Melbourne City (6th) v Perth Glory (1st)
John van’t Schip’s decision to give youth a chance has turned Melbourne City’s form around (and perhaps saved his job) following two consecutive 1-0 wins. A higher tempo, more physical style of play restricted Melbourne Victory, last week, to just a handful of chances which takes some doing. City’s task does not get any easier when they host league leaders Perth Glory. Perth have a knack of winning even when they are not at their very best, most evident in their latest maximum haul (4-1) over the Mariners. Glory striker, Andy Keogh, is in a rich vein of form and will need to be restricted by former team mate Patrick Kisnorbo and co. if Melbourne City stand a chance. Damien Duff returns for the hosts which is a big plus while fellow team mate and import, Robert Koren, is expected to get more minutes off the pine.
Nick’s prediction: Melbourne City 1-0 Perth Glory
Sydney FC (5th) v Adelaide United (3rd)
Sydney’s inability to register a win over the last month has seen them relegated by Wellington Phoenix to 5th. Injuries threaten to derail Sydney’s title challenge with former Socceroo, Sash Ognenovski, the latest to join the long-term casualty list with Gameiro and Abbass already ruled out for the remainder of the season. Graham Arnold hopes that the return of captain Alex Brosque will spark his side into form following a toothless 2-0 home defeat to the Phoenix. Predictably, Adelaide United, found it difficult to back up physically and mentally from their FFA Cup triumph against the Newcastle Jets, going down 2-1 at The Hunter. Striker, Bruce Djite, returns to add some muscle to the Reds attack after been rested against the Jets. I expect Adelaide United to continue their recent sequence of lose one then win the next.
Nick’s prediction: Sydney FC 1-2 Adelaide United
Central Coast Mariners (8th) v Brisbane Roar (7th)
The Mariners will be happy to see the back of a tough run of fixtures against the top 4 sides. Last week, they fell victim to table topping Perth (4-1) despite having the better of it for large chunks of the contest. The Mariners’ inability to make the most of good attacking positions while been porous at the back has been their major downfall so far this season. The return of Nick Montgomery and Jacob Poscoliero will at least make them harder to break down. Roar has had to wait a fortnight for action, since their 1-0 win in Adelaide, due to Western Sydney’s involvement in the Club World Cup. In notable absentees, Broich sits out as he recovers from minor ankle surgery while former captain Matt Smith has left the club on-route to Bangkok Glass. The Mariners are not playing as badly as the table suggests while the Roar have been grinding out results. This is a key battle, especially for the Mariners, as defeat here will see them trail by at least 5pts behind 6th placed Melbourne City.
Nick’s prediction: Central Coast 2-1 Brisbane Roar
Melbourne Victory (2nd) v Newcastle Jets (9th)
Melbourne Victory will aim to rebound from the controversial derby defeat to rivals Melbourne City when a perfectly good goal was ruled out for offside. The man in the spotlight, Kris-Griffiths Jones, also failed to send off City midfielder Jacob Melling for what looked like a deliberate swing of the elbow. From the Jets’ perspective, they will be looking to rub salt in open wounds, buoyed from their first victory of the season over Adelaide United (2-1). It was a much improved performance by the Jets but it must be noted that Adelaide United looked lethargic and disinterested at times, just 3 days after their FFA Cup triumph. Kevin Muscat’s experiment of playing Archie Thompson in the no.10 role did not work last week so expect Guy Finkler to resume in his favored position with the former dropping to the bench. The Jets have a solid recent record against the Victory but I can’t see that continuing here.
Nick’s prediction: Melbourne Victory 3-1 Newcastle Jets
Wellington Phoenix (4th) v Western Sydney (10th)
Fresh from their failed Moroccan adventure, the Wanderers are on the road again as they travel to in form Wellington Phoenix. The Wanderers seemingly used up all their luck during the AFC Champions League campaign as they lost both their Club World Cup meetings in unfortunate circumstances. Matters closer to home don’t look much rosier either as the Wanderers trail 6th placed Melbourne City by a massive 9pts! In contrast, the Phoenix continue to drive in the right direction as they ran over the top of Sydney FC (2-0) with an impressive second half performance. A brace by the league’s runaway top goalscorer, Nathan Burns, was enough to see off the Sky Blues and thrust his name into Postecoglou’s 23-man Socceroos squad. Tony Popovic’s motivational skills will be tested to the brim here but I feel that he will be fighting a losing battle.
Nick’s prediction: Wellington Phoenix 3-1 Western Sydney