The following are previews with betting tips for Round 25 of the 2015/16 A-League season.
Friday, 25 March
Melbourne Victory v Western Sydney Wanderers
7:40 PM AEDT, AAMI Park
In what always serves up a tasty contest and cup final atmosphere, Victory host league leaders Western Sydney in what is a crucial game for both sides. Victory find themselves in a tussle to even make the Top 6 which is quite a surprise considering they have taken all before them (3 trophies) in the last 12 months. The loss of form of certain key players and the long-term injury of midfielder Carl Valeri has really set the reigning league and FFA Cup champions firmly back on their heels. Although the Victory are undefeated in the ACL, their home form continues to disappoint. Last weekend’s 1-1 draw against a 10-man Jets outfit, for the best part of an hour, was not the response Kevin Muscat was yearning for after the 5-0 thumping in Brisbane, a fortnight ago. In fact, Newcastle created the better opportunities despite playing with a man less. The Wanderers, and their throng of passionate supporters, will stride into Melbourne in a confident mood as they look to put some space between themselves and the chasing pack, at the pointy end of the league table. Wanderers gaffer, Tony Popovic, will look at last week’s scoreless draw, against Adelaide United, as two points dropped as his side laid siege on the opposition’s goal but found Eugene Galekovic and the “Football Gods” in a stubborn mood.
Hopefully, both sets of supporters leave their flares behind this time round, after the A-League’s brand was tarnished in the corresponding fixture back in February. Turning to football matters, Kevin Muscat has a headache of sorts with half his back four absent – Jason Geria is in line to make his debut for the Socceroos, against Tajikistan, while Nick Ansell remains out with a quad strain. After serving his one-match suspension, Daniel Georgievski will likely fill the right-back role, in Geria’s absence, while youngster Thomas Deng will continue to deputize for Ansell. The Wanderers are at full strength and go in as slight favourites despite their record of just one away win in 5, against the Victory.
Nick’s tip: Western Sydney 0ah @2.01 (SBOBET)
Saturday, 26 March
Newcastle Jets v Perth Glory
5:15 PM AEDT, Hunter Stadium
The Jets go into this match with a keen eye on Friday’s fixture, hopeful that Melbourne Victory lose to Western Sydney to keep their slim finals hopes alive. If Victory are triumphant, the Jets are mathematically out of the running before they’ve even kicked a ball against form side of the competition, Perth Glory. If that’s the case, Jets gaffer Scott Miller will be ruing last week’s result at AAMI Park. It was simply a game they deserved to win, despite Daniel Mullen seeing red on 39 minutes for a second bookable offense. Unlike their hosts, Perth have their destiny in their own hands (feet) as they look to secure a Top 4 spot and the reward of a home final, at the very least. Last week, the Glory stretched their impressive recent run of form to 8 wins from their last 9 with a comfortable 2-1 win in Wellington. Although Tom Doyle’s cracker in the dying stages made for a slightly nervy finish, Perth were winners from a long way out. Kenny Lowe must be rubbing his hands with glee at the form of striker, Andy Keogh, with the Irishman’s sweeping strike passed Glen Moss marking six consecutive matches on the scorer’s sheet.
There’s no doubt that the result of Friday’s match will have a knock on affect, in terms of the psyche of the home side. One thing’s for sure, the Jets will be short of a centre-back as Daniel Mullen serves a one-match suspension. Lachlan Jackson is likely to fill the void as he has done on numerous occasions in the past. The good news for Perth is that set-piece master, Nebojsa Marinkovic, returns to wave that magic wand of a right foot. The bad news is that full-back of the year, Josh Risdon, is unavailable as he joins up with the Socceroos in their bid for World Cup Finals qualification. The last time Perth were in the Hunter region, they walloped the Jets 6-1. Although a similar scoreline is unlikely, Perth are rightful favourites going into this.
Nick’s tip: Perth -0.25ah @1.72 (SBOBET)
Brisbane Roar v Sydney FC
7:30 PM AEDT, Suncorp Stadium
Brisbane will aim to get back to winning ways after a second half collapse led to a 3-1 loss at Melbourne City, last week. Things seemed to be going to script, up until half-time at least, when Dimi Petratos scored one of the goals of the season to put the Roar in front. Almost instantly, the hosts picked up the pace and there were signs even before the break that City were getting a firm grip on the game. The pressure told on 54 minutes when Jack Hingert, already sitting on a caution, pulled back at Bruno Fornaroli in the penalty area to leave his team a man short with parity restored. By this time, “the river had well and truly broken its banks” as Brisbane were overwhelmed by City’s wave after wave of attacks, conceding two late goals. No one’s got it as bad as Sydney FC after the Sky Blues, almost embarrassingly, let a two goal lead slip against the sorry Mariners to draw 2-2. Graham Arnold’s decision to opt for a two-pronged attack paid dividends early on as young striker, George Blackwood, scored his first senior goal while Shane Smeltz doubled Sydney’s lead on the stroke of half-time. Sydney could of been four or five clear before O’Donovan pulled one back for the home side. With confidence at an all time low, it was almost inevitable that Arnold’s men would concede again and so they did, in calamitous circumstances, as Vedran Janjetovic failed to deal with a rather tame shot on goal.
