The following are previews with betting tips for Round 18 of the 2016/17 A-League season.
Brisbane Roar v Sydney FC
7:50 PM AEDT, Suncorp Stadium
Corey Brown returns from suspension after missing out on Brisbane’s 2-1 triumph over Western Sydney.
Recent goal hero, Brandon Borrello, misses out for the hosts after accumulating his fifth caution of the season.
Premiers elect Sydney FC welcome the return of right full-back Rhyan Grant from suspension.
It’s the left back’s turn to miss out this week as Michael Zullo sits out following his caution against Victory.
If playing undefeated Sydney FC wasn’t a tough task in itself, Brisbane will need to push through the pain barrier as well, tackling their third match in less than a week. Confidence though is sky high in the orange camp as they look to extend a run of 3 wins on the trot.
Following their much anticipated Top 2 clash against Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC all but sealed the Premiership plate with a 2-1 win. It wasn’t the most polished of performances but the Sky Blues’ lead, over their nearest competitor, stands at 11 points.
Graham Arnold expects high standards from his men. Following a thorough week on the training pitch, I expect Sydney FC to win in style with Brisbane having one eye on the ACL fixture in China, on Wednesday.
Nick’s tip: Sydney FC -0.25ah @2.09 (Matchbook)
Wellington Phoenix v Western Sydney Wanderers
5:35 PM AEDT, Yarrow Stadium
Towering centre-back, Marco Rossi, returns from suspension to bolster the home side’s defensive stocks.
Ryan Lowry is likely to make way for the Italian after a somewhat shaky defensive showing, in the 2-2 draw in Adelaide.
After previous stints with Newcastle Jets and most recently with Adelaide United, veteran striker Ryan Griffiths joins the Wanderers till season’s end. Centre-back, Aritz Borda, returns after serving a 3 match suspension.
In a shock omission, Mitch Nichols will not travel with the squad to New Zealand. Terry Antonis is in line for a starting debut following an impressive cameo against Brisbane.
Despite the 15 minute intervaled water breaks during the 2-2 draw with Adelaide, it was reported that several Nix players suffered with heat exhaustion. Des Buckingham and his charges would be glad for the much cooler climes of New Plymouth, a good 350km North West of Wellington.
With the start of the ACL campaign less than three weeks away, Tony Popovic has a tough task on his hands with the domestic season falling way short of expectations, so far. The last gasp 2-1 defeat to Brisbane, following a Verdran Janjetovic howler, would of been a bitter pill to swallow but there were some encouraging signs.
Nick’s tip: Over 2.5 goals @1.8 (Pinnacle)
Melbourne Victory v Melbourne City
7:50 PM AEDT, Etihad Stadium
James Donachie misses out following his red card offense on Sydney FC skipper Alex Brosque, in the 2-1 defeat at The Allianz.
Nick Ansell will get his chance to impress, alongside Alan Baro, in Donachie’s absence. German import, Max Beister, is away on compassionate leave.
With just one cleansheet in nine, Melbourne City promote Manny Muscat to the matchday squad. Ruon Tongyik is pushing for a recall to the Starting XI after impressing in his displays to date.
Josh Rose pays the price for some slack performances, dropped completely from the squad.
Just when Melbourne Victory looked like mounting a serious challenge for the Premiership, 3 defeats on the bounce leaves them looking over their collective shoulders as they aim to lock down second place. There’s no better cure for a bad run than a big win in the Melbourne Derby.
City huffed and puffed at Newcastle but failed to make their territorial advantage count on the scoreline, losing 2-1. Their slow build-up, sideways/backward style of football has proved easy to defend against for opposition sides. If it’s not Tim Cahill’s aerial prowess or Bruno Fornaroli from the spot, then Melbourne City’s avenues to goal are close to zilch.
Nick’s tip: Melbourne Victory -0.25ah @2.01 (Marathon)
Perth Glory v Newcastle Jets
8:00 PM AEDT, nib Stadium
Club captain Rostyn Griffiths returns to lead Perth after his sending off in the reverse fixture against the Jets, three weeks ago. Reserve keeper Nick Feely will get a rare chance to impress between the sticks following Liam Reddy’s calamitous sending off against the Mariners.
It will be interesting to see whether wantaway defender, Rhys Williams, gets some minutes. Williams is included in the matchday squad for the first time since his collapsed move to Sydney FC.
Jets welcome back midfielder Wayne Brown after recovering sufficiently from a hip flexor.
With in-form midfielder Steven Ugarkovic missing out through suspension, Brown may be deployed in a more defensive role.
Perth will still be licking their wounds following the 2-0 defeat to lowly Central Coast. In one of the misses of the season, Adam Taggart squandered a golden chance to put his side in front, on the stroke of half-time. Thereafter, Perth were clearly second best. Kenny Lowe may need to change his tact with the Jets expert exponents of the counter-attack.
The Jets can take a big stride towards a finals berth with a win over fifth-placed Perth. Scott Miller’s men showed true grit in defense and no shortage of style on the break, in the 2-1 win over Melbourne City, as they look to defy everyone’s pre-season predictions of mediocrity. The visitors go into this with the knowledge that they defeated Perth at this venue, a little less than 2 months ago.
Nick’s tip: Over 2.75 goals @1.68 (Matchbook)
Central Coast Mariners v Adelaide United
5:00 PM AEDT, GIO Stadium
A-League bad boy and Mariners top marksman, Roy O’Donovan, returns from suspension for the clash in Canberra.
Central Coast manager, Paul Okon, will feel that he has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal with Josh Bingham scoring in the Irishman’s absence.
Marcelo Carrusca leads a host of players who are available for the ‘Battle of the Wooden Spoon’. The Argentine has had another stop start season blighted with injury.
Just 13 appearances and three goals later, tricky forward Henrique has departed for pastures new. The ‘Slippery fish’, as he is known, departs for Thai club Chiangrai United. In more bad news for the luckless reigning champs, Ryan Kitto is out for up to two months with a hamstring tear.
Central Coast will feel they still have a realistic chance of gatecrashing the Top 6, following perhaps their most accomplished performance for many a season. Some of their combination play, especially in the second-half, was a joy to be hold as they dismantled visiting Perth Glory.
Adelaide United battled hard in the scorching heat against Wellington, even with 10 men, but had scant reward for their efforts. With the A-League finals realistically out of reach, the Reds do have an opportunity to build towards next season and beyond. Youngster, Riley McGree, caught the eye with a well taken goal and a mature display that belied his tender years. There is also the Asian Champions League campaign to work towards.
Paul Okon’s hard labour at Central Coast may be starting to bear fruit. I expect them to continue their rise against an Adelaide side yet to win on their travels.
Nick’s tip: Central Coast 0.25ah @2.39 (Pinnacle)