1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on round 17 of the A-League which runs from Friday night in Sydney to Sunday evening in Adelaide.
Western Sydney Wanderers v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships, Friday – Pirtek Stadium
At AAMI Park three weeks ago John van’t Schip’s side won a controversial game 3-2 and the teams match-up again with the Wanderers looking to kick five points clear at the top. Melbourne’s wide players have been terrific in the last few weeks and the match up with the likes of Scott Jamieson from the Wanderers will be keenly anticipated. Nikolai Topor-Stanley is back from suspension for the visitors who did beat the second Victorian franchise 3-0 in round six when they scored three goals in the second half. Defender Jack Clisby is available for the Victorians after his sanction and with Socceroo Ivan Franjic comfortable for southerners this will be crucial away from home.
Big game for: Federico Piovaccari, the marquee import was not selected for the game in Gosford against the bottom-placed Mariners but he has been named here. If the Italian can’t be trusted to even make the bench against a side with two wins in 16 games why can he be trusted here? And if he does play and ‘fails’ that might reduce the ability to sell him?
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing more from Anthony Caceres. Putting aside the controversy of his move the former Mariners midfielder slotted in seamlessly to the left of a central midfield trio of with Aaron Mooy and Erik Paartalu in his club debut. He played a key role in the third goal which pretty much sunk Wellington just after the break.
Wellington Phoenix v Central Coast Mariners, Saturday – AMI Stadium
Going from having won the Fair Play Award last season the Nix are racking up cards at a record pace this season and that continued in their 3-1 defeat in Melbourne on Monday night whilst the visiting Mariners lost to the Wanderers but Luis Garcia had a solid display in his A-League debut. Various indiscretions mean skipper Andrew Durante and Vince Lia will miss this game but the Mariners will also have two more players suspended after their 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Wanderers with Nick Montgomery and Harry Ascroft joining Roy O’Donovan on the naughty step. Jake McGing could slot into Montgomery’s midfield role or move into the defensive line in light of Ascroft’s sanction or we could see Tomislav Uskok in defence.
Big game for: Central Coast starting eleven. Aside from the suspensions for Harry Ascroft and Nick Montgomery one would hope the Mariners keep the same eleven and don’t make many changes as compared to the five they made last weekend. Most of their transfer dealings should be done now and it’s time for a settled line-up.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: With defender Ben Sigmund a long-term injury absentee and the high-striking work of Roy Krishna hard to replace, despite the best efforts of Blake Powell, the midfield is the most experienced group for the Phoenix so they will require a big game here .
Sydney FC v Brisbane Roar, Saturday – Allianz Stadium
Brisbane haven’t beaten a top six team since round 12, a 3-1 win over Melbourne City, and were embarrassed by Adelaide on Friday night so they could be ripe for the picking however the Roar do get their Olyroo trio (Brandon Borello, James Donachie and Jamie Maclaren) back. Javier Hervas has been responsible for giving the ball away on key occasions recently for Brisbane so this may be something Sydney can target here. Playing their first game at Allianz Stadium this years the Sky Blues have a chance to continue on a winning run in the east having beaten the Jets and Mariners in their last two ‘home’ games at the Moore Park venue.
Big game for: Sydney FC’s imports. Graham Arnold has submitted his initial list for the Asian Champions League but won’t add his imports until next month. The next three games are key for Milos Dimitrijevic, Jacques Faty, Filip Holosko, Milos Ninkovic, and Mickael Tavares.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Brisbane’s goals. Brisbane haven’t scored from open play since Henrique netted in round 13 in a 2-1 triumph over Perth and the provider of the assist for that goal, Maclaren, returns here. Highlighting not just the scoring ability of Maclaren, 22, but his goal creation role.
Perth Glory v Melbourne Victory, Saturday – nib Stadium
After a record-setting day in Newcastle Perth return home buoyed by more signings having added Shane Lowry (the Socceroo defender not the Irish golfer) and former Jet Adam Taggart – although the striker can’t play until next season. Kenny Lowe’s mean tore apart Newcastle down the right with Joshua Risdon leading the charge from their own half often at Hunter Stadium but one suggests it may be a harder proposition against a navy blue outfit who have gone two and a half games without conceding a goal. As Melbourne sprung on the counter at Etihad Stadium Sydney was solid and players like Nebojsa Marinkovic will need to remember their defensive duties here against a side who have beaten them in the FFA Cup this season. However it is worth remembering Perth beat Melbourne in the west 1-0 in December when Diego Castro tapped home with 16 minutes to go.
Big game for: Perth’s depth. Late in the game at 5-1 up against the Jets coach Lowe was able to call on the service of 17-cap Socceroo Richard Garcia which was a depth their opponents didn’t have. That sort of experience and guile could be used to great benefit here. Annoyingly for Lowe though, Garcia did cop a yellow card in his 12 minutes on the field.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Jess Makarounas provided the ball which saw Matthew Jurman’s deflection give Melbourne the sole goal in the Big Blue on Tuesday and the Darwin-native was influential when he came on. It was another night of Kosta Barbarouses marauding down the flanks, even if his teammates didn’t always pass to him when he was in the best position, so Perth will need to be awake to the impact of both those players.
Adelaide United v Newcastle Jets, Sunday – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium AAMI Park
Still up for sale heading to Adelaide, the scene of a heavy defeat last season, is probably the last place Scott Miller wants to be but off the Jets go. After Perth ran over them the Jets got some good news this week having recruited ex Danish international Morten Nordstrand to help add goals and experience but the 32 year-old, who has played all his career in his homeland, won’t be available so Newcastle will need Milos Trifunovic to keep run his run of goals going after two in the last fortnight. Sergio Cirio’s return gives Guillermo Amor a good headache for a side who have scored ten goals in their last three three games and are yet to taste defeat since round eight. Newcastle will be without Nigel Boogaard, because of his eighth career red card, which means the former Red will be playing scout against his old side for coach Miller but from the sideline and not the pitch.
Big game for: Stefan Mauk, Adelaide’s pursuit of the former Melbourne City midfielder became more important when it was confirmed on Wednesday that the dynamic Jimmy Jeggo had moved to FC Sturm Graz in Austria.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing Eli Babalj score a hat-trick in a years’ time. On loan from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar the Adelaide forward has ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and faces over nine months out. Only 23 years of age in addition to this ACL injury the striker has suffered other foot injuries and has also struggled to get game time in his career even when out on loan from AZ which, given the point of loans is to get game time, has really stalled his career. This injury makes it worse.
The betting bit – One serious one not:
1 plays 2 with Melbourne City at $3.50 and given the form they are in it’s hard to go past into a ‘Taggart Target’ banner at Perth on Saturday – but the locals could save that one for next season.
Profit: 3.05 units (ten units per investment)
Images via abc.net.au and goal.com.au