Western Sydney (10th) v Melbourne City (7th)
This is a catch up game due to Western Sydney’s involvement in the Fifa Club World Cup back in December. In what has been an incredibly busy schedule for the home side (playing their sixth game in just 18 days), the physical and mental exertions placed upon the players must be reaching breaking point. Tony Popovic will rotate his squad as best as he can following the 1-0 defeat to Brisbane on Sunday, and looking forward to Friday as they play host to Melbourne Victory. The other Melbourne, Melbourne City, continue to be as unpredictable as their city’s weather. With their finals’ hopes hanging by a thread, it was almost inevitable that City would fail against struggling Central Coast on the back of a fine 3-1 win over Adelaide United the week prior. After creating a hatful of chances in the first half, Melbourne City failed to turn up in the second with Ferreira’s set-piece strike enough to give the Mariners the points. With Western Sydney’s A-League season effectively over and City’s general inconsistency, it’s difficult to predict a result with any degree of confidence. However, I expect the visitors to be motivated for this while Western Sydney and Popovic may have one eye on the more glamorous fixture on Friday night.
Nick’s prediction: Western Sydney 0-2 Melbourne City
Adelaide United (5th) v Central Coast Mariners (8th)
This looms as a key game for both sides, especially Adelaide United who still harbor hopes of a top 2 finish. The Reds second half meltdowns in recent outings has seen them lose two on the bounce – to Melbourne City and Wellington Phoenix, respectively. Central Coast’s slim hopes of finals football remain alive after staving off a Melbourne City onslaught to eventually win 1-0. The sides have shared the spoils in league meetings this season with Central Coast winning 2-1 in Gosford, a little over a month ago. That was a game where Adelaide United were in complete control of and had the chance to go two ahead when Jeggo was impeded when clean through. It was not to be and Central Coast scored two goals from virtually nowhere to seal the win. With Osama Malik returning to sure up the home defense, I predict quite a comfortable three points for the Reds.
Nick’s prediction: Adelaide United 3-1 Central Coast
Western Sydney (9th) v Melbourne Victory (5th)
In what is always a tasty fixture, Melbourne Victory will hope it’s third time lucky on the road when they face a Wanderers outfit coming off one of the shortest turnaround’s in football history. Western Sydney defeated Melbourne City 3-2 on Wednesday evening so we can expect a much changed starting XI, keeping in mind that the Wanderers travel to South Korea in midweek to face Seoul. Victory will aim to hang on to their lead if they do find themselves ahead after dropping 4pts on the road in consecutive 3-3 draws against Perth Glory and Sydney, respectively. Victory find themselves in a false position outside the top 4 with a combination of poor finishing and poor defending their major downfall. The 1-1 draw against Perth (last week) was another missed opportunity for Muscat’s men to take a stranglehold on the competition. In team news, Wanderers gaffer Tony Popovic is set to feature troubled striker Kerem Bulut after he was arrested on Tuesday for threatening a McDonald’s staff member. Victory lose Barbarouses and Geria through injury. It’s only a matter of time before Victory really give someone a belting and perhaps Western Sydney will be the unfortunate ones to feel the wrath.
Nick’s prediction: Western Sydney 1-3 Melbourne Victory
Melbourne City (7th) v Newcastle Jets (10th)
Who would want to be a City fan? After picking up points against title contenders Wellington, Perth and Adelaide United, most would of had Melbourne City as a good thing to make the finals. Wednesday’s 3-2 loss at bottom of the table Western Sydney, coupled with the 1-0 loss at struggling Central Coast sees them trailing 6th placed Brisbane by a point (having played two games more). The Jets are perhaps the most consistent side in the A-League as they rarely win but they have made themselves difficult to beat in recent outings. Following three consecutive draws and a strong first half showing against Sydney FC, Newcastle’s resistance was finally broken with Janko’s 68th minute strike resulting in a 1-0 defeat. Nothing but a win against the Jets will suffice for Melbourne City and their recent home form suggests they should get it but the short turnaround (3 days) does throw a spanner in the works. The return of Josh Kennedy is a big boost for the hosts while their will be a reshuffle at the back with Jaliens moving over to center-back to replace the suspended Connor Chapman. Newcastle Jets will set their stall to try and frustrate the home side and perhaps they could snatch something if they stay compact.
Nick’s prediction: Melbourne City 1-0 Newcastle Jets
Perth Glory (1st) v Wellington Phoenix (2nd)
In what is arguably the most anticipated game of the round, Perth will aim to continue their dominance over Wellington and bring an end to a 7 game run without a win. Wellington will fancy their chances of causing an upset out West after accounting for fellow title contenders, Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United, in recent outings. Nix coach, Ernie Merrick, does though have several key players out through injury with Rodriguez and Cunningham joining top scorer Nathan Burns on the sidelines. Perth’s fighting 1-1 draw at Melbourne Victory came at cost with midfielder, Mitch Nichols, red carded against his former side. Nichols one-game suspension is countered by the inclusion of ex-Socceroo Richard Garcia and Sidnei Sciola. In what are expected to be humid conditions, squad strength is bound to play a major part in determining the winner of this game. With Wellington down on several key men, I fancy the home side to edge a close contest.
Nick’s prediction: Perth Glory 2-1 Wellington Phoenix
Sydney FC (4th) v Brisbane Roar (6th)
It’s a clash between the two form sides in the competition – Sydney remain undefeated in their last 8 while Brisbane have won four of their last five. Brisbane will be aiming to capitalize on Melbourne City’s loss to Western Sydney (on Wednesday night) and further tighten their grip on a finals berth with a win here. The Roar did their chances no harm of been in the mix come May with a solid, if uninspiring 1-0 win over Western Sydney. Likewise, Sydney FC hardly hit top gear at Newcastle but still came away with a 1-0 win. That man, Marc Janko, was at it again for the Sky Blues and he remains the A-League’s top goalscorer with 13. Brisbane Roar are playing the more pragmatic style of football at the moment and that could work in their favor against a Sydney side leaking goals for fun. The absence of midfielder Luke Brattan is a blow for the visitors but Lustica and Sarota are worthy replacements. With a full week’s rest, free of midweek ACL commitments, I expect a revitalized Brisbane Roar and one that should pose a serious threat to Sydney.
Nick’s prediction: Sydney FC 1-2 Brisbane Roar