The following are previews with betting tips for Round 20 of the 2016/17 A-League season.
Adelaide United v Newcastle Jets
7:50 PM AEDT, Coopers Stadium
Former Korea Republic international, Jae-sung Kim, will don the Adelaide United jersey for the first time. Club captain, Isaias, returns from suspension while Michael Marrone is promoted to the squad after missing the demoralizing loss against Perth.
Adelaide public enemy number one, Iacopo La Rocca, is out for up to six weeks with a hip injury. The recently naturalized Australian will go down in A-League folklore as the scorer of one the worst own goals in history. Eugene Galekovic remains out indefinitely.
Despite reports linking Ma Leilei to Chinese club Liaoning Whowin, the Newcastle midfielder is added to the squad for the trip down South.
In what has been a season of lows, Adelaide United touched rocked bottom last week following the 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Perth. The Reds cut a lonely outfit at the bottom of the table, 8 points behind a resurgent Central Coast Mariners. With their ACL campaign kicking off against Gamba Osaka on Wednesday evening, it’s not difficult to guess where Adelaide’s priorities lie.
The Jets occupy the sixth and final play-off spot with a host of clubs banked up behind them. Mark Jones’ men pride themselves on their fitness so a turnaround of four days, since the scoreless draw against Melbourne Victory, should not pose too much of a problem.
Nick’s tip: Newcastle Jets +0.25ah @1.81 (Matchbook)
Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne City
5:35 PM AEDT, Westpac Stadium
Marco Rossi makes a timely return for the Nix following the suspension of club captain Andrew Durante. Shane Smeltz also returns in a bid to stop a run of four games without a win.
Joining Durante on the sidelines is Gui Finkler after picking up his fifth yellow for the season, in last week’s 3-1 defeat to Sydney FC. Roly Bonevacia’s future at the club is uncertain following reports that the midfielder is looking to ply his trade elsewhere.
Melbourne City are boosted by the inclusion of up to six players, all returning from suspension.
The trip to Wellington comes too soon for defensive pair Michael Jakobsen and Ivan Franjic.
Wellington will look to make the most of a rare night match at Westpac Stadium with their hopes of a finals campaign teetering on the edge. They certainly cannot rely on their away form which reads only 1 win from 9.
Michael Valkanis has a selection headache following the spirited 2-2 draw against Brisbane. 16 year old Dylan Pierias was the first millennial to play in the A-League against the Roar and may yet keep his spot with Franjic sidelined.
Wellington is Melbourne City’s favourite opponent going by their recent meetings with City winning six of their past seven.
Nick’s tip: Melbourne City 0ah @1.77 (Sportsbet)
Western Sydney Wanderers v Sydney FC
7:50 PM AEDT, ANZ Stadium
Bruno Pinatares is the most obvious choice to fill in for Dimas with the Spaniard out through suspension.
Wanderers manager and perennial ‘Tinkerman’, Tony Popovic, is sure to make a raft of changes with his side’s ACL campaign getting underway on Tuesday.
League leaders Sydney FC are at almost at full strength with the return of Brandon O’Neill from suspension.
Sebastian Ryall is the only outfield player unavailable to Graham Arnold.
Western Sydney aim to square up the season ledger against their most bitter rivals, in what has fast become the blue ribbon event on the regular season calendar. Last week, the Wanderers suffered a massive blow to their finals aspirations with a 2-0 defeat to Central Coast. Popovic came under massive criticism, post-match, for his decision not to start star striker Brendan Santalab. Expect the firebrand no.11 to be on the pitch at the first whistle.
As far as A-League standards go, Sydney FC touched perfection last week in the 3-1 win over Wellington. The final result did not do the performance justice as sky blue jerseys whipped the football around with purpose and almost telepathic understanding. One such moment, and there were many, led to arguably the goal of the season when a sequence of six passes ended up with Bobo heading home Sydney’s second. The visitors remain undefeated after 19 matches and there’s no sign of them slowing down, quite the contrary!
Nick’s tip: Sydney FC -0.25ah @1.76 (SBOBET)
Perth Glory v Brisbane Roar
10:00 PM AEDT, nib Stadium
Serbian midfielder, Milan Smiljanic, has departed Perth with mutual consent.
Perth manager, Kenny Lowe, must decide whether to change a winning side with Shane Lowry’s return off the treatment table. It is difficult to see Rhys Williams making way after a flawless performance against Adelaide United.
Melbourne-born and former Greek international defender, Avraam Papadopoulos, signed for Brisbane midweek following a season ending injury to Daniel Bowles. Papadopoulos will most likely make his bow in the ACL fixture against Muangthong, on Tuesday.
Jade North and Thomas Broich are included in the matchday squad after playing no part in the 2-2 draw at Melbourne City.
The 5-0 win over lowly Adelaide United marked Perth’s biggest win of the season. With a top six spot now almost assured, Glory will be setting their sights on the top four and a home final. Diego Castro continues to lead from the front and he will need to be at it again if Perth are to extend their three match home winning streak.
Brisbane relinquished a golden opportunity to close the gap on second placed Melbourne Victory following the draw at City. Despite the short turnaround following their fine win over Shanghai Shenhua, Roar took a 2-0 lead at AAMI Park but could not close the deal.
This fixture has produced an average of six goals over the past three seasons.
Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory
5:00 PM AEDT, Central Coast Stadium
Mariners captain Nick Montgomery is a big out for the hosts as he serves a one match suspension.
Jacques Faty is vying for a first start since the New Year’s Eve fixture against Melbourne City, when he lasted only six minutes before succumbing to a hamstring tear.
Rashid Mahazi has been promoted to Melbourne Victory’s matchday squad.
Following the disappointing scoreless draw at Newcastle, expect Kevin Muscat to make some changes with Leigh Broxham and Fahid Ben Khalfallah set for a recall.
Despite sitting second from bottom, Central Coast are one of the form sides going into Round 20. The Mariners’ 2-0 win over Western Sydney stretched their winning run to 3 on the trot and with all the momentum, who is to say they won’t make the six? Roy O’Donovan scored a brace on Sunday but has never scored against Melbourne Victory in three attempts.
Although Melbourne Victory look to have a stranglehold on second place, recent form must be a slight concern for Kevin Muscat. A record of one win in their last 5 represents a poor return for any side, let alone one looking to steal Sydney FC’s thunder. Aside from the final quarter of an hour, Victory were sluggish at Newcastle.
You have to go back 13 games since the Mariners got the better of their Melbourne counterparts. I expect the visitors to show their true colours against their whipping boys.
Nick’s tip: Melbourne Victory -1ah @1.88 (Bet365)