The following are previews with betting tips for Round 12 of the 2015/16 A-League season.
Thursday, 24 December
Western Sydney Wanderers v Newcastle Jets
7:00 PM AEDT, Pirtek Stadium
League leaders Western Sydney will aim to go on another winning streak after being held to a 2-2 draw, in Perth. Tony Popovic had made several changes to his starting XI with perhaps one eye on tonight’s fixture, and it showed in a rusty performance. Liam Reddy, the recently acquired keeper who was made surplus to requirements at the Mariners, will be licking his lips after Wandererers’ first choice Andrew Redmayne was culpable for both goals. Western Sydney rallied late with a few big hitters introduced off the bench but it was not enough to rescue a 7 match winning streak from stalling. Following a run of defeats, the Jets earned a 4th draw in their last 6 outings after who else but Mark Birighitti produced a much familiar rescue act to scratch out a point for his club against his former employers, Adelaide United.
With second and third-placed Brisbane Roar and Melbourne City clashing on Sunday evening, perhaps Western Sydney can open up a bit of buffer at the top of the table with a win here. Mark Bridge and Romeo Castelen should return to the starting XI after their short (but important) cameos in Perth. It’s one Spaniard in and one out as Dimas returns from a slight hamstring strain while Andreu misses out through suspension following his 5th yellow card of the season. After Jets captain Nigel Boogard made an impressive return from injury last week, he should be joined by fellow centre-back Daniel Mullen at the heart of defence while Brazilian import, Leonardo, is also back off the treatment table to provide some bite going forward. The Jets have enjoyed some success over the Wanderers in recent seasons and with a number of players returning, in addition to the absence of Andreu for the hosts, should again prove a hard nut to crack.
Nick’s tip: Newcastle Jets +1.5ah @1.83 (Pinnacle)
Saturday, 26 December
Adelaide United v Wellington Phoenix
5:15 PM AEDT, Coopers Stadium
The Reds will be aiming to give their fans a belated Christmas gift in the form of 3 points as they welcome undermanned Wellington; the Nix have a raft of defenders missing through injury and suspension. Nonetheless, Wellington have the players to sting you even when they look fast asleep which was the case last week in the 1-1 draw against Sydney FC. A late penalty rescued an unlikely point for the Nix just minutes after Holosko put the Sky Blues in front. Wellington were fortunate to be in touching distance after a below par performance and can be thankful that Sydney were wasteful in front of goal. Adelaide United’s mini winning streak (two games) hit the skids as Newcastle United set their stall for a share of the spoils and got just that in a scoreless draw.
Following on from Newcastle’s defeat to Western Sydney on Thursday, Adelaide United can draw level with the Jets (in 7th place) if they manage a win here. Adelaide United are at pretty much full strength, gunning for a third consecutive win at Coopers Stadium after conquering Perth Glory and Sydney FC. Aside from their 2-1 win at Perth Glory back in October, Wellington are without a win on the road in a run that stretches to five games. Ernie Merrick will be forced to reshuffle his back line with Fenton, Sigmund and Gulley all injured while Doyle serves a one match suspension after picking up his fifth caution (of the season) against Sydney.
Nick’s tip: Adelaide United -0.25ah @1.60 (Pinnacle)
Sydney FC v Central Coast Mariners
7:30 PM AEDT, Allianz Stadium
For a club the size of Sydney FC, a win in seven games is just not good enough. Graham Arnold finds himself under immense pressure as his side host the whipping boys of the competition, Central Coast. It’s been a frustrating couple of months for the Sky Blues with the last fortnight even more so after conceding late penalties (and not converting theirs) that has costed the side 4 points. Young winger and Olyroo, Andrew Hoole, will be aiming to put last week’s 1-1 draw at Wellington behind him after having his spot kick saved by Glen Moss just after the break. Central Coast can’t buy a trick at the moment which is so often the case for sides sitting at the bottom of the pile. The Mariners acquitted themselves well last week against high flying Brisbane despite going down to a late wonder strike by Dimi Petratos. Neil Walmsley seems to have changed his tactics in recent weeks following on from the 5-1 beating handed to them by Melbourne City with a more pragmatic approach preferred.
