The following are previews with betting tips for Round 15 of the 2015/16 A-League season.
Friday, 15 January
Melbourne Victory v Brisbane Roar
7:40 PM AEDT, AAMI Park
League leaders Brisbane travel to Melbourne for the first time this season to take on an undermanned Victory outfit. In midweek, Kevin Muscat bemoaned the fact that his squad is down to the bare bones with suspended right full back, Daniel Georgevski, joining a long list of absentees; following his caution against the Mariners. Melbourne Victory did well to spare their blushes after bottom club Central Coast raced to a 3-0 half-time lead, at Simonds Stadium, before the reigning champions put their foot down to grab a 3-3 draw. They could of even won it after squandering numerous guilt-edged opportunities. Brisbane were anything but championship material in a rather disappointing scoreless draw against a depleted Wellington Phoenix side. The Roar weren’t without their chances but found Nix keeper Glen Moss at the top of his game while referee, Stephen Lucas, awarded a spot kick in favour of the visitors only to bizarrely change his mind a minute later.
With so many players unavailable for various reasons, Muscat may look to Rashid Mahazi to slot in as a makeshift right-back while Jesse Makarounas is a likely candidate to take his place in midfield. Brisbane remain without attacking duo Jamie MacLaren and Brandon Borello who are hoping to qualify for this year’s Olympics with the Olyroos squad. Their absence was evident last week as Brisbane lacked their usual fluency in the front third. Despite their inconsistent form, Melbourne Victory do boast a strong home record of 6 wins and a draw in all competitions.
Nick’s tip: Melbourne Victory -0.25ah @1.77 (SBOBET)
Saturday, 16 January
Adelaide United v Central Coast Mariners
5:15 PM AEDT, Coopers Stadium
If Central Coast are to do the almost unthinkable and qualify for the finals, they need to at least get something from this fixture. Adelaide United currently occupy the 6th and final play-off spot, 8pts ahead of bottom placed Central Coast. Adelaide United are in a rich vein of form with their 3-1 win at Perth stretching their undefeated run to six games (4W,2D). The Reds are currently playing some attractive football with flair players Cirio and Carrusca close to the top of their game. They do though have their flaws and despite playing a half of football with a one man advantage (against Perth), their lack of a natural finisher kept the hosts in the game. It wasn’t until the 90th minute that the Reds could breath a collective sigh of relief when Craig Goodwin fired home from close range to seal the points. By their lowly standards this season, two games undefeated can be considered as somewhat of a good run for the Mariners but it provides little consolation after letting a 3-0 lead slip, against Melbourne Victory. Despite the disappointment of drawing the game 3-3, Neil Walmsley can take heart from the way his side sliced through the Victory backline (for 45 minutes at least) with almost surgical precision.
There’s no doubt that results have improved for the Reds but they are by no means title challengers, far from it. Aside from the fact that they trail league leaders Brisbane by 11pts, there is an obvious lack of depth in the squad which ultimately defines a side serious about lifting some silverware. The loss of central defender Jordan Elsey through suspension means that Guillermo Amor is likely to recall defensive midfielder, Jacopo la Rocca, as a makeshift defender despite his lack of match fitness. Central Coast have no reason to go into this match with any trepidation (after recent outings), just the opposite, as a win will give them a huge shot in the arm as they go about chasing a finals berth.
Nick’s tip: Over 2.75 goals @1.68 (Pinnacle)
Western Sydney Wanderers v Sydney FC
7:30 PM AEDT, Pirtek Stadium
The anticipation is at fever pitch in Sydney land as it’s time again for another derby. Rewind back to three months ago, the Sky Blues edged out a tight 1-0 encounter with a late goal by Milos Ninkovic; securing the three points and bragging rights for the blue half of Sydney. A lot of water has since passed under the bridge with Western Sydney surging up the table while Sydney FC have remained steady if not easy on the eye. The Wanderers will be aiming to get on another streak after their 10 match undefeated one came to an end in the 3-2 loss to Melbourne City, last week. It was a sickening defeat for the red and blacks after fighting back from a 2-0 deficit and dominating after the interval, only to go down to a late Harry Novillo strike. It was a more straightforward day at the office for the Sky Blues as they cruised to a 2-0 win over struggling Newcastle. Returning from a serious knee injury, Ali Abbas stole all the headlines with his cameo appearance and well taken goal in the dying embers of a rather uninteresting contest.
