Melbourne Victory v Western Sydney Wanderers
What a game to raise the curtain on another season of A-League football! These sides have built up quite a rivalry since Western Sydney came into existence in 2012, often leading to tight and tense affairs. The Victory has recruited well with Besart Berisha and Carl Valeri leading a list of notable acquisitions. Western Sydney are in the midst of an Asian Champions League campaign and have the small matter of a final to contest in a fortnight’s time. There have been a lot of Ins and Outs at Western Sydney but they remain rock solid at the back and should prove a tough nut to crack this season. Keep an eye on marquee signing, Vitor Saba, the one with the Ned Kelly like beard – the boy can play!
Nick’s prediction: 1-1
Central Coast Mariners v Newcastle Jets
The F3 Derby rarely disappoints in terms of drama and we can expect more of the same with tackles flying in at every opportunity. The Mariners will pin a lot of their hopes on new Senegalese striker, Malick Mane, with the expectation that he will provide a bundle of energy (and goals) in the front third. Assist machine, Michael McGlinchey, has left the club so perhaps Fitzgerald or Kim will need to step up to the plate if the Mariners are to sneak into the top six. There have been a lot of changes at the Jets with new manager, Phil Stubbins, taking over from caretaker coach Clayton Zane while a predominantly experienced core of players have been acquired to help the Jets secure a finals berth.
Nick’s prediction: 1-0
Sydney FC v Melbourne City
In what is arguably the most anticipated match of the round, Melbourne City (Melbourne Heart in disguise) will play their first competitive A-League match since they were taken over by an Arab consortium that also owns Manchester City. Sweeping changes have taken place at the club (on and off the field) with the guest stint of Spain international, David Villa, grabbing most of the headlines. The original Bling FC, Sydney FC, will look to go about their business with a bit more focus, in comparison to last season, following the departure of Frank Farina, ADP and the media circus that followed. The newly acquired Graham Arnold will surely get the Sky Blues back on track and already, Sydney FC look the goods with an impressive pre-season. In regards to this encounter, it really could go either way as both sides are blessed with quality in the attacking department.
Nick’s prediction: 2-2
Wellington Phoenix v Perth Glory
Both sides finished out of the six last season (level on 28 points) so they will be hoping for more in this campaign. Phoenix gaffer, Ernie Merrick, is putting his trust in youth with old heads in Huysegems, Hernandez and Bertos making way for younger, more skillful players in the shape of McGlinchey, Gorrin and Burns. Perth have acquired a more experienced, battle-hardened calibre of player – notably Youssouf Hersi, Mitch Nichols ,Ruben Zadkovich, and glovesman Danny Vukovic. Irish striker, Andy Keogh, has also arrived to our shores and could prove quite a handy pick up for Kenny Lowe, having played at Premier League level with Wolves and attaining 30 caps for the Republic of Ireland. If Wellington are to have any chance of playing finals football, they must turn Westpac Stadium into a fortress. They only won 3 from 13 last season. Glory has looked good in pre-season but as we all know, there’s nothing like playing for competition points and Phoenix will be well up for this.
Nick’s prediction: 3-2
Brisbane Roar v Adelaide United
Reigning champions, Brisbane Roar, face a tricky fixture to open their campaign against bogey side
Adelaide United. The Reds won 2 of their 3 encounters last season including a 2-1 win at this venue. In the off-season, Mike Mulvey lost his prized asset, Besart Berisha, to fellow rivals Melbourne Victory while flying wing-back, Ivan Franjic, flew abroad to Torpedo Moscow. In the meantime, Josep Gombau has strengthened his red machine with another tricky Spanish-speaking forward, Pablo Sanchez Alberto, to go with the other five already at the club. In team news, the Roar are without 5-time championship winning keeper, Michael Theo, which means that new keeper Jamie Young will stand in between the sticks. On his first interview to the press last season, Josep Gombau emphasized that it will take until the second year of his tenure before his team began to fulfill it’s potential. Perhaps the Reds will be the team to watch this season.
Nick’s Prediction: 1-2