3 weeks left in the A-League regular season and for most clubs, there is still all to play for. Brisbane, now unbeaten in an astonishing 22 matches, are in a league of their own and have top spot sewn up. Central Coast are in second spot, but if the Mariners slip up, Adelaide and the Gold Coast are in hot pursuit ready to pounce. Most interest surrounds the fight for the two finals positions. The 2 Melbourne sides currently occupy them, but Newcastle or Wellington could leapfrog the Melbourne Heart if they win their games in hand.
Brisbane Roar v Melbourne Heart (AEDT 2000)
This is a big, big game for the visitors. Melbourne cling to 6th spot by just 1 point from Wellington and 2 points from Newcastle. Both those clubs have games in hand on the Heart and meet each other this weekend, so at least one of them is guaranteed points. This means that Melbourne likely need to win if they wish to stay in the top 6. On the surface, Brisbane don’t have much to play for with top spot all but secured. But the competition for a starting berth in Ange Postecoglou’s team is fierce and they also look to extend their record-breaking unbeaten streak to 23. For Melbourne, young midfielder Adrian Zahra is out for the season with a serious knee injury sustained from a horror Kevin Muscat challenge. Melbourne are on a good run and haven’t tasted defeat in any of their 6 previous fixtures. Striker John Aloisi has netted 4 times in that period and will be a pivotal figure in this one. I think a draw will probably suit both teams. Also note that this fixture is being played at the Gold Coast rather than at Brisbane’s regular home venue of Suncorp Stadium.
Andy’s Bet: Draw @ 4.00 (Multiple sites)
Adelaide United v Central Coast Mariners (AEDT 1930)
This is the pick of the weekend! 2nd plays 3rd and the winner will be in the box seat to claim 2nd place, an Asian Champions League berth and a finals double chance. Adelaide tore North Queensland to shreds last week recording an amazing 8-1 scoreline, while the Mariners had to battle back from a 2 goal deficit to draw with Sydney. Both sides are in form and it will be interesting to see if Central Coast’s impressive 3 month unbeaten run away from home can continue. I don’t like the Mariners’ chances purely because Adelaide are so intimidating at Hindmarsh Stadium in front of their frenzied red army. Adelaide will be without midfielder Fabian Barbiero who has been ruled out for the rest of the season due to a recurring ankle injury.
Andy’s Bet: Adelaide to win @ 2.07 (Centrebet)
Perth Glory v Sydney FC (AEDT 2145)
This is effectively a meaningless clash as both sides are extremely unlikely to figure in finals action. Betting on these types of matches, with only pride on the line, is fraught with danger. Both sides have decent stats in their favour. Sydney are unbeaten in 4 and have defeated Perth to nil in both previous clashes this campaign. Perth, meanwhile, have put together a tidy little period at home and have not been beaten at NIB Stadium since the start of November. The Glory have been hit hard by injuries, notably a hamstring stretch by marquee striker Robbie Fowler, but Sydney have had had to deal with the saga surrounding want-away striker Alex Brosque. Brosque had been offered a lucrative offer by a Japanese club and Sydney are so far refusing to release their player. Despite that, I think Sydney will field the better team and should win.
Andy’s Bet: Sydney to win @ 2.38 (Sportsbet)
Wellington Phoenix v Newcastle Jets (AEDT 1500)
Last weekend this column won big by loading up on a Phoenix home victory and a 2 goals plus victory. The Phoenix have won 5 of their last 6 home games and 4 of those have been by at least a 2 goal margin. Back the kiwi club to do so again and rocket into the top 6. Newcastle are just stuttering a bit as key injuries start to take their toll.
Andy’s Bet: Wellington to win @ 1.60 (TAB Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: Wellington to win by 2 or more goals @ 2.55 (TAB Sportsbet)
Melbourne Victory v Gold Coast United (AEDT 1700)
Melbourne Victory may have beaten North Queensland midweek, but don’t read much into that. If you saw the goals, you’ll realise that a weary Fury side were in a very charitable mood! Melbourne will go into this match, and probably the rest of the season, without captain Kevin Muscat who is likely to be slapped with a ban of at least 6 matches for his awful tackle on Adrian Zahra. Melbourne lost a 2 goal lead in that match and were previously beaten at home 4-1 by Adelaide. Gold Coast are a slick unit and belted Newcastle 5-1 last weekend. Shane Smeltz has scored twice in his 3 games since rejoining United and the A-League. His return has also coincided with an amazing run by striking partner Bruce Djite who has netted 6 times in 3 games.
Andy’s Bet: Gold Coast to win @ 2.70 (TAB Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: Gold Coast to win by 2 or more goals @ 5.50 (TAB Sportsbet)