The following are previews with betting tips for Round 17 of the 2015/16 A-League season.
Friday, 29 January
Western Sydney Wanderers v Melbourne City
7:40 PM AEDT, Pirtek Stadium
What a way to kick off Round 17 with a top of the table clash sure to set the pulses racing. League leaders, Western Sydney, went some way to curing their derby day blues by edging passed a Luis Garcia inspired Central Coast. The Wanderers opened the scoring within a quarter of an hour and looked set to put the result beyond doubt, going into the break, but failed to capitalize on their dominance. Garcia’s introduction on the hour mark helped inspire the hosts to an equalizer but Wanderers’ substitute, Brendan Santalab, was on point to tap in close to full time and secure a priceless 2-1 away win. Melbourne City remain on course to make their first serious charge at the title (with 11 rounds remaining) following a routine 3-1 win over struggling Wellington. The league’s top marksman, Bruno Fornarolli, opened the scoring with a wonderful jinking run and finish while sidekick Harry Novillo helped himself to a brace as City outclassed their opponents with relative ease. City manager, John van’t Schip, even had the luxury of introducing three debutantes as Caceres, Malik and Fitzgerald all got some game time.
These sides met a little less than 3 weeks ago, in Melbourne, when the Wanderers somehow left AAMI Park empty-handed following a 3-2 thriller. After City raced to an early lead, Romeo Castelen’s second half introduction swung the pendulum in the way of the visiting team as the Wandererers laid siege on Andrew Redmayne’s goal. Harry Novillo decided the contest with a well taken goal on 85′, totally against the run of play. Wandererers will fancy their chances of revenge at Pirtek Stadium while City’s record on the road to a top six side, this season, is none to clever (1W,2D,2L).
Nick’s tip: Western Sydney -0.25ah @1.64 (Pinnacle)
Saturday, 30 January
Wellington Phoenix v Central Coast Mariners
5:15 PM AEDT, AMI Stadium, Christchurch
The Nix face a must win match against bottom club Central Coast as they return to home shores; following an arduous set of fixtures. Wellington has failed to make any impression on the league table since mid-December with just 2pts earned (at home) from a possible 21 on offer. It was the same old story on the road as they were swept aside by star-studded Melbourne City in a 3-1 defeat. Aside from Roly Bonevacia’s contender for goal of the season, Ernie Merrick can take heart from a solid second half showing with young Joel Stevens impressing on debut. Champions League winner, Luis Garcia, was all the rage in Gosford throughout last week and he didn’t disappoint with his on-field performance against high flying Western Sydney. The 37yr old showed the bumper home crowd that he still has an eye for a pass as his perfectly executed through ball to Mitch Austin let to the Mariners’ equalizer. With the game finely balanced, the Mariners shot themselves in the foot as captain/midfield enforcer Nick Montgomery was red carded for a rash challenge on the aptly named Gol Gol Mebrahtu. Soon after, the home side showed why they sit rock bottom with just 9pts when Michael Neill was robbed of the ball and was subsequently punished as Santalab tapped in for an easy finish.
With sixth placed Adelaide United currently the form side of the competition (on 23pts), there is a realistic chance that Finals hopefuls such as Wellington and Perth may be cast adrift (both on 16pts respectively). With most of the tough away fixtures “out of the way”, Wellington can focus on reinforcing their dominance with 7 of their remaining 11 games on home turf. Ernie Merrick will need to reshuffle his starting XI once again as captain Andrew Durante and veteran Vince Lia sit out through suspension – perhaps not a big loss as both have been in poor recent form. The Mariners present a dangerous opponent as they arrive in Christchurch with nothing to lose. Captain, Nick Montgomery, will of course miss this game through suspension. The veteran midfielder has been one of the rare shining lights in a hugely disappointing season for the Mariners; his absence will definitely aid Wellington’s creative outlets in Bonevacia and McGlinchey.
Nick’s tip: Over 2.75 goals @1.79 (Pinnacle)
Sydney FC v Brisbane Roar
7:30 PM AEDT, Allianz Stadium
Back in November, these two sides played out one of the dullest scoreless draws in living memory. One can only hope that it won’t be the case this time around. Sydney FC are coming off just their third loss for the season after a narrow 1-0 defeat in the “Big Blue” derby (against Melbourne Victory). In a typically stubborn performance by the Sky Blues; restricting their opponents to no more than a couple of sighters on goal, it was in-form centre-back Matt Jurman who inadvertently directed a cross into his own net. On the balance of play, Victory probably deserved their stroke of fortune as they looked the more likely throughout the contest. Brisbane Roar had their colours lowered for the second week in succession (following on from the 4-0 defeat to Melb.Victory) as they were hit for four by a vibrant Adelaide United outfit. Henrique at least managed to get the home side on the score sheet from the penalty spot but it proved to be just mere consolation. Spanish import, Javi Hervas, was again disappointing in his second consecutive start while returning keeper Michael Theo was exposed by some schoolboy defending.
