The following are previews with betting tips for Round 23 of the 2015/16 A-League season.
Friday, 11 March
Adelaide United v Melbourne City
7:40 PM AEDT, Coopers Stadium
League leaders, Adelaide United, look like they’ll take some stopping after hitting Wellington for four, at Westpac Stadium. It was a display of ruthless efficiency befitting that of a team capable of lifting the “toilet seat” aloft, come April, as the Reds soaked up all that Wellington could muster and then broke forward with purpose. Dylan McGowan was exceptional at the back while “Young Footballer of the Year” nominee for February, Stefan Mauk, continues to thrive at his new club with his driving runs forward. Sitting in fourth place and 4pts behind Adelaide, Melbourne City still harbor hopes of some silverware come season’s end. They did their cause no harm as hat-trick hero Bruno Fornaroli proved too much for a lethargic Sydney FC outfit, at AAMI Park. Goals at crucial stages of the game; one before half-time and another on the 70th minute mark as the Sky Blues began to tire from their midweek ACL exertions, proved to be the major turning points as City eventually ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.
Adelaide’s win across the ditch came at a cost with full-back Tarek Elrich ruled out for up to a month with a groin strain. Regular centre-back, Jordan Elsey, is expected to fill the void while Iacopo La Rocca will step in alongside McGowan in the centre of defense. Surprisingly, Isaias has been listed in the extended matchday squad but is unlikely to play any part. In what has been a stop-start beginning to his young Melbourne City career, Anthony Caceres misses out again with a quad strain. In what is likely to be an intriguing battle with a lot at stake, the dual in midfield between Stefan Mauk and Osama Malik will be one to keep an eye on with both players switching allegiances in January. Melbourne City have traveled poorly since Christmas, losing four of their last five on the road.
Saturday, 12 March
Sydney FC v Wellington Phoenix
5:15 PM AEDT, Allianz Stadium
The Sky Blues face a crucial 7-day period with Graham Arnold under immense pressure. The 3-0 defeat to Melbourne City and Perth’s continued rise has left the Sydneysiders outside of the Top 6, looking in, with five games of the regular season to turn things around. It was by no means a terrible performance in Melbourne with the margin of victory definitely flattering the hosts. The Sydney midfield bossed proceedings for much of the game with Serbian duo Ninkovic and Dimitrijevic in fine fettle while Hoole and Abbas were prominent, especially up until the break. Wellington on the other hand are playing for pride after Adelaide United sealed their fate to the tune of a 4-0 thumping. The Nix did get into numerous dangerous positions but failed to execute all afternoon with the final pass, the final shot, nowhere near good enough at this level.
There’s no doubt Arnold would of spent many a sleepless night during the week as he plots a course that he hopes would get his club out of stormy waters. The good news is that he has a host of players available, following their return from suspension. The bad news is that Wellington have enjoyed recent success at this venue while the trip to Korea in midweek, to face Pohang Steelers, complicates Arnold’s job at the selection table. If the Sydney midfield can display similar guile and patience as they did last week, then they should have too much for Wellington’s poor back-line.
Nick’s tip: Sydney FC -1ah @ 1.99 (SBOBET)
Brisbane Roar v Melbourne Victory
7:30 PM AEDT, Suncorp Stadium
Currently sitting in equal 2nd position, Brisbane Roar’s title credentials will be put to the test when they face bogey side, Melbourne Victory. The visitors have come out on top in each of the last four meetings, including twice at Suncorp. Roar will be quietly confident of putting a stop to Victory’s recent dominance after a dramatic come from behind 3-2 win over last week’s league leaders, Western Sydney. In what was a crazy last quarter of an hour, Western Sydney looked for all money like winners when Romeo Castelen stumbled his way into the Roar penalty area before putting his side 2-1 up. Roar showed great character though as Golden Boot contender, Jamie MacLaren, and match winner Dimi Petratos had the final say as the Wanderers wilted under the home side’s immense pressure. Kevin Muscat’s men managed a routine 2-0 win over bottom club Central Coast. It was just the Victory’s third triumph on the road this season as impressive debutant, Jai Ingham, stole the show with his energetic display and two assists for Berisha and Ben Khallfalah, respectively.