Sydney FC has dominated this fixture in recent meetings (4W,1D) but the Wanderers go in to this as rightly priced favourites. Since the opening day defeat to Brisbane Roar, the home side has collected 16 points from a possible 18 on offer at Pirtek Stadium. The Wanderers are also playing a much more effective brand of football, creating plentiful chances throughout the game while Sydney are rather laborious in their build up from back to front. The continued absence of captain Alex Brosque (after his hamstring injury was misdiagnosed) is a real hammer blow for the visitors as they are starved of clinical finishers. Abbas is a welcome return but is likely to be used sparingly until he gets up to speed with the rigors of A-League football.
Nick’s tip: Western Sydney -0.25ah @1.81 (Pinnacle)
Perth Glory v Melbourne City
9:40 PM AEDT, nib Stadium
After suffering just their second home defeat so far this season, Perth will be aiming to get back to winning ways against free scoring Melbourne City. Glory didn’t go down without a fight after they were reduced to 10 men on the stroke of half-time when Alex Grant was harshly adjudged to have denied Craig Goodwin a clear goalscoring opportunity. Adelaide United went on to record a 3-1 win but Perth can take plenty of positives moving forward. Melbourne City has arguably the best trio of forwards to every grace the A-League in Bruno Fornaroli, Harry Novillo and Aaron Mooy. Despite all their attacking verve which was again on display in the 3-2 win over Western Sydney, Melbourne City do give the opposition their fair share of chances on the counter-attack. John van Schip’s recently adopted 352 system does leave his team vulnerable out wide and in behind but when you have the best strikeforce in the land, you always back your team to outscore the opposition.
In what was already a reshuffled back four, Alex Grant’s suspension leaves Perth even more vulnerable in defence. The return of Marc Warren (returns from susp.) and Anthony Golec does at least give Kenny Lowe further options but his side faces a monumental task in keeping the City juggernaut at bay. Midfielder Nebo Marinkovic is also up for selection but the veteran midfielder has been way short of his best this season. Melbourne City will aim to improve on just 1 win in 9 out West. Their first and only meeting this season ended in a resounding 5-1 victory for Melbourne City at AAMI Park so I’m guessing the home side will need no extra motivation to get up for this one.
Nick’s tip: Melbourne City 0ah @1.71 (Pinnacle)
Sunday, 17 January
Newcastle Jets v Wellington Phoenix
5:00 PM AEDT, Hunter Stadium
In what is unlikely to be a match for the football purist, the two most out-of-form sides in the competition lock horns at Hunter Stadium. Following on from the 2-0 defeat to Sydney FC without registering a single shot on goal, the Jets are now on a scoreless run of six games. To put that stat into perspective, only the now defunct New Zealand Knights (one of the worst sides in A-League history) have suffered such a baron spell in front of goal. Not pulling up any trees themselves, Wellington should go into this match with at least half a spring in their step after holding league leaders Brisbane to a scoreless draw. With a crippling injury list threatening to derail their season, an undermanned Wellington side frustrated their more superior opponents with a fine rearguard action; keeper Glen Moss and debutante Dylan Fox the standouts.
The youngest manager in the A-League, 34yr old Scott Miller needs to put his thinking caps on and come up with an idea that will change his side’s fortunes. Import Milos Trifunovic is not meretting his place in the side while there are other players like Ryan Kitto who don’t seem ready to step up to this level. For the visitors, this presents a perfect opportunity to get back to winning ways and creep back into the top 6 (pending other results). Newcastle won the previous meeting in Wellington almost two months ago so perhaps the hosts have a slight psychological edge leading into this game.