The following are previews with betting tips for Round 21 of the 2015/16 A-League season.
Friday, 26 February
Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne City
5:30 PM AEDT, Westpac Stadium
Despite sitting second from bottom and the finals just about out of reach, everyone connected with the Wellington Phoenix franchise will be in a celebratory mood after the FFA decided to extend their A-League license for another 10 years (permitting they meet all the necessary criteria along the way). In what was a key clash against the Jets in regards to their finals’ aspirations for this season, the Nix let a 2-1 half-time lead slip as two goal hero Hamish Watson was sent off for a second bookable offense. The Nix can have legitimate grievances about the standard of refereeing in this game (again) but they also should hold themselves accountable for some poor defending that led to a 3-2 defeat. After a below par first half, trailing 1-0 to bottom club Central Coast, City manager John van’t Schip must of stripped paint off the walls at half-time as his side eventually ran out convincing 4-1 winners. In truth, the Mariners rarely threatened and it was quite a surprise when the home side fell behind after a cleared corner led to a quick fire counter-attack by the visitors – Mitch Austin racing away from the halfway line and finishing with the composure. When captain Patrick Kisnorbo nodded in from close range just minutes after the break, it was inevitable that Melbourne City would run away with the game and so they did.
A big crowd is expected in Wellington for this rare event, a Friday night match in the New Zealand capital. Wellington’s performances have improved in recent weeks with their 5-2 win over league leaders Western Sydney the obvious highlight. Hamish Watson’s absence is a bitter blow for the hosts, not only for his goal scoring exploits but his hold up play in the front third. In more positive team news, midfielder Alex Rodriguez returns from the treatment table while Ben Sigmund will be hoping for more minutes after returning to action last week. Melbourne City have failed to win in any of their last four games on the road, conceding 12 goals in that period. Anthony Caceres is a big inclusion for the visitors but winger Harry Novillo sits out the last game of his club-enforced suspension after a domestic dispute with his partner. The Nix will be well up for this and could very well pose problems for the homesick visitors.
Nick’s tip: Wellington +0.75ah @1.52 (Pinnacle)
Western Sydney Wanderers v Perth Glory
7:40 PM AEDT, Pirtek Stadium
In what looks like the blockbuster fixture of the round, league leaders Western Sydney will aim to halt form side of the competition Perth Glory. Although a little fortunate, the Wanderers did manage to restore some pride in the Sydney Derby following on from the embarrassing defeat to the Nix a fortnight ago. The 1-1 result at the Allianz Stadium did represent a point well-earned despite the Wanderers taking an early lead via a Dario Vidosic flicked header. Sydney monopolized possession and guilt-edged chances following the break. The Wanderers can thank their lucky stars that Matt Simon left his shooting boots at home. Following some first half resistance by the Roar, Perth Glory were not to be denied their fifth consecutive league win as they piled on the goals in a 6-3 demolition. In what equaled the A-League record of 9 for total goals scored in a single match (with nine individual scorers), Perth managed to keep their heads after the break following a crazy first period of defensive errors, officiating errors, and some cracking goals. Glory midfielder Diego Castro put on another masterclass and it’s no wonder that he currently leads the race for the Alex Tobin Award.
Tony Popovic will be thankful for the return of Spanish centre-back, Alberto, who returns after serving a two match suspension. His physicality and aerial prowess will be in high demand after the Wanderers have looked all at sea while trying to defend crossed deliveries. Aside from long-term casualty Ruben
Zadkovich, Perth are at full strength with the impending return of defenders Marc Warren and Dino Djulbic. There’s no reason why this fixture should hold any fears for the visitors going on recent h2h meetings. You need to go back almost two years (and 7 meetings) since the last time the Wanderers got the better of their western counterparts.
