The following are previews and betting tips for week 24 of the A-League season.
CHEEKY WEEK 24 A-LEAGUE MULTI
Both Teams to score in Melbourne Victory v Wellington Phoenix @ 1.75
Central Coast to win @ 1.55
Perth to win @ 2.15
Combined odds @ 5.85 (TAB Sportsbet)
FRIDAY (MAR 16)
Melbourne Victory v Wellington Phoenix (AEDT 2000)
For the second weekend in a row Wellington will be playing in Melbourne. The Phoenix were able to grind out a draw against the red and white half of the city last Saturday and the Kiwi club returns to AAMI Park this Saturday night to spoil the party for Melbourne’s navy blue team. Australian clubs used to mark down a home match against Wellington as an automatic 3 points, but recent form proves Ricki Herbert’s men are no longer pushovers on the shores of their Pacific neighbours. The Phoenix have won 4 of their last 6 matches on Australian soil and, with a strong squad named for this game, Wellington are looking to hunt down another Aussie victim. The Victory regain a trio of experienced players including the creative Carlos Hernandez. A Victory team comprising Harry Kewell, Archie Thompson and Hernandez is sure to create plenty of goal scoring chances, but Melbourne’s backline has struggled with the recent absence of captain and central defender Adrian Leijer. Both teams have scored In 9 of the last 10 games involving the Victory, so I’m going to back that amazing trend to continue.
Andy’s Bet: Both teams to score @ 1.75 (TAB Sportsbet)
SATURDAY (MAR 17)
Central Coast Mariners v Adelaide United (AEDT 1730)
The alarm bells will be ringing very loudly at Bluetongue Stadium. Central Coast were easily the best team for the first two thirds of the season, however the Mariners have been worryingly poor over the last month and a bit as the season builds towards finals. That the Mariners still top the table shows just how dominant they were earlier in the season, because over the last 7 weeks Central Coast have won only once and rank as the 3rd worst team over that stretch. Central Coast’s loss of form is linked to a loss of personnel, with striker Matt Simon leaving the club to join Korean side Chunnam Dragons and supremely talented midfielder Mustafa Amini repeatedly left out of the matchday squad upon returning from Olyroos duty. Adelaide have been in even worse form than the Central Coast recently, however United have at least enjoyed a pair of victories in the Asian Champions League, as well as a draw away at Brisbane last weekend. The odds for a Mariners win are shorter than I would prefer, but I will still back them on the premise that the table topping side will surely come good in time for finals.
Andy’s Bet: Central Coast to win @ 1.55 (TAB Sportsbet)
Newcastle Jets v Brisbane Roar (AEDT 1730)
He scores when he wants, he scores when he wants, Besart Berisha he scores when he wants! The old ditty that has been recently reverberating around north London acclaiming Arsenal’s goal scoring machine Robin van Persie could just as suitably be applied to Brisbane’s red hot striker. Berisha has netted 18 league goals this campaign – twice as many anyone else – and given his current form, he just needs any sort of service and he’ll find the net. This week Newcastle host Brisbane at Ausgrid Stadium and the Jets will hope to improve on a disappointing 1-1 home draw with lowly Gold Coast last Friday night. That result was seen as 2 points dropped by the Jets, which could be critical come the end of the season. With only two matches of the season left, Newcastle sit 6th, behind the Melbourne Heart on goal difference and ahead of Sydney by a point and a substantial goal difference. A loss in this fixture would mean Newcastle will head into next weekend’s final round requiring at least a draw to qualify for finals. Brisbane also have plenty to play for as the Roar could still leapfrog Central Coast into top spot. Brisbane are rarely at odds this good, so I’m hopping on the Roar and hoping for some more Besart Berisha netbusters!
Andy’s Bet: Brisbane to win @ 2.60 (Sportingbet)
Melbourne Heart v Sydney FC (AEDT 1945)
The most keenly contested match of the season so far will take place this Saturday night at AAMI Park. It will be season on the line type stuff as Sydney go searching for the win that would put them back in the top 6 on the eve of the finals. A win for the Sky Blues would potentially, depending on Newcastle’s result, knock the Heart out of the finals places for the first time since November. This is the second of three effective elimination finals to be played by Sydney in the final weeks of the regular season. A win last week over Melbourne Victory was the perfect start to a stretch of games which will define the Sky Blues’ season, with another crunch game against Newcastle to be played next week. Fittingly, for such a big game, both clubs are at near full strength barring the 1 week suspension to be served by Sydney midfielder Karol Kisel. The Heart have the opportunity to secure a finals berth this week, but I saw the club struggle to put Wellington away last week and expect them to have similar difficulty seeing off a desperate Sydney in this one.
SUNDAY (MAR 18)
Gold Coast United v Perth Glory (AEDT 1830)
We’ll have to wait until the early evening for the Sunday match to kick off and it is unlikely to be worth the wait as the Gold Coast are now more famous due to what is happening off the pitch given their owner’s extraordinary off-field antics. In a footballing sense Perth are the league’s form team, winning 8 of their last 10 matches and that trend should continue here, although caution needs to be shown as the Gold Coast have fought to recent draws with Newcastle, Melbourne Victory and Central Coast during the past month and a bit. Midfield machine Liam Miller returns to the Perth squad after being given an extra week to recover from injury, while the Gold Coast also recall promising youngster James Brown from injury. Gold Coast have not won in 2012 and Perth have won 8 times. Don’t mess about, take the $2.15 odds for Perth.
Andy’s Bet: Perth to win @ 2.15 (TAB Sportsbet)