CHEEKY WEEK 21 A-LEAGUE MULTI
Andy’s Bet: Newcastle to win, Melbourne Victory to win and Perth v Brisbane over 2.5 goals @ 6.20 (Centrebet)
FRIDAY (FEB 24)
Newcastle Jets v Adelaide United (AEDT 2000)
This crucial weekend of games kicks off with a Friday night showdown between Newcastle and Adelaide. United are not Newcastle’s favourite team right now as the Reds lost to Sydney last weekend, meaning the Sky Blues jumped above the Jets and into sixth place. Newcastle now have the chance to take three points from their own fixture with Adelaide, which would propel them, at least temporarily, into fifth spot ahead of Melbourne Heart and Sydney, both of whom play later in the weekend. Adelaide’s loss last weekend now means they must win their remaining five games to make the top 6, and even that may not be enough if other results don’t go the Reds way. Newcastle captain Jobe Wheelhouse misses again with an ankle injury, leaving marksmen Jeremy Brockie and Ryan Griffiths to provide the goal scoring threat against the league’s most breached defence. Adelaide have conceded more goals this season than any other team, so they will need to score a few of their own to get anything from this game. Adelaide striker Sergio van Dijk was in scorching form throughout January, scoring 6 goals in 6 games, however the striker has gone cold in February, failing to find the net so far this month. The Jets have too much on the line to let this slip.
Andy’s Bet: Newcastle to win @ 1.95 (Centrebet)
SATURDAY (FEB 25)
Sydney FC v Wellington Phoenix (AEDT 1730)
Early this season Sydney had an extraordinary knack of sluggishly playing through the first hour of matches, before popping up with late goals to gain valuable points. 9 of the Sky Blues’ first 10 goals this season were scored after the 60th minute, prompting this column to term them ‘The Latecomers’. Throughout the middle part of the season Sydney lost their penchant for late goals, but they found it again last weekend with substitute Mitchell Mallia lashing home a winner as the clock ticked towards full time. Wellington struggled against the Central Coast last Saturday in the absence of captain Andrew Durante and vice-captain Tim Brown. Missing their two leaders, the Phoenix went down to the league’s leaders 2-0. Wellington are third on the ladder, four points clear of their hosts, who head into this match clinging to sixth spot. While the Phoenix are able to recall key players, Sydney are not so fortunate, with midfielder Karol Kisel and striker Mark Bridge both missing due to injury. Wellington have won both previous matches between the clubs this season and have enough class to nick at least a point. That’s on the proviso the Phoenix don’t let The Latecomers steal it at the death!
Andy’s Bet: Wellington to win or draw @ 1.88 (TAB Sportsbet)
Gold Coast United v Melbourne Victory (AEDT 1945)
Saturday night is crunch time for the Victory. My maths has the Melbourne based club needing a minimum of 4 wins from their last 5 fixtures to qualify for the finals. The Victory are currently in 8th spot and the two teams immediately above them on the ladder – Sydney and Newcastle – will have already played winnable fixtures by the time Melbourne kick off in this one. Anything other than 3 points will not be good enough for Melbourne in this game against bottom placed Gold Coast. The hosts may be nicknamed United, but they have been nothing like it this week. Owner Clive Palmer and coach Miron Bleiberg clashed after Palmer installed 17 year old debutant Mitch Cooper as captain last weekend against the coach’s wishes. With Palmer’s position and financial clout there was only going to be one winner and, sadly, the coach who has done more for fostering young A-League talent than any other was sacked on Monday. Palmer proved his lack of class by shooting his mouth off at just about everybody associated with Football Federation Australia and the wealthy businessman then even derided the game itself. I’ve got a message for Palmer – “If you don’t like the game, don’t buy a club. The game would be better off without you!” Gold Coast actually managed to place the off-field chaos to one side and put in a vibrant performance to draw 3-3 with the table topping Central Coast on Wednesday night. That midweek outing will have sapped a lot of energy out of the young Gold Coast players, so I’m backing Melbourne to get a vital 3 points on the road.
Andy’s Bet: Melbourne to win @ 1.90 (Sportsbet)
Perth Glory v Brisbane Roar (AEDT 2200)
For me, this is the match of the round. With the Mariners just starting to go off the boil, both Perth and Brisbane are heating up at just the right time. The Glory have been rampant in 2012, winning 6 of their past 8 matches to jump to third, while the Roar have won three on the spin and sit in second. Perth have been particularly impressive at home, winning their most recent three home games by the spectacular scorelines of 2-0, 4-0 and 4-1. The Glory’s attacking potency is boosted further by the return from injury of leading scorer Shane Smeltz. Brisbane were the last team to deny the Glory a home win, drawing 3-3 in Perth in early January. Both teams have improved equally since then so I expect another tight game and am going to be ambitious and take the goods odds being offered for a draw. Given the striking talent on show – Besart Berisha is scoring for fun right now – this game has plenty of goals in it!
Andy’s Bet: Draw @ 3.40 (Centrebet)
Andy’s Bet: Over 2.5 goals @ 1.80 (TAB Sportsbet)
SUNDAY (FEB 26)
Melbourne Heart v Central Coast Mariners (AEDT 1700)
This is a really interesting fixture to round out the weekend. Although unlikely to contain the excitement of Perth v Brisbane from the night before, the whole of the A-League will be watching AAMI Park for one reason or another come Sunday afternoon. Those near the top of the table will be hoping for another wobble from the league leading Central Coast, with the Mariners losing to Brisbane and the Melbourne Victory in recent matches. The Melbourne Heart are locked in a big fight for the final pair of finals places and Sydney, Newcastle and the Melbourne Victory will be hoping the red and whites slip up. Melbourne’s newest team have been descending the A-League ladder alarmingly in the second half of the season, dropping from second to sixth before last week’s much needed triumph against the youth team put out by the Gold Coast. That victory was a thoroughly unconvincing win by the Heart, but at least it snapped an 8 game winless run. Both teams have recalled a large number of players, mostly from the national under 23 squad, and I am very excited about the probable return of Mariners midfield machine Mustafa Amini. The attack minded Amini dazzles with his pace and skill and could be the difference between the two teams.
Andy’s Bet: Central Coast to win @ 2.35 (TAB Sportsbet)