how long until the same thing happens for Mariners skipper Nick Montgomery. He must almost have a back injury carrying this side at times. Late in the game chasing a point, Montgomery could be found racing deep towards the corner chasing possession when players 12 or more years his junior were loitering in the middle of the park admiring the seagulls.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Matt Sim has been the recent super sub for the Mariners, but Dan Heffernan made his case for a first team recall, even if it’s off the pine, with a hat-trick in the NYL last weekend in a game the Mariners won 5-3. Whilst the effort may have come against an at times porous FFA Centre of Excellence defence, Heffernan did well, even if he could have had one or two more goals.
The betting bit – One serious one not:
As the impact of quick back-ups into Thursday games start to take affect and the heat some sides become a trickier proposition but it’s also worth noting that impact might not hit them for a few weeks. Western Sydney are on a roll now and don’t have to travel far here at $2.00 for the win teasing this with a “Where’s your Josep now?” banner at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Profit: 25.95 units (ten units per investment)
Images via goal.com.au and smh.com.au