Nick’s tip: Perth +1ah @1.83 (Pinnacle)
Saturday, 27 February
Adelaide United v Brisbane Roar
5:15 PM AEDT, Coopers Stadium
Another important clash looms as teams jockey for places at the pointy end of the table with third placed Adelaide United looking to extend their undefeated run to 13 matches, as they welcome second from top Brisbane. The Reds achieved a rare feat last week as they kept the normally free scoring Melbourne Victory scoreless on their on turf, recording a fine 1-0 away win. In what was a tight and tense affair which can best be described as a chess-like tactical battle, Guillermo Amor’s decision to introduce Bruce Kamau as a late substitute proved decisive as the youngster tucked away his first A-League goal via the aid of a wicked deflection. If the Adelaide clash was cagey and uninspiring, Roar’s 6-3 defeat to Perth was anything but with a thrill almost every other minute! Brisbane’s inability to defend set pieces against the A-League’s most potent scorers from dead ball situations proved fateful. Although Brisbane led twice through a Dimi Petratos penalty and then from a Jade North header at the back post, they failed to heed the warning signs.
Adelaide United better be on their guard as the Roar will be keen to put last week’s result behind them. The Reds have been far from convincing at Coopers Stadium in recent matches so perhaps the visitors will feel they’re in with a shout of bagging all three. There’s some interesting team news to take into account with rumors that Adelaide’s in-form Spaniard, Isaias, is out with a knee problem while Craig Goodwin is touch and go after suffering concussion last week. The visitors will recall Daniel Bowles to the starting XI after James Donachie was a confirmed omission from the match day squad with slightly strained knee ligaments. Brisbane have enjoyed some good success at this venue in the past and with the reported outs for Adelaide United, the visitors are in with a chance of stopping the home side’s hot streak.
Nick’s tip: Brisbane 0.5ah @1.75 (Pinnacle)
Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC
7:30 PM AEDT, AAMI Park
Melbourne Victory are looking to do a three-peat over their great city rivals as they welcome Sydney FC to what is expected to be a packed AAMI Stadium. This match could not be more finely poised with both sides locked on 29pts in 5th and 6th respectively, at the time of writing. They were also involved in midweek ACL action as Victory opened their campaign with a 2-1 win over cashed up Shanghai SIPG while Sydney FC’s trip to Japan resulted in a 2-0 defeat to Urawa Reds. Arnie made 7 changes from the side that drew 1-1 with the Wanderers last Saturday which just goes to show the importance of this particular fixture. In comparison, Muscat made only 3 changes to the side that suffered a late 1-0 loss to Adelaide United with the added advantage of not needing to clock up the air miles.
After been left out of the clash with Shanghai through illness, Victory left back Scott Galloway should return as fellow defender Jason Geria sits out through suspension. Ben Khalfallah and Guy Finkler will almost certainly return to the starting XI as they are not part of Victory’s ACL squad, similarly for the Sky Blues with Filip Holosko and Jacques Faty restored after sitting out in Japan. victory go into this game as favourites and rightly so for obvious reasons but a lot will depend on centre-back Matthieu Delpierre’s conditioning and if he can play three matches in the space of 8 days.
Nick’s tip: Sydney FC 0.75ah @1.68 (Pinnacle)
Sunday, 28 February
Central Coast Mariners v Newcastle Jets
5:00 PM AEDT, Central Coast Stadium
In what has mainly been a season of unpredictability in the A-League, we can at least announce with a certain degree of assurance that Central Coast will parade the wooden spoon come season’s end. Despite the abject 4-1 loss at Melbourne City and a whopping 7pts behind second from bottom Wellington, the
Mariners do at least have two fixtures to look forward to against bitter rivals Newcastle. The Mariners would like nothing to more than to extinguish the Jets’ slim hopes of reaching the finals after the Novocastrians recorded a momentum building 3-2 win over the Nix. In his first start since his arrival
from Danish Superliga outfit AGF, Morten Nordstrand proved to be the main catalyst for a stirring Jets comeback with a scoring brace and an overall vibrant
Luis Garcia is likely to return for the Mariners after missing out last week with a slight knock. You just wonder what the former Champions League winner would be making of Central Coast’s current situation with a manager looking just as clueless as some of the performances. There seems to be a general lack of leadership at the club and it shows through the ill discipline of some of the playing staff with no less than three players suspended for this game. To add salt to the wounds, right full-back Storm Roux will be in rehab for at least the next 5 months after suffering a sickening fracture to his fibula. In contrast, the Jets welcome back suspended duo in Matteo Poljiak and Ben Kantarovski as they look to hang onto the coat tails of the Top 6.
Nick’s tip: Newcastle 0.25ah @1.75 (Pinnacle)