Adelaide United (2nd) v Melbourne Victory (1st)
Matchday 2 starts off with a bang as a packed Adelaide Oval will host last week’s big winners. United toppled last season’s premiers Brisbane Roar, 2-1, while Victory swept away runners-up Western Sydney, 4-1. If last season’s meetings between the two are anything to go by then Victory hold the psychological edge with 2 wins and a draw in what were generally high scoring affairs. Both sides will be at full strength as Malik and Cassio return from injury for the Reds while Socceroo and Victory captain, Mark Milligan, returns from international duty. The latter trained with the squad yesterday and if he has recovered adequately, Victory should win the midfield battle in what is likely to be an open and pulsating contest.
Nick’s prediction: 2-3
Central Coast Mariners (4th) v Wellington Phoenix (8th)
The Phoenix will still be licking their wounds following a late, and perhaps undeserving, 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Perth Glory. It was a complete contrast in fortunes for the Mariners however, as a late and possibly illegal Mitchell Duke strike (after an apparent push on a Newcastle Jets defender) gave the home side a 1-0 win. Wellington recorded a 4-1 victory in the corresponding fixture last season. The Kiwi side will hope they are more ruthless in front of goal if they are to emulate a similar result – McGlinchey and Burns missed glaring chances against Perth that could have changed the course of the game. Senegalese and Mariners striker, Malick Mane, will be a real handful for A-League defences this season and I expect him to break his duck against a slow Phoenix backline.
Nick’s prediction: 2-1
Sydney FC (6th) v Western Sydney Wanderers (10th)
Wanderers manager, Tony Popovic, would have been wrangling his brains in the lead up to what is one of the showcase fixtures on the A-League calendar. With the ACL finals just a week away, does he rest a few bodies in what is expected to be a very physical encounter or does he risk injury and try and take a momentum building 3pts into next week? Whatever team he decides to field, Popovic will be expecting a better performance to that of last week when his team went down 4-1 at the hands of ruthless Melbourne Victory. Sky Blues manager, Graham Arnold, would have been satisfied with the point in his first game in charge (1-1 against Melbourne City last week) but will feel that his team must do a lot better against what is fast becoming their fiercest rival. In welcoming news for both managers, key players have reported back from their respective international duties with Sydney FC significantly strengthened as a result.
Nick’s prediction: 2-1
Melbourne City (5th) v Newcastle Jets (9th)
The Jets will look to play the role of party poopers when they visit Melbourne City. The City faithful will be fully expectant of their side picking up the 3pts and David Villa bulging the old onion bag at least once, such is the optimism surrounding the club. The aforementioned scenario could well play out after the superstar Spaniard tucked away his only chance against Sydney FC with aplomb, cancelling out Corey Gameiro’s screamer. Villa may of had a hat-trick of goals to his name had he started that game (came on at 48′) as Melbourne City created a hatful of first half chances. The Jets performed reasonably well in the 1-0 defeat to the Mariners and will feel aggrieved at not having taken at least point to show for their efforts. The Jets were the dominant team in possession but lacked a cutting edge up front while opposing striker, Malick Mane, was a constant thorn in their side. Melbourne City will be close to full strength for this one with Hoffman returning from suspension and former Hull City captain, Robert Koren, having recovered sufficiently enough from a calf strain to be included in the squad.
Nick’s prediction: 4-2
Perth Glory (3rd) v Brisbane Roar (8th)
The Glory will be glad to be back on home soil following a hard fought 2-1 win at Wellington Phoenix. Perth boss, Kenny Lowe, reaped the rewards of a positive substitution when striker, Jamie MacLaren, replaced midfielder Richard Garcia with 10 minutes of regular time remaining. Six minutes later, MacLaren was wheeling away with the ball in the back of the net, leaving a stumbling Ben Sigmund in his wake. Life without Besart Berisha did not start too well for the Roar with a 2-1 defeat to Adelaide United while Matty McKay saw red for dissent (susp. for 2 matches). Last season’s premiers did battle on manfully with a man less which is a good sign if you are a Brisbane supporter. Steven Lustica is expected to replace McKay while Mike Mulvey must decide whether to introduce Sarota, Solorzano, or/and Henrique into his starting XI. Perth has defeated Brisbane only once in six meetings on their home patch and I expect that poor record to continue here.
Nick’s prediction: 1-2