The following is a team-by-team season preview with futures betting tips for the 2018/19 A-League season.
1st (Predicted Finish) – Sydney FC
Last Campaign: Picture this, thousands of screaming Sky Blue fans as what had seemed like an unlikely loss turned into an extra-time game as former Sydney attacker Terry Antonis put the ball into the back of his own net. Now picture this, thousands of dejected Sky Blue fans as Antonis redeems himself and scores the match winner. That pretty much sums up Sydney’s season. They finished the season in first place, 14 points ahead of second, but it wasn’t too be. However they did claim the Minor Premiership as well as an exciting first ever FFA Cup trophy courtesy of a 2-1 extra-time victory over Adelaide. That as well as an ACL win. However that 2-1 Melbourne Victory loss was Graham Arnold’s last in charge of the side. As it was also the last game for both Adrian and Bobo who would go onto be sold later in the off-season. However both players left their mark on the side with Adrian getting eight strikes and countless assists and Bobo 27 goals from 28 appearances. And on a darker side Ryan Grant’s season long injury was most definitely a non-positive for the Sky Blues.
This Campaign: With at the minimum an FFA Cup Final Four finish under their belts, the Sky Blues are primed for yet another big campaign. Despite losing both Bobo and Adrian, Sydney have handsomely replaced them in the form of Adam le Fondre (39 goals in total for Reading) and Danei De Silva (former Roda JC player and 11x Australian U23’s member). While Jop Van Der Linden as well as Trent Buhagiar have also joined as some of new manager Steve Corcia’s signings. With Milos Ninkovic (four goals and five assists last season), Alex Brosque (three strikes in this years FFA Cup), Brandon O’Neill and the other fresh faces in tow, you can expect the Sky Blue’s attack to be raring as usual. However of a concern is their defence. They gave away two vs Rockdale, one vs FNQ and two vs Avondale. Their defence won’t be as hard to break as it was in recent seasons and it could be the difference for Sydney in their pursuit of A-League glory.
Key Signing: Adam le Fondre. He is the man tasked with replacing record-breaker and the now departed Bobo. He’s said all the right things in the press about wanting to win games and score goals. While on the field he’s reflected it as well, bagging one in Sydney’s tense 4-2 victory over Avondale as well as scoring plenty in the trial matches he’s featured in. While his prior record over in England backs it up, 54 strikes for Rotherham United and six in one season for Bolton. He is viewed as a direct replacement for the Brazilian and as such he’ll be tasked with the responsibility of producing like him. Expect him to live up to the hype, especially with players like Ninkovic, Brosque and O’Neill assisting him.
2nd (Predicted Finish) – Melbourne Victory
Last Campaign: A 1-0, albeit controversial victory in the Grand Final saw Melbourne claim a fourth A-League Championship over the Newcastle Jets. However there season wasn’t all pretty after they had to do it the hard way after finishing in fourth place on the competition ladder. And they finished 23 points of the mark behind their Sky Blue rivals in first place. However as was proven, that didn’t count for much as they defeated Sydney FC away from home 2-1 in an extra-time thriller to book their spot in the Grand Final. That with Terry Antonis coming back to haunt his former side with the killer goal. The Victory also fared very well in the ACL finishing with a final two/two/two record and being one point of second place in their group. A group that featured two giants in Asian Football in the form of Shanghai SIPG and Ulsan Hyundai.
This Campaign: Expect Melbourne to push very, very strongly this season under the guidance of Kevin Muscat (178 games coaching Victory) and several key signings including former AC Milan player and most recent Wold Cup representative player Keisuke Honda. As well as Honda, ex-Sunderland and PSV and current Sweeden midfielder Ola Toivonen has joined the ranks at Melbourne. How these players replace the likes of departed stars such as Bersart Berisha and Mark Milligan will go a long, long way to determining how the Victory go this campaign. However having replaced stars with stars and off the back of yet another A-League Championship, you can expect them to go deep into the finals.
Key Signing: He’s played just under 100 games for Japan with 31 goals next to his name. While he’s also formerly called AC Milan and CSKA Moscow home. And now currently also juggling a national team manager role he makes a stop at the Victory hoping to help them continue of off the back of last season. What he can do is simply incredible whether it be unselfishly setting up his team-mates for good looks or taking them himself. Opposition defences will be terrified of coming up against him. However should he fail to find the back of the net regularly, the Victory could be in a bit of strife. Melbourne’s attacking plays/schemes will be set up around him and in turn he’ll have to play the part.