Both managers will feel a sense of relief with all their youngsters available for selection following Australia’s fateful Olympics qualification campaign. John Aloisi, in particular, will be over the moon with young guns MacLaren and Borrello a huge part of his side’s attacking arsenal. It is no coincidence that in their absence, Brisbane’s form has nose-dived with a goal difference of -7 and just a single goal scored. The visitors are also boosted by the return from suspension of captain Shane Stefanutto. It will be interesting to see how Sydney FC recover after such a heartbreaking loss. The home side’s “bouncebackability” has not been too good this season, drawing both games after going down the week prior.
Nick’s tip: Brisbane 0.75ah @1.54 (Pinnacle)
Perth Glory v Melbourne Victory
9:40 PM AEDT, nib Stadium
Incredibly, it will be the fourth meeting between these two sides this season with a draw and a win each suggesting we could have a tight contest. Perth will be aiming to kick on after a record-breaking 6-1 win in Newcastle; the most emphatic away triumph by any side in A-League history. Intriguingly, Newcastle opened the scoring and looked the more likely to score another before Perth stamped their authority on proceedings, led by marquee signing Diego Castro. The Spaniard helped himself to a brace and two assists but he was only one piece of the jigsaw in a complete team performance. Melbourne Victory found the going much tougher in their 1-0 win over Sydney FC but they stuck at it and got their rewards late on as the visitors began to tire. In what was a game of few chances, Victory began to make inroads down the right flank with Barbarouses a constant danger. It was his combination play with substitute Makarounas that led to an own goal off Matt Jurman that decided the game.
With the January transfer window winding down and captain Michael Thwaite heading to China, Perth completed a good bit of business in bringing experienced defender Shane Lowry to the club. The former Leeds and Milwall man could be given his debut in what is an especially important game for the hosts. Perth has five home games and must win the majority of those if they are a chance at erasing the 7 point gap currently held by sixth placed Adelaide United. Victory themselves are desperate for the three points but will need to buck a trend of poor away results if they are to remain in touch with the front runners. The visitors have the poorest away record (2W,2D,5L) out of all the sides currently sitting in the top six. With the return of Thomas Deng from Olyroos duty, Kevin Muscat may opt for the naturalized Aussie’s athleticism in the centre of defence in place of the muscle and brawn offered by Nick Ansell.
Nick’s tip: Perth 0.75ah @1.63 (Pinnacle)
Sunday, 31 January
Adelaide United v Newcastle Jets
5:00 PM AEDT, Coopers Stadium
Form side of the competition, Adelaide United, will need to guard against complacency when they welcome bruised and battered Newcastle Jets to Coopers Stadium. The Reds continued on their winning ways with a fine 4-1 away win in Brisbane but it was not without a tinge of sadness as substitute striker, Eli Babalj, suffered a serious knee injury. It was fellow striker Bruce Djite though that stole all the headlines with a brace of goals to finally end his long-standing scoring drought. Young Jets manager, Scott Miller, would of earned his corn during the week after his side were embarrassed to the tune of a 6-1 hiding against ruthless Perth Glory. The sending off of captain Nigel Boogaard, on the stroke of half-time, did not help matters and neither did Miller’s decision to go all out for the win by playing three at the back.
With an important ACL qualifier just 9 days away, Adelaide United will be naive to look too far ahead as there are teams lurking to challenge them for that sixth and final play-off spot – Newcastle is one of them. The Reds though go into this match full of confidence while they are strengthened by the return of key man Sergio Cirio (from injury) and first choice right-back Michael Marrone (from susp.). In addition, versatile Olyroo Stefan Mauk signed from Melbourne City during the week as a replacement for outgoing Jimmy Jeggo, the latter signing for Austrian outfit Sturm Graz. In what is a good piece of timing for the Jets, Ben Kantarovski returns from suspension to take his place in the centre of defence while Nick Cowburn may come in at left-back for Lachlan Jackson. The Jets have managed to frustrate the Reds on two separate occasions this season (after playing out two scoreless draws) but Adelaide United are in the zone at the moment and should be way too good.
Nick’s tip: Adelaide United -1ah @1.52 (Pinnacle)