The following are previews with betting tips for Round 24 of the 2015/16 A-League season.
Friday, 18 March
Melbourne City v Brisbane Roar
7:40 PM AEDT, AAMI Park
Similarly to the Premier League a few weeks back, the A-League’s Top 4 battle it out this weekend starting off with a third versus first clash. Melbourne City will aim to lower the colours of another league leader, in consecutive weeks, after putting an end to Adelaide United’s long-standing undefeated record, last Friday. The 1-0 win at Coopers Stadium was impressive in many ways as Melbourne City belied their poor away form with a commanding performance that deserved a wider margin of victory. Nick Fitzgerald’s maiden strike for his new club, on 71 minutes, was enough to claim all three points and what a goal it was with a lovely curling shot into the top corner. Brisbane were not to be outdone though as their 5-0 win over Melbourne Victory was the standout result of the round. Headlined by Jamie MacLaren’s hat-trick, Roar’s pace, movement and clinical finishing in front of goal was too much for the visitors to handle.
A win for the hosts will propel them to the top of the pile by virtue of having a superior goal difference to that of Brisbane, for 24 hours at least. City are close to full strength with the return of Connor Champman and Anthony Caceres. Brisbane, meanwhile, welcome back an old favourite and current Socceroo Tommy Oar who is set to play a role at AAMI Park for the first time since signing from Championship club, Ipswich Town, last month. Melbourne City will hope that they continue their dominance over Roar, on their own patch, having won five of their most recent meetings at the magnificent Olympic Boulevard venue.
Nick’s tip: Melbourne City 0ah @1.72 (SBOBET)
Saturday, 19 March
Central Coast Mariners v Sydney FC
5:15 PM AEDT, Central Coast Stadium
The pressure is all on Graham Arnold’s men as nothing short of three points, against one of the worst teams in A-League history, is likely to spell the end of Sydney’s finals hopes. The visitors will hope the heroic 1-0 win in the ACL, against Pohang Steelers, will help revive their poor league form which reads a run without a win since the middle of January. That poor streak remained in tact, last Saturday, after an abject 3-1 loss to Wellington Phoenix. In what was a peculiar starting XI to begin with, no one could excuse the standard of defending on display as the Nix raced to a 3-0 lead before the break. The introduction of cousins, Faty and Tavares, gave Sydney a sense of direction but Holosko’s strike on 51 minutes proved just a consolation. The Mariners continued their fine impersonation of a pub side following their 4-0 capitulation in Perth. With a staggering -30 goal difference and by far the worst disciplinary record in the league, the Mariners played true to form with Mitch Austin and Luis Garcia both receiving their marching orders due to challenges borne out of pure frustration.
Despite all the travel and Sydney’s current league form, it would take something really comical to see the Mariners taking even a point from this. Perhaps the aptly named Japanese official in charge, Koichiro Fukushima, could drop a “bombshell” of radioactive proportions (to change the course of the game) after some quite baffling decisions in last week’s fixture between the Jets and the Wanderers. Sydney though have dominated this fixture in the last few seasons, winning their last five meetings (home and away) with a cumulative goal difference of +13. With Alex Brosque still nursing his severely strained hamstring in addition to this week’s loss of Milos Ninkovic, to a sprained ankle, it means that Sydney will need to find alternative ways to goal. If the Mariners weren’t playing badly enough, their wings have been well and truly clipped without the suspended duo of Garcia and Austin.
Nick’s tip: Sydney FC @1.62 (Pinnacle)
Western Sydney Wanderers v Adelaide United
7:30 PM AEDT, Pirtek Stadium
Wanderers will hope to heap more misery on Adelaide United after the Reds had their 14 game undefeated streak snapped, following a 1-0 loss to Melbourne City. United have been near faultless, since early December, but this was a sloppy performance and one that could affect confidence as the regular season draws to a close. Aside from a positive early start and late flurry, Adelaide United were completely outplayed by City – so much so that Guillermo Amor dragged key man Marcelo Carrusca, at half-time, to try and change the flow of the game. Deputizing for the injured Tarek Elrich, regular center-back Jordan Elsey looked completely at sea on the left side of defense and it was his lapse in concentration that afforded Nick Fitzgerald the space and time to execute his perfectly placed winner. Western Sydney returned to winning ways and subsequently kept their title challenge alive with a hard fought 1-0 win in Newcastle. In truth, the Wanderers should of been out of sight by half-time but a combination of profligate finishing and heroics by Jets’ keeper Mark Birighitti, meant that they had to endure a nervy finale. Not known for his expert finishing, young winger Josh Sotirio’s first half strike was enough to take the Wanderers equal top with Brisbane.