3rd (Predicted Finish) – Melbourne City
Last Campaign: Warren Joyce’s first season in charge was one to remember for both the right and wrong reasons. The right included making it to within one game of the Grand Final, finishing with 13 wins and 43 points, as well as ending the season above the Victory on the ladder. The wrongs being not securing ACL qualification as well as Tim Cahill’s less then desired exit from the club. However scoring goals definitely wasn’t a problem for the Sky Blue side of Melbourne as Ross McCormack on loan from Aston Villa bagged 16 from only 14 matches. While Bruno Fornaroli struck once every two games (five out of 10). And departed ex-Wellington man Dario Vidosic also made his presence felt with five fine goals as well. Their 2-1 win over the other Melbourne via a 64th minute Bruce Kamau winner as well as a 2-1 victory over Newcastle from an 86th minute Manny Muscat strike were among the many highlights from their season. A 5-0 rout over Adelaide in Round 17 truly highlighted their potency in front of goal as they finished their campaign with a goal difference of +8 (good for third best).
This Campaign: Riley McGree, Lachlan Wales, Ritchie de Laet and Mark Birighitti are just some of the new faces who have joined City for this upcoming season. Warren Joyce has a refreshed and ready to go squad that in addition to those men still have the likes of Bruno Fornaroli (46 goals in 63 games for City), Luke Brattan (on loan from Manchester City) and Eugene Galekovic (eight games for the Socceroos) on board. Key to their success this season will be their depth and competition to start. Among those will be Galekovic vs Birighitti. For Galekovic he knows the A-League inside and out having played 253 games for the Victory/Adelaide and having won two Championships, two Premierships and an FFA Cup in the process. While he has proven himself to be both an excellent and consistent Goal Keeper. And for Birightti he also has represented Australia and was formerly a member of Swansea City. While playing for the Jets he made himself a constant hero. These positional battles will be the key to City’s season.
Key Signing: Mark Birighitti. Only 27 years of age, he is very much in his prime right now or very close to it. He’s never afraid to come up to an attacker and take a hit for his team if needed (ala Shane Smeltz). He is very strong and can make some incredible dives. Him fighting Galekovic for a spot in City’s starting eleven will have a positive influence on the entire team. And when he does start you know he’ll get the job done. Many teams such as Sydney, the Central Coast and Newcastle could have done with a player of his caliber in his position. So it says a lot about what he’s capable of that City snatched him up.
Pick Bruno Fornarolli to be the League’s leading Goal-scorer at $6.50 (Bet365)
4th (Predicted Finish) – Perth Glory
Last Campaign: Kenny Lowe was sacked despite being a ‘good bloke’, a tonne of injuries, a win of equal sixth spot and under-performing marquee men pretty much sum up Perth’s crazy campaign. Diego Castro massively played under his as per normal standards with only seven goals and a dismal five assists. And Andy Keogh was equally as bad with only six goals and four assists. However despite the big bucks men under-performing, on their day as a whole Perth was really able to turn on the Jets. This was evident in their 3-1 win over Western Sydney as well as in some of their defeats where they really did deserve a point such as the 3-2 vs Sydney or the 3-2 vs Brisbane. Ultimately it was the 3-2 loss against Brisbane that sealed their fate despite an Adam Taggart double. Their poor start to the season may have also cost them as they won only one of their opening four matches, while scoring one or zero goals in half of those games. However Castro missed five games, Keogh three, Taggart 13 and Dino Djubic played only four matches. They really did cruel Perth’s season.
This Campaign: Early on it’s looking pretty damn good for the Glory. Under new manager Tony Popovic they lost only 1-0 to last seasons English Premier League winners Chelsea. And despite losing Taggart, Castro and Keogh are still on board as is new signing Western Sydney record goal-scorer Brendan Santalab. And a host of former Socceroos have been added as well including Jason Davidson and Ivan Franjic. Fabio Ferreira looks to be a decent addition as well with the Portuguese Footballer previously having been a member of Chelsea. While Tando Velaphi should prove to be a good backup goalie to Liam Reddy. Popovic has made a lot of solid signings and so far Perth look the goods, expect him to get them to return to finals Football and in the process bagging a heap of goals.
Key Signing: Tony Popovic. It’s a bit of a different route choosing the manager as a key signing as opposed to a player, but Poppas influence can’t be underestimated in the slightest. The former Western Sydney coach and Crystal Palace assistant has won tonnes of Minor Premierships while in charge of the Wanderers and made history when he got them (an A-League club), a fist ever Asian Champions League Trophy. He absolutely knows how to win at the A-League level and his knowledge, skills and past successes should rub of well onto Perth’s squad. He will have them challenging for a first ever A-League Championship this season, no doubt about it.
