Wellington Phoenix (5th) v Western Sydney Wanderers (10th)
Will Western Sydney have come down from cloud nine quickly enough after their landmark feat in Asia? Will Wellington be able to bounce back from their short turnaround, following a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Victory on Monday? Both sides have ready made excuses to pull out if things don’t go to plan. I suspect Western Sydney will be the more determined to get off the foot of the table as I am sure it doesn’t sit very well with the current champions of Asia. The Wanderers have played two games less than joint league leaders Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC – incidentally, those been the two sides that inflicted their two defeats so far this campaign. New signings, Nikita Rukavytsia and Seyi Adeleke, will be chomping at the bit to see some action following their non-involvement in the UCL. With mission completed on the Asia front, I expect Tony Popovic to have his men keyed in for the domestic season. Unfortunately for the Phoenix, they are the first cab off the rank.
Nick’s prediction: Wellington Phoenix 0-2 Western Sydney
Adelaide United (3rd) v Sydney FC (2nd)
If their FFA Cup meeting last month is anything to go by, then there’s not much between these sides. In fact, just goal difference separates the two on the A-League table. A little over a fortnight ago, a second string Sydney FC pushed the Reds to extra-time with the Sky Blues eventually going down 3-1. An undeserving red card to Nikola Petkovic (which was later rescinded) proved vital as they were left undermanned, giving United space and time to strut their stuff. Sydney do have the cattle to knock Adelaide United off their stride with a high press. It’s a tough one to call but I expect both teams to find the back of the net.
Nick’s prediction: Adelaide United 2-2 Sydney FC
Newcastle Jets (8th) v Melbourne Victory (1st)
The Jets return to home comforts with a newly laid carpet to roll around. Voted as the worst surface, year in year out, Hunter Stadium has been relaid in preparation for the Asian Cup next year. Victory will hope that this is to their advantage as they attempt to win in Newcastle for the first time since 2009. The form guide says that they can do it. On Monday night, the Victory showed that they have the squad to go all the way (this season) as they toppled Wellington Phoenix despite been forced to make a raft of changes. In further bad news for Newcastle, Victory get some key men back for this one including the most feared marksman in the land, Besart Berisha. The Jets have been none to clever this season and I expect their poor form to continue against the slick and sharp Big V.
Nick’s prediction: Newcastle Jets 1-3 Melbourne Victory
Brisbane Roar (9th) v Melbourne City (7th)
Matty to the rescue! The heart and soul of Brisbane Roar, Matt Mckay, returns after serving his 3-match suspension for abusing the ref on matchday 1. The reigning champions have looked anything but so far this season and there’s even mention of a rift within the camp. Their abject 2-0 loss to Sydney FC definitely had the look of a side not reading off the same page. Melbourne City has arguably been the flop of the season so far. Just because you give your car a new paint job, doesn’t mean it will perform any differently. That analogy applies to City who have so far displayed the powder puff performances that were so synonymous of Melbourne Heart. Without their marquee man, David Villa, to hit the net it will be interesting to see who (if anyone) steps into his goalscoring shoes. I expect a McKay-led Roar to nick this one.
Nick’s prediction: Brisbane Roar 2-1 Melbourne City
Central Coast Mariners (6th) v Perth Glory (4th)
The Mariners get my vote as the most uninspiring side so far this season with just a measly 2 goals scored – one a questionable late minute winner and the other an own goal. In total contrast, Perth has been good value and they provided more thrills and spills last Saturday, scoring two in quick succession to down the Jets 2-1 after trailing. Central Coast will be hoping that history repeats itself here as they hold a mighty fine record in Gosford against the Glory – 14 wins in 17 meetings. Central Coast has just the right the players in Mane, Duke and Fitzgerald to execute the perfect counter-attack, a tactic that has proved fruitful against Perth this season. If the Mariners can keep the attacking duo of MacLaren and Keogh relatively quiet, then they are more than capable of causing the upset of the round.
Nick’s prediction: Central Coast Mariners 1-0 Perth Glory