Sydney hope to retain the services of captain Alex Brosque following his two week absence with a hamstring injury. Fellow forward, Filip Holosko, is definitely out through suspension while young full-back, Alex Gersbach, returns after serving his. Central Coast will be aiming to heap more pressure on the home side and the return of Fabio Ferreira to the starting XI may wreak havoc to Graham Arnold’s best laid plans with the flying winger back to full fitness. I expect Neil Walmsley to persist with his defensive approach and look to catch Sydney on the counter-attack. Evening thunderstorms are predicted so there’s every chance that this won’t be one for the purists.
Nick’s tip: Under 3 goals @1.76 (Pinnacle)
Sunday, 27 December
Melbourne Victory v Perth Glory
5:00 PM AEDT, AAMI Park
A resurgent Glory outfit will be bracing themselves for a backlash as the wounded hosts aim to end the year on a high after a dismal December. Losing the Melbourne Derby is bad enough but losing four games in a row (a club record) is almost incomprehensible for the most successful franchise in the A-League’s short history. The 2-1 defeat to arch rival Melbourne City left a bitter taste in the mouth of those of the Victory persuasion with City keeper Thomas Sorensen putting on a clinic between the posts. The second half performance was a good one by the struggling champions and perhaps Kevin Muscat will feel his side are beginning to turn the corner. Perth seem to have well and truly turned a corner after an impressive 7 point haul in 7 days (including a 1-0 win over Melbourne Victory) has seen them enter the frame for finals football. The youngsters have really stepped up with Jamal Reiners and last week’s goal hero Mitch Oxborrow (in the 2-2 draw against Western Sydney) catching the eye.
In a replay of this season’s FFA Cup Grand Final; when Melbourne Victory ran out 2-0 winners, AAMI Park again plays host to what should be an intriguing contest. Looking at the fixture list, Victory have a run of winnable games against sides currently sitting outside the top 6. Perth are currently in 8th and despite their recent upturn in results, their away form is the worst in the league with 5 straights defeats and a goal difference of -8 (just 3 goals scored). Victory’s Tunisian winger, Fahid Ben Khalfallah, seemed to be back in top form in the Melbourne Derby while Besart Berisha broke his scoring duck in a trademark lively performance. I expect the aforementioned to have a huge impact on this match.
Nick’s tip: Melbourne Victory -1.25ah @1.96 (Pinnacle)
Brisbane Roar v Melbourne City
7:00 PM AEDT, Suncorp Stadium
In what is an obvious candidate for match of the round (on paper at least), second meets third as both Brisbane and City look to stay on the coat-tails of runaway leaders Western Sydney. Fresh from their 2-1 win in the derby, Melbourne City are looking more like the real deal as opposed to “flat track bullies” that solely beat up on much lesser opposition. Four wins on the trot, 16 goals scored and just 3 conceded represents brilliant form in any man’s book. A win over Brisbane, at Suncorp, will convince even the most ardent skeptics of Melbourne City’s title winning credentials. It won’t be easy though as the Roar are picking up results themselves although, admittedly, not with the same style and panache. The scratchy 1-0 win over bottom club Central Coast was evidence of that with a Petratos wonder goal late on saving Brisbane’s blushes. Despite the 3 points, Roar may of paid a heavy price with top scorer Jamie MacLaren limping off with an ankle injury.
MacLaren has taken part in some training during the week but should he not be passed fit, Jean carlos Solorzano is likely to take his place. Brisbane winger, Brandon Borrello, returns to the squad after his mysterious exclusion in recent weeks. These sides met last month on a night when Roar stand-in keeper, Jamie Young, was at his calamitous best with a string of comical errors; one which gifted City a 1-0 lead. Thankfully for Brisbane, Henrique struck late with a well taken goal to rescue a point. Melbourne City erred on the side of caution that evening but perhaps the league’s top scorers will be a little more proactive this time round with confidence at an all time high.