5th (Predicted Finish) – Newcastle Jets
Last Campaign: After a shocking season the campaign before the Jets rebounded very strongly under Ernie Merrick & Co. Finishing in second place and reaching the Grand Final was a simply tremendous effort for the Hunter Valley based side. They were firing on all fronts, Dimitri Petratos and Roy O’Donovan combined up front for a lethal 19 goals and 11 assists. While Andrew Nabbout contributed heavily in attack as well before his mid-season departure. While defensively they kept seven clean sheets as Jack Duncan became one of the A-League’s best Goal Keepers. And with men such as Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Nigel Boogard in defence they were mostly able to keep the opposition attack at bay. Newcastle opened their season with four wins and two draws from their opening six matches and it just got better and better from there and on the season they were victorious in 15/27 games. A massive 10 victory improvement on the previous campaign. However missing out on Asian Football was slightly disappointing for the high aiming Jets.
This Campaign: This season for the Jets, it’ll be all about going one better and aiming for their first Championship since 2008. Whilst qualifying for the Asian Champions League will also be a big aim for them. Despite losing Jack Duncan to Al-Qadsiah Newcastle should still finish within the Top Six due to their attacking power. Roy O’Donovan has 28 Hyundai A-League strikes from 61 matches, while Dimitri Petratos form warranted him making his Socceroos debut this season. And new singing Jair Eduardo Britto de Silva, a former Kashima Antlers player, will bring plenty to Newcastle’s attack as well, just like returning Venezuelan Ronald Vargas, a player who impressed in his limited time on the field last season. However some red signals have to be going off after they only just beat the Gold Coast Knights 1-0 in their opening FFA Cup game. However a wins a win and you can expect that if the Jets are to go one better, it’ll be down to their on fire attacking core.
Key Signing: Mitch Austin. Hahaha, surely that’s a joke right, your asking? Nope, not in the slightest. The 27 year old secured a deal after trialing with Ernie Merrick’s men. He won the Grand Final last A-League campaign and when healthy is very, very fast and can find the back of the net quite well. In his 23 appearances for the Mariners he scored five goals and in his 24 for the Victory, he got four. With O’Donovan’s temper and Vargas’s injury history, Austin should prove to be a key player of the bench for the Jets. This may be the eighth club of his quickly dwindling career, but expect a career revival and for him to really do some damage, especially so as he’ll be the least of the opposition defences concerns.
6th (Predicted Finish) – Central Coast Mariners
Last Campaign: They finished with the Wooden Spoon, a goal difference of -21 and 15 defeats. And to top it all of their season culminated in an 8-2 loss in the F3 Derby, at home. It was dreadful to say the least. The only real positives to take from the Mariners woeful season was the development of some talented youngsters such as Kye Rowles and Jacob Melling. There were others as well, but they were poached by bigger clubs such as Melbourne and Sydney. However, that’s what it was all about for the Mariners last season, promoting the youth. And it didn’t help the Gosford based sides cause when coach Paul Okon quit during the season to leave caretaker coach Wayne Pearce in charge to pick up the pieces. Connor Pain scored four goals that season as did Andrew Hoole and they were the Mariners top goal scorers. That right there in a nutshell highlights there inability to score goals as they mightily struggled in that regard. A small highlight from their dreadful season however was a 1-1 draw with Sydney at Allianz Stadium in Round 17.
This Campaign: Ross McCormack, Matt Simon and Usain Bolt are just some of the men assigned with getting the Mariners back to challenging for finals Football this campaign. The Wizard of Woy Woy, whether he starts of brings an aggressive presence of the bench should be a joy to watch for all Mariners fans given everything he’s achieved with the club. While he also bagged a goal in the ACL (something not to be discredited). And combined with McCormack the club will have a lethal attack heading into the new season. And with the likes of Hoole and Pain still on board, the Central Coast will have a few different avenues for goals this season. And as such, as a result of that their attack should be greatly improved. While as long as Bolt’s in the side, bums will be on seats up in Gosford to watch the Mariners play what should be some entertaining Football.
Key Signing: Ross McCormack. On loan from Aston Villa at Melbourne City last season he bagged 14 goals from only 16 games. If he’s able to play a full season with the Central Coast, expect him to at least reach between 15-20 goals again, if not more. With him being the front man for the Central Coast he will be tasked with the responsibility of spearheading their attack. He was very disgruntled at Villa under manager Steve Bruce, but being able to be the main man in a League that he’s previously thrived in should only do wonders for his game. In his career he also has 53 strikes for Leeds and 38 for Fulham. This man is an A-League Golden Boot candidate, no doubt.
