The following are previews with betting tips for Round 18 of the 2015/16 A-League season.
Friday, 5 February
Adelaide United v Sydney FC
7:40 PM AEDT, Coopers Stadium
One point and one position separates these two finals hopefuls but the Reds go into this fixture as firm favourites. Adelaide United extended their unbeaten run to 9 games following a rather ugly 1-0 win over lowly Newcastle. Marcelo Carrusca’s controversial first half strike (was partially offside) was enough to thwart off a spirited Jets outfit with the visitors failing to take advantage of some uncharacteristic sloppiness from the hosts. For the first time in over 12 months, Sydney suffered consecutive league defeats as they went down 3-1 to Brisbane. In wet and wild conditions, Sydney had no answer for Brisbane’s intensity and energetic running off the ball. The game was in the balance when Alex Gersbach swung in a wicked set-piece that was diverted into his own net by Roar midfielder Corona, to restore parity. It proved to be a false dawn for the hosts as Brisbane raised their game to another level with “super sub” Henrique the main catalyst behind Sydney’s eventual downfall.
These sides met at this venue back in early December as Adelaide United won 2-1 with a late controversial penalty, against 10 man Sydney FC (Gersbach sent off on 28′). Perhaps revenge will be in the air this Friday night as the Sky Blues aim to get back to winning ways and keep their hopes alive for a tilt at the title. With the January transfer window closed shut, both sides will feel they are well equipped for the run in to the finals and their respective Asian Champions League campaigns. While Sydney have automatically qualified to the group stages of Asia’s premier club competition, Adelaide United face Chinese outfit Shandong Luneng in a playoff, next Tuesday. This could perhaps have a bearing on the outcome of this match as Reds manager, Guillermo Amor, may choose to rest some key players with one eye on the midweek game. Sydney FC are strengthened by the capture of ex Socceroo David Carney following the departure of impressive wing-back, Alex Gersbach, to Danish club Rosenborg.
Nick’s tip: Sydney FC 0.5ah @1.74 (Pinnacle)
Saturday, 6 February
Brisbane Roar v Central Coast Mariners
5:15 PM AEDT, Suncorp Stadium
Brisbane has a chance to go top, momentarily at least, as they face bottom club Central Coast with league leaders Western Sydney travelling to Melbourne in the match of the round against Victory. With Olyroos Jamie MacLaren, Brandon Borrello and James Donachie reinstated into the first XI, Brisbane Roar looked like their former vibrant selves as they picked holes in the best defense in the league; defeating Sydney FC 3-1. Following two embarrassing defeats, conceding 4 in each of those against Victory and Adelaide United, the Roar were intent on putting things right with captain Matt McKay leading by example – showing bite in the tackle and covering almost every single blade of grass. Central Coast probably wish they could play Wellington every week as they accrued their 7th point of the season from the generous Nix. Luis Garcia’s second half introduction inspired the visiting Mariners as his goal and two assists put the result beyond doubt with Wellington snatching a late consolation to make it 3-1. Fortune was definitely on the Mariners’ side with a keeping error resulting in the first while the third strike should of been disallowed for offside.
With two winnable games (including this one) coming up, Brisbane will be looking to kick on and cement a top two spot as other clubs embark on their respective Asian Champions League campaigns. The Roar are aiming to do the treble over the Mariners this season after having already recorded wins, home and away. With Luis Garcia in their ranks and a carefree attitude throughout the squad (sit bottom and 14pts behind the sixth and final play-off spot), the Mariners will be a dangerous opponent for any side as the regular season nears its conclusion. The visitors are strengthened by the return of captain Nick Montgomery and centre-half Harry Ascroft, both returning from suspension.