There’s very little separating the two sides with Western Sydney edging ahead in 2nd place with a two point advantage. Past meetings this season have ended up all square but if we dig a little deeper, history will tell us that home advantage usually counts for something in this fixture. While Tony Popovic and the Wanderers have a clean bill of health, Guillermo Amor must reshuffle his starting XI with Elrich still sidelined and Elsey suspended, courtesy of his 8th caution of the season. Amor may also decide to make a change in midfield after a dismal showing by George Mells, in last week’s defeat.
Nick’s tip: Western Sydney -0.25ah @1.76 (SBOBET)
Sunday, 20 March
Wellington Phoenix v Perth Glory
3:00 PM AEDT, Westpac Stadium
The convincing 3-1 win over Sydney suggests that the Nix have not booked their holidays just yet. While Wellington are all but mathematically out of the Finals race, they can still have a major role to play this season; they face top six opposition in the fixtures that remain (three of those at Westpac Stadium). Two goals in a minute, by Blake Powell and Hamish Watson, put Wellington firmly in the driver seat against a ridiculously porous Sydney outfit, last weekend. Roly Bonevacia even had time to slot in a third for good measure, just before the break. Although Wellington almost came to a standstill in the second half, they had already done more than enough to secure a rare away win. Perth’s momentum continues to gather pace as they swept aside the Mariners without getting out of third gear. Goal difference could yet play a part in deciding which team earns a home final or not. It was evident in the second half that despite playing a dispirited Mariners outfit, reduced to 9 men, Perth piled on the pressure up until the final whistle. A 4-0 result to the good and no injuries was all part of another productive day out for the Glory.
Perth travel across The Tasman without creative midfielder and set-piece specialist, Nebojsa Marinkovic, for the second week running. Diego Castro will be handed the task of providing the quality from dead ball situations, in the aforementioned’s absence. These sides met just six weeks ago, at this venue, with Chris Harold’s expertly taken header proving enough to give Perth all three points. Wellington’s home form is not good with just one win (in five) since the turn of the year. Perth have not lost at this venue since 2013 (4 matches) and one’s guess is that Kenny Lowe will be going all out for maximum points with Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC favored to pick up wins in their respective matches.
Melbourne Victory v Newcastle Jets
5:00 PM AEDT, AAMI Park
The Jets’ valiant attempt in gatecrashing the Top 6 reached it’s conclusion last week, following a 1-0 home defeat to Western Sydney. Aside from the last quarter of an hour, it was a rather flat performance by the Jets with their season on the line. Young manager, Scott Miller, had no choice but to reorganize his back 4 with Daniel Mullen and Jason Hoffman both sitting out through suspension; and boy did it show. The Jets were camped inside their own half for the majority of the game with the Wanderers getting in behind with relative ease. Although Jets keeper Mark Birighitti almost snatched an unlikely point with virtually the last kick of the game, no one can argue that the result was a fair one. Newcastle now lie 7pts behind their hosts, Melbourne Victory, with games fast running out. In what was a black mark in the history of the A-League’s most successful club, Melbourne Victory will look to quickly atone for last week’s 5-0 defeat in Brisbane. Already, Kevin Muscat’s men have taken a small step towards restoring pride with the scoreless draw against Suwon
Bluewings leaving them in a strong position, in Group G of the Asian Champions League.
The Jets have long been regarded as Melbourne Victory’s bogey side. They’ll be looking to do another number on their more illustrious opponents with Scott Miller having a full squad at his disposal. Mullen and Hoffman are likely to be reinstated in the starting XI after having served their respecive one-match bans. Barbarouses returns for the Victory while Finkler and Ben Kalfallah will be chomping at the bit due to their non-involvement in the ACL. Defensive minded duo, Daniel Georgievski and Rashid Mahazi, both sit out due to suspension.
Nick’s tip: Newcastle +1.5ah @1.82 (SBOBET)