7th (Predicted Finish) – Western Sydney Wanderers
Last Campaign: Finishing the season in seventh spot was a rude awakening for the Red & Black who were usually used to success. Josep Gombau’s tactics just didn’t seem to mesh well with his side as they finished with eight wins (good for third worst). Tony Popovic quit the side just before the season began leaving the club in utter disarray and Hayden Fox did his best picking up the pieces. Gombau didn’t even have a full season coaching the side. Oriol Riera did score 15 goals for Western Sydney but he was their only consistent attacking threat throughout the season. However there was more low-lights then highlights as the Wanderers 13 times gave up two or more goals in a game, including their record smashing 5-0 defeat at the hands of the Sky Blues in the Sydney Derby. A win in their final match at home would’ve miraculously secured them a finals berth, but they bottled it, losing 3-2 to Adelaide in a back and forth affair at ANZ Stadium. Playing outside of home obviously hurt them a bit as well, as their crowds weren’t quite as passionate or as loud as that of seasons past.
This Campaign: In the FFA Cup they’ve excelled under new head coach Markus Babbel and at the very least will have being one of the final four teams left in the competition on their CV before the start of the new season. The former Bayern and Liverpool player has show far proven to be a great replacement for head coach Josep Gombau. However as positive as the German is for the club, some of their signings have been highly questionable which is why in part they won’t feature in the finals this season. Bruce Kamau produced only three goals last season to go along with zero assists. And he was deemed expendable by a Melbourne City side that lost both Tim Cahill and Ross McCormack. While Rshid Mahazi is another one that makes Wanderers fans go what the hell. In his 115 games as a professional the ex-Melbourne Victory player has produced only two goals next two his name, that despite him being a Midfielder. For a side that produced only eight victories last campaign, they haven’t done much to improve on that for this season and in turn expect it to be a fairly average campaign from the Red & Black.
Key Signing: Their key signing isn’t the man scoring the goals or stealing the ball of the attack, but rather Markus Babbel, the man holding the clipboard on the sidelines. At Hertha Berlin he had a season in which his side won 23/34 matches. Another campaign saw him win 14/20 with Stuggart. He’s shown enough as a manager that he could potentially lead the Wanderers to big things, however that is with adequate signings! Despite this he is still tactically gifted enough and smart enough to help the Wanderers improve on last season. Even if it does only turn out to be marginally.
8th (Predicted Finish) – Brisbane Roar
Last Campaign: Last season was a mixed bag for the Roar. They made the finals and posted ten victories. However they were quickly bundled out of them with a 2-0 defeat to Melbourne City. A match that saw them post only four shots vs their opponents 21. Massimo Maccarone was nearly 40 years old and one of their best players, producing nine goals on the season, a significant problem for the Roar. One of their highlight games was vs Wellington. After being down 3-0 inside the games opening twenty minutes in New Zealand, the Roar looked like they were in for a real hiding. However a late first-half Maccarone strike as well as another one in the second half, plus a Papadopoulos goal saw them snatch a point in a thrilling affair. While they were also the ones to end Sydney FC’s massive home undefeated streak in a 2-1 victory back in Round 23. Good goals from Matt McKay (9th minute) and Jacob Pepper (18th minute) saw them get the win that day.
This Campaign: Plenty of new faces have joined the Brisbane setup in what should hopefully be an exciting season for them. Adam Taggart is the key face after his exit from the Perth Glory. The former A-League Golden Boot winner scored 20 goals in 38 matches in his most recent stint for the Glory as well as having represented the Socceroos seven times. Tobias Mikkelsen is another one having played for Denmark eight times as well as having been victorious in the Danish Cup twice. And Alex Lopez is also another strong signing from John Aloisi. The Spanish Striker scored eleven times for Valencia’s B side and will add some real flare up front for Brisbane. So what you can in essence really expect from Brisbane this campaign is a lot of goals given their signings. The linkup play between these three big names will be something to behold. And when you throw Henrique (42 goals for Brisbane) and Eric Bautheac (six goals/assists last season) into the mix, it just gets even better.
Key Signing: Adam Taggart. The former Fullham player was frustrated by injuries at Perth and will look to stay healthy during his time in Queensland. He scored 18 times in 44 matches for the Jets and will be looking to make the Striker spot his own within Brisbane’s starting lineup. Additionally, his motivation to get back into the Australian side will be second to none and as a result he will be looking to put his best foot foward every game, especially now so that the Aussies have a new manager, And with this writer expecting him to hit at least 15 goals this season, provided he’s fully fit, he’ll prove to be a great upgrade over the now departed Maccarone.
