Newcastle Jets (9th) v Melbourne City (6th)
Melbourne City will look to carry their good form on the road as they do battle with an improving Newcastle Jets. City did well to hold league leaders Perth to a 1-1 draw after taking the lead through a beautifully orchestrated goal by Aaron Mooy, last Friday night. 24hrs later, the Jets did battle with City’s rivals Melbourne Victory. The Novocastrians were just minutes away from earning a priceless point before Guy Finkler struck a ferocious set-piece passed a hapless Ben Kennedy. David Carney is expected to slot straight back into the starting XI and his battle with City’s makeshift right-back, either Archibald or Wielaert, could determine the outcome of this match.
Nick’s prediction: Newcastle Jets 2-1 Melbourne City
Brisbane Roar (7th) v Sydney FC (5th)
It’s the second meeting between these two sides this season following Sydney’s 2-0 win at Suncorp, almost two months ago. Since then, Sydney’s fortunes have taken a turn for the worse while Brisbane has a new manager in charge that has instilled belief back into the playing group. Remarkably, Sydney has fared better on the road than on their own turf. Injuries though are having an effect on the team’s performances. The Sydneysiders are looking to put a stop to run of five games without a win, following Saturday’s 3-0 defeat to Adelaide United. Luckless manager, Graham Arnold, has doubts over Austrian import Marc Janko while Terry Antonis is on Socceroos duty. Brisbane were involved in a thrilling 3-3 draw at Central Coast on Saturday with Jean Carlos Solorzano bagging a brace. Despite losing captain Matty McKay to the Socceroos, Roar are supplemented by the return of Luke Brattan. Brisbane are yet to record a win at home but I feel this as good a chance as any against a shorthanded and out of sorts Sky Blues outfit.
Nick’s prediction: Brisbane Roar 3-1 Sydney FC
Adelaide United (3rd) v Wellington Phoenix (4th)
A trip to Coopers Stadium is daunting for any side in the A-League but to go there without two of your in-from strikers makes it almost mission impossible! Wellington’s match winner on Sunday (against Western Sydney), Roy Krishna, has been ruled out with a hamstring tear while Nathan Burns is on Socceroos duty. It wasn’t a vintage performance by the Phoenix and a similar performance against a confident Reds outfit could see them booted into 2015 a good deal quicker than everybody else. 48hrs earlier, Adelaide United went tit for tat with Sydney before bursting into life and eventually strolling to a comfortable 3-0 win. It is hard to make a case for Wellington in this one.
Nick’s prediction: Adelaide United 3-0 Wellington Phoenix
Western Sydney (10th) v Central Coast (8th)
It has been a breakthrough year for the Wanderers (and Australian football on the domestic front) with the capture of the Asian Champions League title, but an unforgettable last two months. Ten games into the A-League season and the champions of Asia are yet to register a win! It is not for want of trying though and their last outing, a 1-0 loss at Wellington, was a case in point. The Wanderers did everything but find the back of the net as they peppered the Phoenix goal after going behind to the softest of penalties. Despite another loss, I expect Popovic and his players to take a lot of heart from this performance as they welcome fellow strugglers Central Coast. Not too dissimilar to Western Sydney, the Mariners put on arguably their best performance of the season to date as they drew 3-3 with Brisbane. Led by bustling forward Matt Simon and second half substitute Mitch Duke, it was the Mariners of old in the second half. Driven by what promises to be a bumper crowd at the Pirtek Stadium, I expect the home side to welcome in the new year on a good note.
Nick’s prediction: Western Sydney 4-1 Central Coast
Melbourne Victory (2nd) v Perth Glory (1st)
What a game to finish the round! Melbourne Victory will attempt to close the gap to Perth to one point and perhaps spark a new membership drive as they take the game to regional Victoria, namely Geelong. These two of course met in that controversial FFA Cup tie two months ago when Perth eventually progressed with a 4-2 win in extra-time. Despite reaching the final and losing 1-0 to eventual winners Adelaide United, Perth have gone from strength to strength this season while everyone has expected them to fall by the wayside. They did only manage a 1-1 draw against Melbourne City on Friday but will fancy playing the role of party poopers on a barmy Friday evening. One man Perth will need to stop is Tunisian Ben Khalfallah who was absolutely superb in Victory’s last gasp win over Newcastle Jets. Likewise, Victory’s ability to put the shackles on Irishman Andy Keogh will go a long way in determining which way this will go.
Nick’s prediction: Melbourne Victory 1-1 Perth Glory