For a club the size and clout of Sydney FC, it is almost unimaginable that they should find themselves in this predicament. 3 points behind and an inferior goal difference of 3 goals to that of Melbourne Victory, Sydney need to make every post a winner from now on in and hope for a slip up from their old rivals. Roar won’t be doing them any favours with the premiership plate within reach, trailing league leaders Western Sydney by a solitary point. The Roar should have the cattle to compensate for the absence of captain Matty McKay (Socceroos duty) and Jack Hingert (suspended) with Steven Lustica and Shane Stefanutto likely replacements. The Sky Blues have two big ins with Ninkovic and Jurman both returning from injury. It’s difficult to make a case for an upset with the visitors winless in their last 9 outings.
Nick’s tip: Over 2.75 goals @1.88 (SBOBET)
Sunday, 27 March
Adelaide United v Central Coast Mariners
5:00 PM AEDT, Coopers Stadium
Adelaide United could not have hoped for a better fixture at this time of the season as they host cellar dwellers Central Coast. Even the most ardent Reds supporter would tell you that they were far from their best last week, in the scoreless draw at title rivals Western Sydney. The woodwork came to their rescue on several occasions while old stalwart and club captain, Eugene Galekovic, was in stellar form in keeping the gate closed. In what is the final game of the regular season, at Coopers Stadium, the Mariners will be looking to play the role of party poopers with nothing but pride at stake. No one, even their own manager Neil Walmsley, would of envisioned the events that took place in Gosford last week. The unexpected 2-2 draw against Sydney FC was the Mariners’ first point of any sort since late January.
Reds manager, Guillermo Amor, would of been at his players all week as they can’t afford a slip up of Sydney FC proportions with potential silverware on the line. Aside from the long term absence of wing-back Tarek Elrich, Adelaide United are back up to full strength with the return of Marcelo Carrusca, Jordan Elsey, and super sub Pablo Sanchez. The Mariners, buoyed by their late comeback last week, can go to Adelaide thinking they have half a chance with Luis Garcia and Mitch Austin both returning from suspension. As I’ve pointed out in previous weeks, goal difference could easily determine the destination of the premiers plate, taking into account the closeness of the top 4. Central Coast could be in for a long, hard night.
Monday, 28 March
Melbourne City v Wellington Phoenix
7:30 PM AEDT, AAMI Park
Just as John van’t Schip seems to have got his Melbourne City side purring along nicely, he loses two of his most influential “chess pieces” to international duty. More on that later. Last week’s 3-1 win against league leaders Brisbane proved that City has what it takes to go all the way this season. In times gone by, the Melbourne City of old were considered a soft touch and often went back into their shell when faced with adversity. Not this lot. After conceding a goal slightly against the run of play, Melbourne City turned on the style, bombarding Roar senseless down both flanks while usual suspects Mooy, Fornarolli, and Novillo worked their magic in more central areas. With finals football out of reach and two home games to come, Wellington travel to Australian shores for the final time this season. Following a win in Sydney a fortnight ago, the Nix continued their “Win one, lose the next” streak of recent weeks after going down 2-1 to a more superior outfit in Perth Glory. Shirts were well and truly on in the Yellow Fever end of the stadium but at least Tom Doyle gave them something to shout about with a rasping shot that sailed into the back of the net, from a tight angle.
Last week, we got a glimpse of what Melbourne City can do when they are at full strength, and on top of their game. They passed that test with flying colours. This week, we get to see the squad strength of Melbourne City with Aaron Mooy and Alex Wilkinson lining up for the Green and Gold. After his debut goal in a City shirt last week, Anthony Caceres is favourite to fill the rather big shoes of Mooy while Connor Chapman may be given the nod in central defense. Meanwhile, Wellington continued their raid of Melbourne Victory with Kostas Barbarouses (signed last week) joined by fellow team mate Gui Finkler in agreeing terms with the Nix for next season. In further good news for the visitors, fleet footed striker Roy Krishna is back in the squad after two months out with an ankle injury. This looms as a real danger game for City despite Wellington’s poor record at this venue.
Nick’s tip: Wellington 1ah @1.89 (SBOBET)