Central Coast Mariners (8th) v Brisbane Roar (7th)
Both sides enter this contest on the back of a high after snatching unlikely victories in their respective matches. The Mariners looked out of ideas as they trailed Adelaide United 1-0 only to turn the game on its head with a stroke of fortune from the spot kick and an incisive run by left fullback, Josh Rose, to win 2-1. Similarly, Roar found it tough going against a young and committed Newcastle Jets outfit until virtually the last kick of the game when Thomas Broich’s free kick was diverted into his own net by Allan Welsh. There are number of talking points going into this game but the big one is the departure of star Mariners’ striker, Mitch Duke, to J-League club Shimizu S-Pulse. Trying to fill his shoes will be former Adelaide United flyer, Fabio Ferreira, who is likely to make his debut on the right wing. Roar will be looking for an improved performance to last week and Serbian striker, Andrija Kaluderovic, could be the catalyst as he is in line to make his debut for the visitors. Man for man, the visitors are the better team and it’s hard to imagine them playing as poorly as they did last week. The absence of Mitch Duke cannot be over-emphasized and although Ferreira is a good player, I expect him to take a little while to adapt.
Nick’s prediction: Central Coast Mariners 1-2 Brisbane Roar
Newcastle Jets (9th) v Western Sydney (10th)
This is a derby of sorts as the bottom two face off for wooden spoon supremacy. With a cloud hanging over both clubs for their treatment of unwanted players, Western Sydney at least enter this contest on the back of a high after breaking through for their first win of the season (2-1 over Wellington Phoenix). Poor old Jets manager Phil Stubbins can do nothing right as last week, he tried to bust the myth that it’s not wise to make a substitution while defending a set-piece. Unfortunately for him and his struggling side, late sub Allan Welsh diverted into his own net to gift wrap Brisbane Roar the 3pts. I expect an open game here with the visitors rightly favorites to claim the win. If Tony Popovic can utilize his squad to combat his team’s short turnaround then Western Sydney should have too much for the grounded Jets.
Nick’s prediction: Newcastle Jets 0-2 Western Sydney
Wellington Phoenix (4th) v Melbourne City (7th)
The Phoenix will hope that it’s a case of lighting strikes twice as they take on the second best Melbourne side in the competition, Melbourne City – the visitors lost the third and final Melbourne derby of the season 3-0 in convincing fashion last week. Just like when these sides last met in October, Wellington are looking to bounce back from consecutive defeats on the road (this time round to Brisbane Roar 3-2 and Western Sydney 2-0 respectively). Back then, it was an emphatic 5-1 win to the home side and if the visitors are not on their game, a similar scoreline is not beyond the realms of possibility. Regardless of poor recent results, I expect the Phoenix to continue to weave their pretty patterns in attack. City will miss the presence of Erik Paartalu in the center of midfield which is a big blow considering Wellington’s quality in that part of the pitch. Bad weather is predicted at Lower Hutt which may be a leveler but in a perfect world, the home side would win this comfortably.
Nick’s prediction: Wellington Phoenix 2-0 Melbourne City
Sydney FC (5th) v Melbourne Victory (2nd)
After knocking off crosstown rivals Melbourne City with the greatest of ease, Melbourne Victory will look to take an even bigger scalp in the shape of Sydney FC. Despite playing well within themselves, Victory counter-attacked City with great efficiency while flying right winger Kosta Barbarouses showed glimpses of his early season form – setting up Berisha for the opener and expertly tucking away a Finkler set-piece. Sydney FC were arguably more impressive in the 3-1 defeat of league leaders Perth Glory. Two converted spot kicks and a late Ibini strike (following a blistering counter-attack) sealed the points for the Sky Blues but not without a cost – both first choice centre-backs in Nikola Petkovic and Jacques Faty saw red and are subsequently suspended for this match. There’s been nothing in it between these two in their ‘Big Blue’ clashes this season (2 draws) but the aforementioned outs for the home side in addition to the return of Victory captain, Mark Milligan, gives the edge to the visitors.
Nick’s prediction: Sydney FC 1-3 Melbourne Victory
Adelaide United (3rd) v Perth Glory (2nd)
This game looms as an important one for both sides in what will be the fourth meeting between the two – Adelaide United leading the h2h ledger 3-0. Defeat for Adelaide will almost rule out their title aspirations while a loss for Perth may derail their title hopes with confidence at an all time low (won just once in last 5 outings). Last time out, Adelaide lost 2-1 to struggling Central Coast after seemingly been in total control of the contest. The impending return of Carrusca from injury will surely boost the Reds as they look to clean sweep the early pace setters and move to within 1pt of Melbourne Victory. Perth has looked a shadow of themselves in recent weeks with a fortunate 3-3 draw against Victory followed by a very disappointing 3-1 loss to Sydney FC, last week. The visitors are boosted by the return of defensive midfielder, Royston Griffiths, but centre-half Dino Dulbic serves a one match suspension. I sense that Perth are beginning to feel the pinch as Kenny Lowe has not had the luxury to rotate his team so far throughout this season (due mainly to long-term injuries). The visitors are there for the taking and I will be surprised if Adelaide United don’t seize their opportunity.
Nick’s prediction: Adelaide United 2-0 Perth Glory