Newcastle Jets (9th) v Sydney FC (5th)
Sydney FC will look to avoid the proverbial banana skin when they face a more cohesive Jets outfit. Phil Stubbins seems to have stopped the bleeding at the Hunter (since the large turnover of players) with 3 consecutive draws – the latest coming in a scoreless contest against the Central Coast. Meanwhile, Sydney FC continued in their goal scoring ways as they registered a 4-3 win over the Wanderers to stay within touching distance of the top 4. Newcastle will look for a repeat performance of their earlier meeting, at the turn of the year, when they held Sydney to a scoreless draw. Sydney will be wise not to underestimate the Jets who are strengthened this evening with the return of Hoole and Kantarovski from suspension. In turn, the visitors are without defensive-minded duo Gersbach and Mickael Tavares so the Jets could find some joy going forward. With new signing, Enver Alivodic, impressing on his debut for the home side, perhaps he could be the catalyst for a major upset to open the round.
Nick’s prediction: Newcastle Jets 2-1 Sydney FC
Wellington Phoenix (5th) v Adelaide United (4th)
Such is the congestion at the pointy end of the table that a win for either side will lift them above first placed Perth Glory – at least until the latter face Melbourne Victory later in the day. Wellington have all the momentum going into this contest after recording their first ever win against Melbourne Victory in their own backyard. However, the thrilling 3-2 win by the Nix came at a cost with Muscat picking up a suspension while captain Andrew Durante is doubtful with a calf complaint. Adelaide remain inconsistent as they were blown away by an inspired 2nd half showing by Melbourne City, eventually losing 3-1. The visitors will hope to get a few key men back for this with centre-back pairing, Malik and Boogard, touch and go but Isaias will definitely line up after serving a one-match suspension. The forecast is for showers and strong winds so if Wellington can keep it solid at the back, their short and sharp passing game should prevail.
Nick’s prediction: Wellington Phoenix 2-1 Adelaide United
Melbourne Victory (3rd) v Perth Glory (1st)
In what is billed as the match of the round, Victory will look to get the better of Perth for the first time in four attempts (this season). Perhaps this is their best chance yet as Perth’s form has dipped since the turn of the year. Last week’s rather fortunate 2-2 draw against Brisbane was the Glory’s 6th consecutive outing without a win. After last week’s dramatic collapse against Wellington, Kevin Muscat will have most certainly dedicated a session (or two) on defensive organisation, during the week. The return to fitness of giant Frenchman, Matthieu Delpierre, will certainly help in that area of concern. Perth have been relying a lot on their courage and determination to graft out results in recent weeks. However, I can’t see that been enough for the visitors this time round.
Nick’s prediction: Melbourne Victory 2-0 Perth Glory
Central Coast Mariners (8th) v Melbourne City (6th)
Mariners coach, Phil Moss, was shown the door in midweek with the dour scoreless draw against the Jets signalling the end to his reign. Just how the squad react to his dismissal is anyone’s guess but interim coach, Tony Walmsley, together with player/coach John Hutchinson will be given a chance to move the club forward. Visiting Melbourne City will be aiming to keep their foot on the pedal as they look to cement their spot in the top 6 – Brisbane trail behind by 2pts (in 7th spot) with a game in hand. City recorded arguably their most impressive win of the season last week, sweeping aside title challengers Adelaide United, 3-1. Josh Kennedy scored his first goal for the club in what was an eye-catching second half performance. City manager, John Van’t Schip, will have added firepower to call upon for this game with the midweek acquisition of former France youth international, Harry Novillo (as an injury replacement for Damien Duff). Despite Central Coast proving somewhat of a bogey team for Melbourne City in the past, I expect the visitors to take advantage of a home side lacking in ideas and direction.
Nick’s prediction: Central Coast 1-3 Melbourne City
Brisbane Roar (7th) v Western Sydney (10th)
In what is a re-match of last season’s Grand Final, Brisbane host Western Sydney on what is expected to be a below-par, Suncorp Stadium surface. On Thursday, the Brisbane Broncos hosted the curtain raiser to the NRL season while last night, the Queensland Reds were in action. If anything, this will be more of a detriment to the home side who like to keep the ball on the deck. Both sides were in midweek ACL action with Brisbane recording a 1-0 win in Japan, against Urawa Reds, while the Wanderers went down 3-2 (at Pirtek Stadium) to Guangzhou Evergrande. Brisbane has had a tough schedule to contend with as they flew out to Perth, a week ago. Western Sydney are slowly improving, something that was evident last week in their fighting 4-3 defeat to arch rival Sydney FC. Tony Popovic regains the services of Spiranovic and Poljak (from suspension) while he is likely to field an attacking trio of Bulut, Bridge and Castelen. To the naked eye, Brisbane may be hot favorites but there are a lot of factors that point to a possible upset.
Nick’s prediction: Brisbane Roar 1-2 Western Sydney