The following are previews with betting tips for Round 23 of the 2016/17 A-League season.
Sydney FC v Central Coast Mariners
7:50 PM AEDT, Allianz Stadium
Graham Arnold is expected to make few changes until the Sky Blues are crowned Premiership winners.
With a relatively fully fit squad to choose from, we can expect the same Starting XI that took the field against Melbourne Victory, last Friday evening.
Mariners keeper, Paul Izzo, serves the mandatory one-match suspension after his sending off against Melbourne City. Formerly on Sydney FC’s books, Ivan Necevski will be entrusted with the gloves in what promises to be a busy evening.
Defenders, Jacques Faty and Michael Neill, have been included in the extended matchday squad.
The Sky Blues have all but wrapped the Premiers’ Plate after last week’s 1-0 win over Melbourne Victory. Bobo struck just after the half-time to clinch a deserved three points against their closest rival. Sydney never looked back after what was a poor start by their standards with Marco Rojas prominent in the early stages. In the end, the slender scoreline did not reflect the level of dominance of the home side.
Paul Okon was left blue in the face after his side were downed 3-2 in a fiery and controversial encounter. Melbourne City were the beneficiaries of some rather generous officiating, especially when stonewall penalty appeals were waved away when Connor Pain was bundled over by Ruon Tongyik. City broke immediately and scored down the other end when Mariners captain, Nick Montgomery, inadvertently turned into his own net.
Sydney FC can wrap up the Premiership, this weekend, with four rounds to spare. If the Sky Blues can account for the Mariners and Melbourne Victory fail to beat Perth, then the minor premiership is in the bag.
Nick’s tip: Sydney FC HT/FT @1.67 (Ladbrokes)
Melbourne Victory v Perth Glory
7:50 PM AEDT, AAMI Park
Alan Baro returns from illness after missing last week’s 1-0 defeat to Sydney FC.
With the Premiership race all but over, Victory will aim to iron out a few chinks in preparation for the Finals. After been frozen out of the side for a month and a bit, Ben Khalfallah played a little less than half an hour, last Friday. He could get a start ahead of Jai Ingham.
Set-piece specialist, Nebo Marinkovic, returns for the visitors after missing out on last week’s entertaining 3-3 draw, in Auckland.
Left full-back, Joe Mills, is a doubt after suffering a hamstring injury in last week’s game. Marc Warren is likely to get a rare start, at AAMI Park.
Victory will look to cure their bruised ego after Sydney FC simply outplayed them for an hour, at the Allianz last week. Jai Ingham missed two guilt-edged opportunities to put his side in front as Marco Rojas laid seige down Sydney’s left flank. Good sides have a knack of punishing you when you don’t take your chances, and so it proved.
Perth came back from two goals down against Wellington, twice, to secure what could prove to be a precious point in their top four aspirations. Kenny Lowe aged a year or two inside 90 minutes as he watched his side recover from a state of hibernation to almost claiming an unlikely win.
Despite the 9 point buffer, Melbourne Victory will be looking to secure second spot as quickly as possible, with some tough fixtures lying in wait. Perth are currently in fifth and will fancy their chances of upsetting the big names come the Finals. As evidenced in Auckland, Perth’s defense is a real worry. Only Central Coast have conceded more than the side from the West, so far this season.
Nick’s tip: Melbourne Victory -0.5ah @1.76 (Pinnacle)
Melbourne City v Newcastle Jets
7:50 PM AEDT, AAMI Park
Fernando Brandan is out for the remainder of the season after suffering a serious knee injury in training, in midweek.
In brighter news for City, Michael Jakobsen should be back in contention after missing the trip to Gosford while Manny Muscat returns from suspension.
Jets full-back, Justin Hoffman, misses out through suspension after he was harshly sent off by referee, Jarred Gillett, in the 3-1 loss to Brisbane.
Club captain, Nigel Boogard, will be hoping for a recall to the Starting XI after sitting on the pine, last time out.
In unconvincing fashion, City hung on by the skin of their teeth to defeat 10-man Central Coast. The 3-2 away win was fraught with controversy, and a touch of fortune, but it was an important three points for the away side in their bid to secure a home final. If City are to make any sort of impression in the play-offs, then Michael Jakobsen cannot come back soon enough.
Newcastle’s aspirations of extending their participation, through to late April, took a huge hit as last Sunday’s game was turned on its head. After the Jets took an early lead through Andrew Nabbout’s penalty, Jarred Gillett wrongly sent off Hoffman for a second bookable offense. With the Jets playing the better part of an hour with 10 men, Brisbane slowly wore down the hosts to eventually claim a comfortable victory.
Nick’s tip: Over 3.5 goals @2.29 (Marathon Bet)
Adelaide United v Brisbane Roar
5:00 PM AEDT, Coopers Stadium
18yr old Riley McGree is the toast of Adelaide following his surprise selection for Ange Postecoglou’s extended Socceroos squad. Even though the youngster is unlikely to make the 23-man cut, he can take a lot of confidence from the call up.
The Roar have been dealt a huge blow with Tommy Oar set to be out of action for up to a month. The tricky winger suffered a hamstring strain during the 3-1 win over Newcastle.
Adelaide United somehow came away with a share of the spoils, at Spotless Stadium, in what has to be said was a dull affair. It was to be half expected though, with both the Reds and Western Sydney involved in ACL action just days before the contest. The game was marred by a shocking decision by referee, Kris Griffiths-Jones, when young Reds keeper Daniel Margush failed to clasp the ball with both hands before Dimas gleefully swooped to shoot into an empty net. Thankfully, for the youngster, KGF mysteriously chalked off the goal for dangerous play.
It was a good weekend for the Roar, in their battle for a Top Four spot, after they accounted for the Jets while Perth dropped two points in Auckland. In what was a lively encounter, the Roar never looked back after James MacLaren drew level from the spot, on 62 minutes. J-Mac completed his brace on 74′ while deep into injury time, substitute, Nick D’Agostino, put the game beyond Newcastle’s reach. Brisbane now occupy fourth spot, a point above Perth.
Western Sydney v Wellington Phoenix
7:00 PM AEDT, Spotless Stadium
Top scorer, Brendan Santalab, is pushing to be fit after missing the Wanderers’ last two outings with a groin strain.
In his absence, young striker Lachlan Scott was guilty of missing a couple of sitters in the scoreless draw against Adelaide United.
In a huge shot in the arm for Wellington Phoenix, Kostas Barbarouses has not been selected in the All Whites squad to face Fiji, on the 25th of March. The bad news is that no less than six players will be unavailable for the match against Newcastle, on Matchday 24.
One of those selected for New Zealand, Michael McGlinchey, is in line for a return against the Wanderers while Jacob Tratt is available again after serving his one-match suspension.
Western Sydney’s hoodoo at temporary home, Spotless Stadium, seems endless after another frustrating draw. The scoreless stalemate against Adelaide United was their fifth in six matches at Spotless, this season, while they tasted defeat to the Mariners in mid-February. Tony Popovic was on the verge of tearing his hair out as his team dominated this game, as they have done so on many occasions, but failed to convert in the final third.
Wellington’s second-half fades continue to plague their Finals hopes as they managed to eek out a 3-3 result, against visiting Perth Glory. The Nix held 2-0 and 3-1 leads, respectively, but failed at any stage to take control of a contest that resembled the chaotic nature of an NBA All-Stars game. Stamina seems to be an issue with Wellington having won just one second-half interval in their last 12 outings.