Sydney FC (4th) v Perth Glory (1st)
The Sky Blues return to the SFS following a fruitful road trip that garnered 4pts from a possible 6. Ibini’s cracker in the Sydney Derby (against the Wanderers) was perhaps worth the admission fee alone as Sydney did well to get a point after been under the pump for long periods. League leaders, Perth Glory, will be kicking themselves for giving up a comfortable lead in Brisbane when Henrique leveled things up late on, cancelling out Djulbic’s sweet volley in the first half. Sydney manager, Graham Arnold, has no choice but to reshuffle his back line for this encounter as Ognenovski is not yet ready to return from injury while replacement centre-back, Sebastian Ryall, serves a one-match suspension. In addition, utility player Ali Abbas suffered a potentially career-ending knee injury last week so Sydney are low in stocks at the back. Perth have shown to be a finely tuned outfit so I don’t expect Sydney to have it all their way. The forecast is for heavy thunderstorms so this could be a real scrap.
Nick’s prediction: Sydney FC 1-1 Perth Glory
Central Coast Mariners (7th) v Melbourne Victory (2nd)
In what is in some way amusing, combustible Victory manager Kevin Muscat takes his side to North Sydney Oval to take on the Mariners, and the former Socceroo is not happy about it. Following on from the Matchday 2 clash at Adelaide Oval against Adelaide United, this will be the second time this season that Victory will play on a purpose-built cricket pitch. Incidentally, the Reds were their opponent last Friday night as a packed AAMI Park crowd witnessed a remarkable 3-2 win by the boys in blue – all goals coming in a jaw-dropping first half. The Mariners’ search for a win, since the opening day of the season, continues after a deserving 1-1 draw in Newcastle. It could of been much much more but for some missed opportunities towards the end. Despite Victory’s superior squad in terms of personnel, the hardened pitch and the rain will be a leveler. Also taking into account that Victory’s key play maker, Guy Finkler, has not traveled and you get the sense that we could have an upset on the cards.
Nick’s prediction: Central Coast 1-0 Melbourne Victory
Newcastle Jets (9th) v Wellington Phoenix (5th)
The Jets will aim to avenge their 4-1 loss to the Phoenix back in October and in the process, notch up their first win of the season. They will not get a better chance against a side that has lost 3 away games on the bounce. After a really discouraging start to the season, Newcastle are at least becoming hard to beat with 3 draws in their last 4 outings, including last week’s 1-1 draw against Central Coast. Wellington look to be regaining the fear factor that they lost last season at Westpac Stadium as they put a weak Melbourne City outfit to the sword with a 5-1 win. Aussie striker, Nathan Burns, did his prospects for Asian Cup selection no harm at all with his hat-trick, pushing him passed Brisbane’s Henrique on the top scorers’ chart. The Jets seem to be more competitive with every passing week but fitness still seems to be an issue, especially towards the latter part of games. With both sides fancying their chances, a high scoring draw is not out of the question.
Nick’s prediction: Newcastle Jets 2-2 Wellington Phoenix
Adelaide United (3rd) v Western Sydney Wanderers (10th)
Adelaide United will aim to heap more misery on the Wanderers as the Asian Champions managed to sneak in another loss on Wednesday. In what was a re-scheduled Matchday 3 fixture, the Wanderers were outsmarted by Brisbane Roar for large periods only to come alive in the final quarter of an hour. In what has become the norm this season, it was a fatal error at the back that gifted a goal to the opposition when Adeleke made a scathing challenge on Kurtishi, resulting in a converted spot kick. Adelaide United are also coming off a loss in an eventful 3-2 reverse at AAMI Park last Friday night. One would say that Melbourne Victory got the rub of the green with two deflected own goals but it was poor defending on Adelaide United’s part. With the short turnaround, I can’t see how Western Sydney can cause an upset here. The undisputed ‘tinkerman’ of the A-League, Tony Popovic, is bound to make more wholesale changes to his first XI which only bodes well for the hosts.
Nick’s prediction: Adelaide United 4-1 Western Sydney
Melbourne City (8th) v Brisbane Roar (6th)
No Broich? No problem! Brisbane Roar put in one of their more convincing displays this season in a 1-0 midweek win in Western Sydney. The fact that it was achieved without their star German midfielder made it even more impressive. Thomas Broich will be out for up to six weeks after undergoing minor ankle surgery. Melbourne City had the long flight back home from Wellington to take stock on yet another disappointing performance, losing 5-1 to the Nix. City though will take heart from the fact that their solitary win this season did come against the Roar, a little less than a month ago. The Melbourne side also hold the edge on recent h2h meetings at AAMI Park with 3 wins on the bounce. It’s difficult to predict which Melbourne City side will turn up but they do seem to match up well against the Roar.
Nick’s prediction: Melbourne City 2-1 Brisbane Roar