Brisbane Roar (7th) v Central Coast Mariners (8th)
Brisbane will hope to have Socceroos, Matty McKay and Luke DeVere, available following a run of 3 defeats for the reigning Premiers. After looking certainties for a finals’ berth, a loss of form and last week’s defeat to Melbourne City has left the Roar in serious threat of missing in action come May. Caretaker manager, Tony Walmsley, has done a great job in instilling some fighting spirit back into the Mariners despite their exclusion from the finals reckoning. It took a quality Guy Finkler brace to condemn them to a 2-1 defeat (against the Victory last week) in a game that they perhaps deserved something from. With the Roar’s poor form and the Mariners playing their best footy since October, I give the visitors every chance of taking something from this game.
Note: Perth’s possible exclusion from the finals due to salary cap breaches could bring Mariners back into the picture for a finals’ berth.
Nick’s prediction: Brisbane Roar 1-2 Central Coast Mariners
Western Sydney Wanderers (9th) v Melbourne City (6th)
Melbourne City will aim for a fourth consecutive clean sheet as they look to keep 7th placed Brisbane at arm’s length. Despite not playing exquisite football, last week, the Melbourne side showed a steely resolve to repel the Roar and grab an all important 1-0 win. Aaron Mooy is likely to return to the side following his international commitments with the Socceroos. It’s that time again, Asian Champions League football for the Wanderers as they take on South Korean outfit FC Seoul, on Tuesday evening. The Wanderers have not fared at all well in the fixtures leading up to an ACL match, losing all 3, and there’s every chance that the trend will continue. Despite the home side showing improved form, I can’t help but feel that Western Sydney’s priorities lie elsewhere at this stage.
Nick’s prediction: Western Sydney 0-2 Melbourne City
Sydney FC (3rd) v Adelaide United (5th)
Fresh from their 3-0 demolition of league leaders Wellington, Sydney will not be resting on their laurels when they host bogey side Adelaide United – the Reds have tasted defeat only once in their last 8 meetings in Sydney. The Sky Blues though will fancy their chances of exorcising those demons, strengthened by the return of the league’s top scorer, Marc Janko, while the visitors are minus Marcelo Carrusca and the suspended Tarek Elrich. Despite the 1-0 win over cellar dwellers Newcastle Jets, last week, Reds manager Josep Gombau will be worried about his team’s form leading into the finals. The visitors have a terrible record without Carrusca pulling the strings in midfield and I expect Sydney to take full advantage in a closely fought contest.
Nick’s prediction: Sydney FC 2-1 Adelaide United
Wellington Phoenix (1st) v Melbourne Victory (2nd)
Following their epic battle at AAMI Park a little over a month ago, the football purists will be licking their lips at the prospect of another classic. On that occasion, Wellington nicked the points after a barnstorming second half performance propelled them to a history breaking 3-2 win – it was the club’s first ever victory in Melbourne. Ernie Merrick will be looking to mastermind another win over his old employers but will need to rally his troops after they suffered a 3-0 loss to Sydney, their worst defeat for the season. His task will be made even more difficult in the absence of midfield duo, Albert Riera and former Victory man, Vince Lia. Cometh the hour, cometh the man – Guy Finkler was the star of the show for Melbourne Victory last Friday with a brace that was enough to see off stubborn Central Coast. It was not a great performance by all means but the Victory are close to full strength this week with the return of no less than six players from Socceroo and Olyroo duty. The visitors have a good record in this fixture and I sense that they could catch Wellington on the hop after their blip last week.
Nick’s prediction: Wellington Phoenix 2-4 Melbourne Victory
Newcastle Jets (10th) v Perth Glory (5th)
In midweek, the spotlight intensified on Perth Glory’s interpretation of the salary cap with the word ‘breach’ rearing its ugly head once again. As a result, question marks hang over Perth’s involvement in the finals which will be concerning for those in and around the club. Despite the grey clouds hovering over NIB Stadium, Perth managed to record their second win of the calendar year (last week) with a last gasp 3-2 result over Western Sydney. Rooted at the bottom of the table, fellow troubled A-League outfit Newcastle Jets were gallant in defeat to Adelaide United (lost 1-0). Neither side exudes any confidence at the moment but Perth’s fine record against Newcastle cannot be ignored.
Nick’s prediction: Newcastle Jets 0-1 Perth Glory