1,000 words, thoughts, and musings on the thirteenth weekend of the A-League. It has already been an unlucky week for some sides with injuries and suspensions.
Central Coast Mariners v Wellington Phoenix, Thursday- Central Coast Stadium
New Years Eve sees two sides with only five wins between them this season meet, and they are both coming off three-goal defeats. Normally these games end up been really good right? Wellington will be hindered by the absence of Albert Reira after he was sent off in Adelaide for two bookable offences and Jefffrey Sarpong, who played one of his better games for the club last weekend, is also missing whilst the Mariners are yet to settle on a backline with Tomislav Uskok pushing for a start. The exit of Eddy Bosnar left a huge experience vacuum at the club defensively.
Big game for: Tom Heward-Belle. With Paul Izzo suspended for this fixture and the Rio 2016 qualifiers following this game the former Adelaide back-up will be unavailable for a few weeks The Mariners back-up keeper could get a decent. Knowing he is certain to retain
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: A tight contest. The Mariners were edged 1-0 in the FFA Cup contest by these sides and it was a 1-1 draw when they meet in round five, but it was wet that day so maybe not the best form guide.
Western Sydney Wanderers v Adelaide United, Friday – Pirtek Stadium
Potentially the game of the round – two last start winners who are almost at full strength offers an exciting encounter. Romeo Castelen’s return was crucial and Scott Jamieson’s free kick just before the break last week will have Adelaide on alert for conceding fouls close to the box. Guillermo Amor’s side benefitted from a strong Bruce Djite performance last weekend and Dylan McGowan was great in defence. The visitors have former Wanderer Iacopo La Rocca and Eli Babalj available again.
Big game for: Mark Bridge celebrated the holidays with a bang on Christmas Eve and continues to be one of the most consistent players across the competition. Has now scored in each of his last five starts.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing the Wanderers team, after four changes last weekend Tony Popovic has plenty to ponder for this block-buster clash. Andreu is available again after suspension and with all of the new imports firing it is hard luck on whoever misses out.
Brisbane Roar v Perth Glory, Saturday – Suncorp Stadium
John Aloisi got one over his old side as Brisbane won 3-1 last weekend and Perth can feel aggrieved they didn’t get more than a point out after a 1-1 draw in Melbourne. Henrique netted in the win and with the imminent departure of some key Brisbane players in international duty it’s crucial he is in form for the Roar. Kenny Lowe’s side have been dynamic in recent weeks with the influence of Diego Castro and Gyorgy Sandor crucial.
Big game for: Players backing up. After encountering humid conditions on Saturday Brisbane face 30 C degree heat on Saturday with the game kicking off at 4:15pm local time. After encountering a mild day in Melbourne on Sunday Perth will probably face a warm day away from home here. These are the best two equipped side to deal with this but games should not be kicking off at these times.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: More from the Perth veterans. Richard Garcia’s delivery to Josh Risdon which saw Matthieu Delpierre fell the Glory player and led to the penalty was sublime. The former Socceroo is key for Perth if they are to kick on from ninth spot.
Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships v Sydney FC, Saturday – AAMI Park
Back at home after a loss, and after Sydney got a smashing win last weekend, is the light blues bubble about to burst? Alex Brosque has injury issues again so will be missing but Sydney romped home last weekend. As much as John van’t Schip’s side might have come back down to earth was beating the bottom side a false dawn? The home side’s youngsters have elevated themselves in recent weeks and that is due in a large part to having a strong bench and competition for spots but the same can easily be said of Sydney.
Big game for: Virtually anonymous all season Shane Smeltz could feature here with Matt Simon suspended and the former All White need some goals. If he features with Filip Holosko also returning it will be important. With the Asian Champions League team submission to be considered by Graham Arnold soon, if not already, the 34 year-old All White needs a big performance.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Bruno Fornaroli scored to set an A-League mark to get to ten goals at speed, but his team lost. Like Kobe Bryant breaking any records now for the Lakers in the NBA goals in wins count for his team at this stage.
Newcastle Jets v Melbourne Victory, Sunday – Hunter Stadium
The Jets haven’t scored since round eight when Ben Kantarovski netted to grab a draw against Brisbane so Newcastle need something, anything, up top to go their way and with Melbourne’s experienced side coming to town this will be hard. Despite the fact Melbourne are in a form slump one would expect this sort of game to suit their defence. That said Newcastle did get a win against Kevin Muscat’s side in round three in Newcastle. Gui Finkler’s availability will be crucial to the game after the Melbourne talisman missed last weekend’s draw.
Big game for: Newcastle experienced players, with David Carney (who did score in that round three game) out it’s important the experience players on attack for Newcastle support the like of Ryan Kitto throughout the game.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Thomas Deng getting a start, it may be a trend across the weekend as A-League clubs look to squeeze the lemon out of their Olyroos representatives with a host of players bound for the Qatar tournament which is the Asian Football Confederation qualifying event for Rio 2016. How many will pick up a hamstring strain in the last 15 minutes?
The betting bit – One serious one not:
Welington to give us two on the trot ($2.35) into a comedy Ronaldinho banner at Central Coast Stadium on Thursday.
Profit: 31.95 units (ten units per investment)
Images via ultimealeague.com