After a tough start to the season this column has slowly been recovering, posting small profits in each of the last two weeks. Last week was particularly successful with 4 of 5 match results correctly selected.
CHEEKY WEEK 17 A-LEAGUE MULTI
Andy’s Bet: Central Coast, Brisbane and Wellington all to win @ 5.50 (Sportsbet)
THURSDAY (JAN 26)
Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC (AEDT 1600)
This Australia Day fixture will be the most important game played so far this season. Only one place on the table separates these two teams, however sixth placed Sydney, currently holding the last finals spot, have a four point buffer over their southern rivals from Melbourne. New Victory boss Jim Magilton hasn’t experienced the honeymoon period fresh managers generally enjoy when team performances improve as the players try to impress the incoming coach and secure a spot in the starting line-up. In Magilton’s first two games in charge, Melbourne managed only a home draw against Adelaide and crushing defeat in Perth. The navy blue fortunes might be changing though, with Socceroo defender Mark Milligan signing a loan deal with the Victory until the end of the regular season. Milligan is likely to start this match in central defence alongside Adrian Leijer, while Fabio will return to his left back slot after missing the game against Perth through suspension and playmaker Carlos Hernandez should feature at some stage. Last weekend Sydney scored two late goals to beat bottom club Gold Coast 2-1, a win which snapped a four game losing streak for the sky blues. Sydney midfielder Terry Antonis will miss with a hamstring injury and manager Vitezslav Lavicka will need to decide whether to keep Rhyan Grant at right back, where the youngster has played so well recently, or draft him in to replace Antonis in midfield. Melbourne need to win this match because any other result means the season is just about over. On their home patch, on Australia Day and guided by their new manager, this is the just the stage for the Victory to start their charge to the finals.
Andy’s Bet: Melbourne to win @ 2.15 (TAB Sportsbet)
FRIDAY (JAN 27)
Gold Coast United v Central Coast Mariners (AEDT 2000)
Many in the media have been rejoicing the evenness of this A-League season and when the table topping Mariners travel to bottom placed Gold Coast this Friday night, we’ll all know exactly the gap that separates the competitions best and worst teams. Central Coast are embarking on a Brisbane-like run of results and enter this match with a 15 game unbeaten run. Even more amazing for the Mariners is that they have won all 7 of their away games played during that period. Gold Coast, meanwhile, have taken just one point from the four matches they have played so far in 2012. The formbook clearly shows Central Coast should comfortably take this game, so I’m taking Sportsbet’s near even money odds on a Mariners win.
Andy’s Bet: Central Coast to win @ 1.87 (Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: Central Coast to win by 2 or more goals @ 3.60 (Sportsbet)
SATURDAY (JAN 28)
Brisbane Roar v Newcastle Jets (AEDT 1945)
Forget the unbeaten run record, the most amazing stat for me this season is Brisbane’s recent penchant for conceding the first goal. In each of their last 10 games, yes 10, the ball has ended up in the back of the Roar’s net first. Even more remarkably, Brisbane have recovered from those early setbacks to win or draw their last five matches. Resilience much? With Melbourne Heart slipping up recently, Brisbane are now favourites to finish the season in second spot and secure the final 2013 Asian Champions League spot. The Roar have a two point gap on the Wellington Phoenix and a three point margin on the Heart, with all clubs to play nine more matches in the regular season. Theoretically, Gary van Egmond’s Newcatle side can still make the finals, however the Jets would need a drastic form reversal for that to happen. In the jam-packed set of fixtures since early December, Newcastle have only won once from 8 matches. For the statistically minded, Newcastle are over $3 to score the first goal, while Brisbane are paying $29 to recover from a half time deficit and win. Generally, I love going on the stats, but this smacks of a Brisbane onslaught.
Andy’s Bet: Brisbane to win @ 1.50 (Sportingbet)
Andy’s Bet: Brisbane to win by 2 or more goals @ 2.50 (Sportsbet)
SUNDAY (JAN 29)
Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Heart (AEDT 1430)
January has been the ‘flight of the phoenix’ month. The Wellington club had been crash-landing on all previous trips over the Tasman this campaign, but have been able to turn that trend around in January, winning their two most recent away trips and keeping clean sheets in the process. Those victories have catapulted Wellington up to third and a strong run through to the end of the season could see them challenge Brisbane for second. The Melbourne visitors sit just one point and one place behind them on the ladder, however the Melbourne Heart are in poor form and have not won so far in 2012. The Heart also have injury concerns with defenders Curtis Good and Brendan Hamill as well as midfielder Jonatan Germano pulling up sore after the 1-1 draw with Brisbane last weekend. At home and in form, I can’t pass up the ‘Nix.
Andy’s Bet: Wellington to win @ 2.07 (Centrebet)
Adelaide United v Perth Glory (AEDT 1700)
Under new coach John Kosmina, Adelaide have become the league’s draw specialists, with the Reds finishing 4 of 7 games on level terms since ‘Kossie’ returned to the club. Perth have been the enigma club of 2011-12. The Glory have won 7 matches to sit fifth out of ten on the table, which is the definition of middle of the road, however 3 of the 7 wins came in the first 3 matches of the season and another 3 have come in their last 4 matches, meaning just one win was garnered from an 11 match period during the middle of the season. What will happen next? The key to Perth’s recent recovery has been the form of Mile Sterjovski cutting league full-backs to shreds from either flank and, when in this form, Sterjovski is that most dangerous combination of supplier and scorer. Adelaide played out a 1-1 draw on the road against Newcastle on Wednesday night and I’m always wary of backing teams returning from from midweek away fixtures, so this might just be another deadlock for the draw specialists.
Andy’s Bet: Draw @ 3.35 (Centrebet, Sportingbet)