1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on round 17 of the A-League which sees the Jets stage a home game in Coffs Harbour and finishes in Adelaide on Sunday evening.
Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC, Thursday – Etihad Stadium
The irresistible force of Sydney FC meets the immovable object, Melbourne Victory I mean not Etihad Stadium, this Thursday as first plays second. Both sides have scored 36 goals in the league this season but the Sky Blues have conceded only seven and the home side 21. Kevin Muscat’s team fell for the second time in five days when beaten in Perth having lost in Wellington during the week and those results doubled their losses this season, but was it a blip? David Carney scored twice when Graham Arnold’s men won 2-1 in Sydney in November after Melbourne lead 1-0 at the break. Sydney’s defence will have another reshuffle with Josh Brilliante likely to fill in at right back with Ryhan Grant suspended. Victory are getting players back from suspension with Jason Geria and Fahid Ben Khalfallah free to play after sitting out the loss in Perth.
Big game for: Exciting contests. Sydney’s matches have been somewhat drab in recent weeks so let’s hope for an end-to-end game here. Might even see some penalty heroics from Danny Vukovic, but will Berisha miss again?
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Double figure goals. Sydney are unbeaten but it’s not with dominant goal-scorers with Alex Brosque, nine goals, the team’s leading scorer four goals behind Melbourne’s Besart Berisha. Somewhere along the line Sydney will need someone to go on a scoring run to keep their record up this season.
Newcastle Jets v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships, Friday – Coffs International Stadium
The weather forecast isn’t great but hopefully a good contest is in store as the A-League heads to Coffs Harbour for the first time. Newcastle will welcome back Morten Nordstrand and, possibly, Wayne Brown so they are far better shape depth-wise compared to the eleven that started the 2-0 loss to the Wanderers. The visitors got lucky to a degree when the Mariners ended the game with ten players after Roy O’Donovan was marched 23 minutes into the game in Gosford and two goals to Tim Cahill proved decisive whilst Newcastle lacked any attacking zip at home. When the Jets and the light blues met in November in the Victorian capital the home side won 2-1 but weren’t overly impressive.
Big game for: Goals steaks. The defeat at Campbelltown snapped a six-game streak in which the Jets had scored at least two goals in each match, a run dating back to December 10. With key attackers returning and the visitor’s having logged only one clean sheet all season it’s good news for the Jets.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing how Michael Valkanis goes for the rest of the season. Just over a month after Wellington appointed the Des Buckingham/Chris Greenacre duo the former Adelaide assistant has, rightly, been given a chance to prove his value in the top role until the end of the campaign.
Central Coast Mariners v Perth Glory, Saturday – Central Coast Stadium
With Roy O’Donovan absent the Mariners young attackers will be under pressure here but they hold an impressive record against Perth when playing in Gosford losing only once in 18 league fixtures. This season they have netted five times against Kenny Lowe’s team with a 3-3 draw to open the season and 2-0 win in November. Paul Okon’s side have lacked some cutting edge in front of goal recently but one or two more sharp finishes coupled with another clean sheet for the home side could see them take maximum points. However former Mariner Liam Reddy added to his saved penalty record with his third stop last weekend, but Melbourne did score one after that. His opposite Paul Izzo has had to make 62 stops, the most in the competition, this campaign.
Big game for: The kids. The Mariners just missed out on hosting the National Youth League decider after losing 3-0 to Sydney FC in their crucial Conference B game. The Baby Sky Blues will now play Conference A winners with Melbourne’s light blues looking to claim a second title for the club this season. The game is Saturday afternoon in Gosford before the A-League fixture.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Mariners recruiting. Coach Okon has got a win recruiting wise with the club’s skipper Nick Montgomery to take out Australian citizenship this week. The move means the Leeds-born 35-year-old now isn’t considered as taking up one of the five visa spots for foreign players. Okon may wish to plug some holes if he can do some quick overseas recruitment having shifted on some players earlier this month.
Brisbane Roar v Western Sydney Wanderers, Saturday – Suncorp Stadium
The vexed situation about the use of Jamie Maclaren, and the striker’s future at the club, took another fun twist for Roar fans on Saturday when he popped home the winner late in the game in Wellington. Maclaren is still not in the top eleven for John Aloisi apparently but it’s elsewhere Aloisi is forced to make changes with Corey Brown banned for accumulated yellow cards. The left-back is likely to be replaced by Daniel Bowles but don’t discount Connor O’Toole getting an A-League debut whilst the Wanderer after their win in Campbelltown over Newcastle will look to improve on the 1-1 draw the two sides played out last month in Brisbane when Dimas netted an equaliser 21 minutes from time after Brisbane went ahead when Brown scored seven minutes after the break.
Big game for: The search for a striker goes on for the Wanderers. But has Lachlan Scott’s A-League drought ending signalled a run of goals for the youngster?
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: The first Asian Champions League game with Australian interest this season. The Roar will host Philippines’ side Global next Tuesday after the team from Cebu City defeated Singapore’s Tampine Rovers 2-0 on Tuesday evening. Should the Roar progress from this one-off game they’ll play Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua for a spot in the group stage of the ACL.
Adelaide United v Wellington Phoenix, Sunday – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium
The Nix were punished for their profligacy in front of goal, particularly in the first half, when Brisbane got all three points in Wellington and the Kiwi side head to South Australia knowing Guillermo Amor’s side turned them over in December 2-0 but they two sides did play out a 0-0 draw on New Year’s Day in difficult conditions. Ninth-placed Adelaide have won only once since they beat Wellington, when they defeated Victoria’s second team two weeks ago.
Big game for: Adelaide at home. Sergi Guardiola has played his last A-League game after his loan deal was cut short with the striker to possibly join Spanish second tier club Real Murica. The Spaniard only scored three times in 14 games. But in a possible positive Eli Babalj could join the club in the coming week.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: With five clean sheets this season Glen Moss and Wellington are somewhat of an anomaly to be sitting in sixth with the second most-clean sheets of any club.
The betting bit – One serious one not
The Victory have lost big games at their second home this season and Sydney ($2.75), despite their defensive issues, have had some time to plan for this game in Melbourne. This goes into a comedy interpretive design take from the travelling RBB on the A-League’s new logo in Brisbane.
Profit: – $91.30 (ten units per investment)
Images via: thecourier.com.au and espnfc.com.au