Nick’s tip: Brisbane -1ah @1.61 (SBOBET)
Melbourne Victory v Western Sydney Wanderers
7:30 PM AEDT, Etihad Stadium
In what is a rivalry that continues to grow with every passing game, the two best supported clubs in the land clash in a fixture than never disappoints. Fourth placed and 6 points behind the league leading Wanderers, it’s a given that Melbourne Victory would take the 3pts any which way they can but they will also be out to make a statement of intent. Last week’s 3-2 defeat in Perth left a sour taste in mouths’ of the “Big V” persuasion as fiery Frenchman, Fahid Ben Khalfallah, was harshly sent off for violent conduct after his direct opponent, Shane Lowry, exaggerated the contact. Despite playing the better part of half an hour with 10 men, Victory were the dominant side as striker Besart Berisha scored a brace and almost single-handedly carried the fight to Perth with his tireless running. The match was decided on a controversial penalty call by referee Kris Griffiths-Jones as Nick Ansell was adjudged to have pushed Andy Keogh in the box; the impressive Diego Castro dispatching the spot kick with a Panenka. Western Sydney themselves were involved in a thriller, a top of the table clash no less, against Victory’s crosstown rival Melbourne City. In what was a hectic, error-prone game, it was the Wanderers who took a stranglehold as they raced to a 3-0 lead up until a quarter of an hour remaining. With Mark Bridge and Mitch Nichols running riot for the home side, it seemed like a matter of how many for the hosts but City scored twice in a matter of minutes to make it a nervy finish. With the clock counting down, there was time for two more goals and a red card for City midfielder Anthony Caceres as the Wanderers hung on for a vital 4-3 win.
Western Sydney won the reverse fixture 2-0 earlier in the season during Victory’s worst spell in the club’s history. Even so, it was a tight match that could of gone either way. The loss of Ben Khalfallah is a blow but veteran Archie Thompson is an able replacement although will struggle to run out the entire 90. The Wanderers have struggled on their travels lately and needed a last gasp winner against bottom club Central Coast to avoid three road games without a win. Melbourne Victory holds a strong record at Etihad Stadium while their recent H2H meetings point to a home victory.
Nick’s tip: Melbourne Victory 0ah @1.74 (SBOBET)
Sunday, 7 February
Wellington Phoenix v Perth Glory
3:00 PM AEDT, Westpac Stadium
Perth will make the long flight into enemy territory with thoughts of a must need win firmly placed in the forefront of their minds. Following on from their dramatic 3-2 win over Melbourne Victory, Perth have some forward momentum as they look to chase down a top six play-off spot. In total contrast, Wellington is dropping like a stone towards the bottom of the table as their poor run of results continued with a 3-1 defeat to the Mariners. Despite Perth sitting just one place and 3pts above Wellington, they are worlds apart in terms of confidence and quality – man for man. Wellington will pin their hopes on 21 year old English striker, Alex Jones, who arrives on loan from Championship side Birmingham city without a single appearance to his name for his parent club.
Although it remains to be seen what Jones will bring to the table, the Phoenix can at least go into this game with some backbone as captain Andrew Durante and fellow veteran Vince Lia both return from suspension. After smashing the Jets 6-1 a fortnight ago, Perth will be aiming for another rare win on the road against a Phoenix side down on their luck. It’s been almost 3 years to the day since Perth lost across the ditch so the visitors will be feeling quietly confident of picking up a favorable result; but only a win is good enough at this stage.
Nick’s tip: Perth 0ah @2.05 (Pinnacle)
Newcastle Jets v Melbourne City
5:00 PM AEDT, Hunter Stadium
Melbourne City will have two further days to prepare for this game (than the Jets) as they look to avoid a potential banana skin against unpredictable Newcastle. Following a demoralizing 6-1 home defeat to Perth a fortnight ago, Newcastle were much better in their 1-0 loss to Adelaide and can perhaps feel a little aggrieved at not taking something tangible from the game. The Jets created the better of the chances throughout but Alivodic and Trifunovic were especially guilty of some wayward finishing. As so often happens in football, teams at the bottom reaches of the table often get little in the way of luck and such was the case with the Jets as Adelaide broke the deadlock (on the stroke of half-time) through an offside goal. Despite giving Western Sydney a three goal “head start”, such is Melbourne City’s scoring power that they almost performed the comeback of all comebacks. Bruno Fornaroli and Harry Novillo were among the scorers once again but their quality strikes proved to be in vain as Western Sydney hung on for a 4-3 win.
Last time Melbourne City were in Newcastle, it was the “Mooy and Fornaroli Show” as they each helped themselves to a brace on the way to a comfortable 4-0 win. A similar result is not out of the question but Melbourne City do have some key players unavailable for this fixture. Central defensive pairing,
Kisnorbo and Hughes, are likely to be out through injury which leaves the visitors exposed at the back. In addition, midfielder Erik Paartalu was released by the club while Caceres serves a one-match suspension. Newcastle retain the services of club captain Nigel Boogard while new signings Nordstrand and Ugarkovic are pushing for starts after both impressing on debut, last week.
Nick’s tip: Newcastle 1ah @1.71 (Pinnacle)