Sydney FC (5th) v Central Coast Mariners (8th)
Following the postponement of the Friday night’s fixture, Sydney are presented with the perfect opportunity to extend their buffer over Brisbane to 8pts. Coming off an incident riddled 3-3 draw in the ‘Big Blue’, the Sky Blues continued their strong form since the break (2W-1D) while scoring 11 goals in the process. The visiting Mariners are not in good nick and that was most evident in the midweek, 3-1 home loss to out of season Chinese outfit Guangzhou R&F (in an Asian Champions League play-off). In team news, the hosts are strengthened by the return of first choice centre-back pairing in Nikola Petkovic and Jacques Faty. Sydney have swept aside the Central Coast in their previous two meetings this season – the last, a 5-1 win in Gosford a little less than a month ago. I feel that Sydney are peaking at just the right time and should have way too much for a leg weary Mariners outfit.
Nick’s prediction: Sydney FC 3-0 Central Coast
Wellington Phoenix (4th) v Newcastle Jets (9th)
Wellington will look to put struggling Newcastle to the sword before embarking on a tough run of games against the top six. Since the break, the Phoenix have failed to turn good performances into a meaningful haul of points with last week’s dominant display (against Melbourne City) yielding a scoreless draw while they were a tad unfortunate in defeats against Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney. Newcastle look like a side going nowhere under the guidance of Phil Stubbins. Despite their aimless football, they somehow pulled out a 1-1 draw against fellow strugglers Western Sydney but they’ll have their work cut out here. Wellington lead the season h2h tally 2-0. A repeat of the 4-1 win back in October will not surprise me one iota.
Nick’s prediction: Wellington Phoenix 4-1 Newcastle Jets
Adelaide United (3rd) v Western Sydney (10th)
Western Sydney probably ruled themselves out of a possible salvage mission to make the finals, last week, following the concession of a late goal to the Newcastle Jets (eventually drawing 1-1). The Wanderers find themselves 13pts behind currently sixth placed Brisbane Roar with 36pts up for grabs – not mathematically impossible but their involvement in the Asian Champions League complicates things. Meanwhile, Adelaide United have dropped 4 points from winning positions in consecutive weeks. Following on from the disappointing 2-1 loss at Central Coast, the Reds were pegged back at home against Perth last week to draw 1-1. Despite the downturn in results, Adelaide United are creating plentiful chances. With Western Sydney having one eye on their defense as Asian club champions (which begins in South Korea on Wednesday), Adelaide United could well cruise to an easy win.
Nick’s prediction: Adelaide United 2-0 Western Sydney
Melbourne City (7th) v Perth Glory (1st)
This looms as an important fixture for both sides with the hosts looking to sneak into the top 6 while Perth aim to consolidate top spot. Both outfits are well short of firing on all cylinders with Melbourne City winning just 2 of their last 6 while Perth has won just the once (in the same period). Last week, Perth dug their heels in after a first half onslaught from Adelaide United to come away with a slightly fortunate 1-1 draw while Melbourne City were likewise fortunate in their scoreless draw against Wellington. Melbourne City suffered a huge blow in that game with international marquee man, Damien Duff, ruled out for the season with a torn calf. In brighter news for City, Erik Paartalu returns from injury while ex Newcastle Jets centre-half, Kew Jaliens, is drafted in to boost defensive stocks. Perth regain the services of Dino Djulbic who returns from suspension. It’s hard to split these sides and I expect a tight encounter in stifling conditions. Perth have hardly had the perfect preparation in the lead up with Andy Keogh and Josh Risdon making media headlines for their alcohol fueled night out in Adelaide last weekend.
Nick’s prediction: Melbourne City 1-1 Perth Glory