Adelaide United (4th) v Newcastle Jets (9th)
The Reds will look to continue on from where they left off (before the mid-season break) when they defeated league leaders Perth Glory 2-1. They welcome troubled Newcastle to Coopers Stadium who got one over them a little over a month ago – still their solitary win this season. Since the Jets’ last outing, a scoreless draw at Sydney FC, Marco Flores and Sam Gallaway have departed the club, James Virgili has broken his ankle while former Red, Jeronimo Naumann, remains on the casualty list. Despite Newcastle’s relatively good recent record in this fixture, it’s difficult to make a case for them this time round.
Nick’s prediction: Adelaide United 2-0 Newcastle Jets
Central Coast Mariners (8th) v Sydney FC (5th)
Sydney manager, Graham Arnold, returns to Gosford for the first time since his departure to manage J-League club, Vegalta Sendai, in 2013. To add more fuel to the fire, Central Coast old boys Bernie Ibini and Pedj Bojic are set to feature for the visitors in what will definitely be a passionately contested encounter. The Mariners were running into some form with a string of eye-catching performances before pulling off their first win of the season, 2-0 against Melbourne City. Mitchell Duke’s man of the match performances really lifted the side and Phil Moss will be hoping for more of the same as the home side look to get back into the finals reckoning. Despite their inconsistent form, Sydney remain the only undefeated side on their travels. The Sky Blues have been busy in the January transfer window, acquiring two experienced Senegalese internationals and an Aussie winger. The Mariners hold the edge in recent meetings but Sydney’s away record is nothing to be sneezed at. Can’t split them!
Nick’s prediction: Central Coast Mariners 2-2 Sydney FC
Perth Glory (1st) v Melbourne Victory (3rd)
In what is bound to be a mouth-watering clash, these sides meet for the third time this season with Perth holding a 2-0 edge. The Glory will look to return to winning ways at The NIB after suffering a rare home loss to Adelaide United. Despite going down 2-1, it was a fighting performance by Perth who had beaten Victory in Geelong just 3 days prior in stifling conditions. The visitors sit 4pts behind the hosts. An away win will set the minor premiership race wide open. Victory has a good record at this venue but the absence of Milligan and Delpierre is a concern. With Barbarouses and Berisha not at the top of their game, the onus will be on Ben Khalfallah to produce the offensive spark. Defensively, Perth is simply the best side in the land and I can’t see them dropping consecutive games at home.
Nick’s prediction: Perth Glory 2-1 Melbourne Victory
Melbourne City (6th) v Western Sydney (10th)
Western Sydney could not have hoped for a better opponent to bring up their first win of the season. In six previous meetings against Melbourne City, the Wanderers remain undefeated while winning all 3 of their fixtures at AAMI Park. Tony Popovic will hope new signings Yojiro Takahagi, Kerem Bulut and Sam Gallaway can hit the ground running as they look to get back in touch with the main pack. City will be hoping for more of the same as they return from their mid-season break where they contested two friendly games in Abu Dhabi. New signing and former Socceroo, Josh Kennedy, is not yet ready for 90 minutes but fellow new boys Jack Clisby and Safuwan Baharudin are set to make their debuts. Last week, we saw what the break and a few quality additions did for Sydney FC, as they belted the Mariners 5-1. In similar fashion, I expect to see a revitalized Western Sydney outfit. With Redmayne manning the opposition goal, they are every chance of breaking their season duck at AAMI Park.
Nick’s prediction: Melbourne City 1-2 Western Sydney
Brisbane Roar (7th) v Wellington Phoenix (4th)
In the words of Roar’s star man, Thomas Broich, it was a “rubbish first half of the season” for the reigning champions. His return to fitness in addition to the return of 5-time A-League winning keeper, Michael Theo, will surely lift spirits in and around the club. Former Roar man, Luke DeVere, returns to the club following a 4 year stint in South Korea while ex-Western Sydney wing-back, Jerome Polentz, is a welcome addition – further strengthening Roar’s defensive stocks. Serbian journeyman, striker Andrija Kaluđerović will be relied upon to spearhead the attack following the departure of Mensur Kurtiši. It’s a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t try a fix it” for Ernie Merrick’s Wellington Phoenix with no incoming players. Naturally the Roar will be up for this but with top scorer Henrique out with an ankle injury and several players underdone in terms of match fitness, the advantage must go to Wellington Phoenix.
Nick’s prediction: Brisbane Roar 1-3 Wellington Phoenix