Where there’s smoke there’s fire. Rumors were confirmed true in midweek as it was announced that Victory’s flying winger, Kostas Barbarouses, will be returning to his native New Zealand to ply his trade with the Phoenix (from next season onward). It just so happens that Barbarouses is suspended for this fixture but he will be available for Victory’s involvement in the ACL, against Suwon Bluewings, on Tuesday. In more positive news, Oliver Bozanic is fit for the trip to Brisbane. I am leaning towards the visitors getting at least a point from this game with form on their side and a slight psychological edge from past meetings.
Nick’s tip: Melbourne Victory 0.25ah @ 1.86 (SBOBET)
Perth Glory v Central Coast Mariners
9:40 PM AEDT, nib Stadium
Kenny Lowe will be urging his Perth Glory side to kick on after finally breaking into the Top 6 for the first time this season. The 2-0 win over Newcastle propelled Perth into sixth position, one point above Sydney FC. In what was quite an even first half hour with perhaps the Jets just shading it, Andy Keogh made the all important breakthrough, on 38 minutes, with an expertly taken header following on from some good work from right full-back, Aryn Williams. Just moments after the half-time break, the match was over as a contest as Perth doubled their money with a cool finish by Hungarian midfielder, Gyorgy Sandor. In what has become a regular occurrence this season, Central Coast were outclassed and outfought with Melbourne Victory taking them apart almost at will. The Mariners can probably be thankful that their opposition were perhaps a little leg weary from their ACL commitments, in Japan, otherwise they could of been in for a real pasting.
With 15 points yet to play for and just 5pts separating fourth to seventh position, Perth cannot afford to rest on their laurels. Complacency is potentially Perth’s biggest enemy, going into the game, but there’s enough experience throughout the side to manage the situation as any professional should. Central Coast will hope that the return of captain, Nick Montgomery, will provide the energy that was lacking a week ago but I wouldn’t hold my breath. With goal difference possibly playing a factor in the run in, I was half expecting Glory to really pile on the goals against the Jets, last week. That didn’t eventuate but perhaps they were saving their energy levels for this game with the late kick off in Perth (and the cooler conditions) suiting a more expansive, goal-getting style of performance.
Sunday, 13 March
Newcastle Jets v Western Sydney Wanderers
5:00 PM AEDT, Hunter Stadium
And then there were…seven. Despite a spirited February where Newcastle went on an undefeated run of four games, last week’s 2-0 defeat in Perth all but ruled them out of the finals reckoning. Serbian striker, Milos Trifunovic, was at his frustrating best as he dallied to pull the trigger on a couple of first half opportunities while he scuffed his shot completely, to draw the Jets level, with the goal gaping. When Daniel Mullen was sent off for a second bookable offense on 59 minutes, the game was as good as over. As has often been the case in the A-League, this season, the officials were a main source of discussion in the post-match with Chris Beath controversially reversing his decision (with advise from his assistant) to award the Jets a spot kick. The Wanderers will be aiming to avenge the heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Brisbane and perhaps reclaim top spot (depending on other results) with a win at Hunter Stadium. Spanish midfielder, Dimas, was culpable on two counts, for Brisbane’s late winner, as his errant pass put his side on the back foot and then to compound his error, failed to track back and put pressure on eventual scorer Dimi Petratos.
The Jets are without half their first choice back-line with Mullen and Hoffman both serving one-match suspensions. In contrast, Western Sydney welcome back captain Nikolay-Topor Stanley from suspension while forward Mark Bridge returns from injury. Western Sydney should fancy their chances at a venue that has proved a happy hunting ground in the past – in fact, the Wanderers are yet to lose in Newcastle (3 wins and 2 draws).