A-League Final Round Preview

Brisbane Roar (7th) v Newcastle Jets (10th)

Brisbane’s youth are likely to get another taste of A-League action following last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Melbourne Victory. The Roar arrived back on Thursday following a narrow 1-0 win over Chinese outfit, Beijing Guoan, keeping alive their slim hopes of progressing through to the ACL knockout stages. With their spot in the A-League finals play-offs already guaranteed, a number of senior players will not be risked. Newcastle Jets will be aiming for 3pts in a bid to avoid the wooden spoon, trailing Western Sydney by a point (and an inferior goal difference) – the latter play tomorrow against Perth Glory. A number of Jets are playing for their futures which can explain the side’s recent upturn in performance. The Jets historically do well at Suncorp and I expect them to come away with a result against an inexperienced Roar outfit.

Nick’s prediction: Brisbane Roar 1-2 Newcastle Jets

Western Sydney Wanderers (9th) v Perth Glory (3rd)

It’s been a season to forget for both sides with Western Sydney fighting to avoid the wooden spoon (and failing dismally in defending their Asian title) while Perth were scratched from the final’s reckoning due to “under the table” payments to certain players. Motivation will perhaps be a key factor in determining the result of this one so you would have to favour the home side in front of a packed Pirtek Stadium crowd. The Wanderers will rotate their XI after Tuesday evening’s home defeat to Kashima Antlers (ending their Asian Champions League campaign) while Perth welcome back several key players for who missed last week’s 3-1 win over Melbourne City. Perth has won both meetings this season but I half expect Western Sydney to finish the season on a good note.

Nick’s prediction: Western Sydney 3-2 Perth Glory

Adelaide United (5th) v Melbourne City (6th)

Both sides will be looking to enter the final series on the back of some winning form, following a string of disappointing results. Last week, Adelaide United suffered their second consecutive loss (2-1 to Western Sydney) while Melbourne City’s wastefulness resulted in a 3-1 defeat to Perth (and three games without a win). These sides are likely to battle it out in the play-offs so perhaps both managers will keep a few aces up their collective sleeves for when it really matters. I expect wily Adelaide United manager, Joseph Gombau, to field a much changed XI for this with midfield duo Jimmy Jeggo and Isaias likely to sit out (as they are one caution away from suspension) while Carrusca and Mabil are unlikely to be risked with their respective injuries. Melbourne City welcome back the impressive Kew Jaliens while promising young midfielder, Jacob Melling, has been ruled out for the remainder of the season. If Melbourne City can take some of their chances in front of goal (unlike in the game against Perth), then a rare away win is not beyond them against an Adelaide United outfit keeping their cards close to their chest.

Nick’s prediction: Adelaide United 1-2 Melbourne City

Wellington Phoenix (4th) v Sydney FC (2nd)

In what is clearly the match of the round, both sides are vying for 2nd spot and the perks that come with it (i.e. 2 weeks break and a home final). The equation is simple, Wellington need to win while Sydney need not to lose. In what is expected to be a packed Westpac Stadium, goals are expected as high-scoring Sydney are back in town following on from their 3-0 win at this venue (a little less than a month ago). Sydney’s scoring since returning from the mid-season break has been off the charts while they are yet to taste defeat on their travels, following last week’s 4-3 win in Newcastle. Wellington themselves discovered their scoring boots (after going 3 matches without a goal) following their miraculous, last ditch 3-2 win over Central Coast. Sydney FC were a little short at the back against Newcastle but do retain the services of Petkovic and impressive defensive midfielder, Mickael Tavares, for this match. Sydney are my favourites to lift the A-League title and with them been close to full strength, I can’t see them slipping up in Wellington.

Nick’s prediction: Wellington Phoenix 1-4 Sydney FC

Melbourne Victory (1st) v Central Coast Mariners (8th)

Although mathematically not impossible, it will take a calamity of massive proportions for Melbourne Victory not to be crowned as minor premiers at the conclusion of this match. The home side will be looking to turn on the style, in front of an expectant AAMI Park crowd, after somewhat less entertaining performances of late. The double-header wins over Brisbane last week (2-1 and 1-0, respectively) were tight and tense affairs but I expect a more expressive Melbourne Victory on Sunday. Central Coast love to play the role of party poopers and will be by no means easy beats. In fact, the Mariners pushed Victory all the way a little over a month ago – only a special Gui Finkler brace denied them an unlikely point. With both sides absent of their first-choice keepers and an attacking, carefree mindset, I expect plenty of goals in this one.

Nick’s prediction: Melbourne Victory 3-3 Central Coast Mariners

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