9th (Predicted Finish) – Adelaide United
Last Campaign: A finals appearance as well as making the FFA Cup Final made for a decent season in head-coach Marco Kurz’s first year in charge of the club. They pushed Sydney all the way into ET in the final and only lost as a result of a Bobo goal. And in the finals it was a 2-1 loss to the Victory that got them eliminated after Berisha scored a late winner. While they had held a 1-0 lead until the 63rd minute of the match. Another impressive stat was that they finished only two victories of off 3rd placed Melbourne City. When they beat the Jets 5-2 in Round 24 at home, that was a massive, massive win for them. Daniel Adlung bagged two that game and it was an absolute slaughtering. In addition another great match for them was not too long after when they ended the Wanderers finals hopes with an exciting and tense 3-2 victory at ANZ Stadium. The lead changed three times in that back and forth affair. A game which ironically probably decided the fate of former Adelaide coach and then Wanderers coach Josep Gombau.
This Campaign: Even a defeat would still see them finish among the best four teams from this years FFA Cup after they defeated giant-killers APIA 2-0. While they were very clinical in their only professional game against an A-League side this season beating the Mariners 3-0. They had a 2-0 lead inside the opening 19 minutes and they look to be improving upon last seasons encouraging finish. Michael Jakobsen will continue to add to Adelaide’s strong defensive reputation after he changed from City to them. He won 30 of the 45 tackles he was involved in last season and played a massive part in City finishing so high on the ladder. And Mirko Boland is a hard-working German Midfielder who should continue to add great things towards what Adelaide is looking to build. While Scott Galloway is another astute signing by Kurz as he won 62% of his take ons last season. Whether he starts or is on the bench he should prove to be a good buy.
Key Signing: Michael Jakobsen. He was very, very good for City last season and should get even better under Kurz this campaign, a scary thought for opposition A-League attacks. The former FFA Cup winner gave away only four yellow cards as well as winning 148 of the 270 duels he was involved in last season. He will give everything for Adelaide and should prove to be one of the best defensive signings of the campaign. Look for Adelaide’s defence to be very strong whenever he’s on the field.
10th (Predicted Finish) – Wellington Phoenix
Last Campaign: Only slightly better than the woeful Mariners, they finished second last with five victories next to their name, however an also very damaging 16 losses. Their future was constantly thrown into doubt and the club just couldn’t handle it. While they suffered two 4-0 losses and two 4-1 losses, one of each to both Sydney and Western Sydney. A ‘supposed’ lack of good English from then manager Darije Kalezic led to his departure at the end of the season. While Dario Vidosic and his father (an assistant coach then at the Phoenix), left early in the season because of the unprofessional things going on at the club. It was a disaster from start to finish for the New Zealand based side. However 19 year old Sarpreet Singh was very much a positive from the clubs poor campaign. The Auckland born youngster showed flashes of why he could be the clubs potential savior as he finished the season with four goals from 11 games as well as 12 shot assists.
This Campaign: Mark Rudan’s the new manager entrusted with turning Wellington’s fortunes around. And it got of to a shocking start with the Phoenix being knocked out of the FFA Cup Round of 32 with a 1-0 defeat to Bentleigh. That is a very ominous sign for their soon to begin season. Combined with that they’ve made some very questionable signings including Mitch Nichols. A man who has been busted for cocaine possession in the past. However trying to spin a positive light on Wellington’s upcoming campaign, Steven Taylor is a very strong defensive signing while new Goal Keeper Filip Kurto an ex-Poland u21 player should be as well. While again further strengthening their defence former Legia Warsaw man Michał Kopczyński should prove to be an astute signing as well. And Singh can only improve as he gets older and gains more experience, especially with the leaders around him. However don’t expect those positive factors to be enough in helping the Phoenix avoid last place.
Key Signing: 215 matches for Newcastle and 29 for England’s u21’s side. Steven Taylor may just prove to be one of the A-League’s best signings this season. While he also has experience playing in the MLS. For a side that could only keep two clean sheets from 27 matches last season, Taylor has a lot of work ahead of him to help fix the Nix’s terrible defence. However if you can play 215 matches for Newcastle then your clearly doing something right and his ability as a defender is second to none. Even the A-Leagues greatest assets such as Fornaroli, Honda or Riera would struggle to beat Taylor one on one. He’ll be absolutely vital to Wellington achieving anything of note this season and he might, just might be able to help them finish with a positive defensive record.
Pick Wellington to finish last at $2.75 (BetEasy)