Newcastle Jets v Melbourne Victory
Ando says: Well the Jets were upset, surprisingly on their home turf, last week against the Perth Glory. This year the Jets have made Hunter Stadium a difficult place for the opposition to travel to, yet last week they were a little off the pace against the Glory and couldn’t snatch an equaliser late in the game. They will be spurred on to avoid back-to-back slip ups at home this weekend against the Victory so be assured to see a different mentality from the home side on Friday night. The Victory, however, may be in a worse predicament as they were given a football lesson last Saturday at home to the Brisbane Roar. Being on the wrong end of a 3-0 score line on home soil and to the competition leaders is bound to batter the confidence. Nevertheless, it is how they respond to that as to how people will judge them and give us a real indication of where Kevin Muscat’s men are really at. I can’t see the deadlock being broken by the referee’s final whistle. Draw 1-1.
Bez says: In the first game of Friday night’s double header, fourth place Melbourne Victory travel north to Hunter Stadium to take on the Jets. Newcastle were disappointing last week at home with Gary van Egmond’s side suffering a 1-0 defeat at the hand of Perth. While for the Victory, they are coming off 3-0 loss at home to the Brisbane Roar. The Jets have a fantastic record over the Victory at home in which they have only lost one of the last nine games played (W6, D2). Victory will be hugely disadvantaged without Milligan, Ansell, Leijer, Pain, Geria, or Galloway in the squad, however Archie Thompson does return from injury. The last time these two sides met in early December last year, it was an impressive win for the Jets, and I think they will make it two-from-two over the Victory in season 9. Newcastle 2-1.
Perth Glory v Melbourne Heart
Ando says: The Glory will be on a high after their gutsy 1-0 win in Newcastle last weekend. They will return to nib Stadium in the hope they can build momentum off the back of that win against the high flying Jets. Their task this week is against the bottom of the league, Melbourne Heart. They may be rock bottom at present, but the Heart provided a steely performance against the A-League premiers last weekend in Gosford showing signs that they have a different attitude under new manager John van’t Schip. The former Heart manager has returned to the helm, where he was the inaugural manager of the red half of Melbourne when they entered the competition. He will look to his side to produce a similar performance across the Nullarbor, despite the travel and it being a second consecutive road trip for the Heart. The Glory is however, a difficult proposition at home at any time of the season whether in form or not. I can’t see the Heart getting anything from this match despite looking rejuvenated under van’t Schip. Glory 2-0.
Bez says: It’s hard to go past the home side in the second game on Friday night as the Heart’s record now standing at 18 consecutive matches without a win. They were poor last week against an even poorer Mariners side, in which they bombed a number of chances to record their first three points of season 9. Perth have won the last three games played between the sides at nib Stadium and have kept a clean sheet on each occasion. Midweek saw young Glory striker Chris Harold re-sign for the club after his goal last week which was enough for Perth to record a vital away win over Newcastle at Hunter Stadium. Buoyed by that performance, and the fact they are facing a side who can’t buy a win, Perth should win comfortably. Perth 2-0.
Brisbane Roar v Adelaide United
Ando Says: Last weekend, the A-League witnessed a statement of intent if we had ever seen one. The Roar pulled apart the Melbourne Victory like a chef pulling apart pork for a pulled pork roll at your local pub. The Roar simply played their opponents off the park and I’m not even sure that former manager Ange Postecoglou would have been able to stop the onslaught that unfolded at AAMI Park. They are clearly the benchmark of the competition and will be incredibly difficult to dislodge from the summit. The Reds will have their hands full at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday evening, despite remaining unbeaten for the last month. They will be disappointed to have let their grip on three points slip in their encounter with Sydney last week, despite their numerical advantage for the final third of the match. They can’t afford to do that, otherwise the Roar might hand out similar punishment to that of what the Victory was condemned to. The Roar will win this one for mine. Roar 3-0.
Bez says: Brisbane are definitely the team to beat this season, with it being hard to argue that they already have one hand on the premiers and championship trophies. They were impressive in their 3-0 rout away to Melbourne Victory and will be looking for another strong performance in front of their home fans. Adelaide on the other hand were disappointing in a 2-2 draw at home to Sydney, in which they had the extra man advantage for much of the second half. Despite last week’s capitulation, Adelaide’s performances have become better in recent weeks compared to their early season form, and head to Suncorp Stadium only having lost two of their past twelve in the Sunshine State (W5, D5). However they face their toughest test on Saturday night, and it’s one I don’t think they can overcome. Brisbane 4-1.
Western Sydney Wanderers v Sydney FC
Ando says: This clash always provides the necessary spice that a local derby should and has done for decades in football matches worldwide. This rivalry is building with every match that these arch rivals play against one another, and it will be no different this weekend at Pirtek Stadium. The Wanderers are coming off a shock home defeat to the in-form Wellington Phoenix. For the Wanderers to concede three goals despite going in front came as a surprise to all those who follow the fortunes of the Western Sydney team. You can be sure that manager Tony Popovic will not want a repeat of such a defensive display, or lack thereof. Looking at the blue half of the harbour city, and the Sky Blues will take some positives out of their clash with Adelaide United last Friday night. They salvaged a point from a match which saw them harshly reduced to ten men followed by a dubious penalty. If they can show that kind of character against a side like the Wanderers then they will go a long way to claiming a point or possibly all three from this clash. Conversely, I can’t see the WSW repeating their defensive efforts from last week. This will be a tight encounter but I think draw will prevail. Draw 1-1.
Bez says: The second instalment of the Sydney Derby for season 9, this time sees the Sky Blues head west to Pirtek Stadium. Sydney are coming off a strong performance in Adelaide in which they earned a valuable point despite being down a man during the second half. While their red & black neighbours are coming off their first home defeat this season, a surprise 3-1 loss to the Phoenix. Tony Popovic would have been none to impressed with his sides performance on New Years Day and will not want a repeat performance, especially with bragging rights on the line. Richard Garcia is out for Sydney, as too Nick Carle who is suspended. The Wanderers are yet to beat the Sky Blues at home in their derbies so far, yet I believe that will change on Saturday night. Western Sydney 2-1.
Wellington Phoenix v Central Coast Mariners
Ando says: Football is funny game and the Phoenix are certainly milking the humour out of playing it at present. They have won three on the bounce, with the biggest of the victories coming against the Wanderers at Parramatta last weekend. Considering that Ernie Merrick’s men couldn’t buy a win a month ago, it must be said that the Phoenix are on cloud nine at the moment. Stein Huysegums is scoring goals for fun and they look like a brand new outfit who have finally clicked into gear with Merrick’s system. The Mariners have hit a rough patch of late. They have lost Michael McGlinchy after he followed former mentor Graham Arnold to the Land of the Rising Sun. Then they dropped points at home last week to the bottom of the table Melbourne Heart, managing only one shot on target. They will need to find a way of getting out of this rut at present, and what would have been a relatively easy assignment a month ago isn’t so now. The Phoenix to go four on the bounce. Phoenix 1-0.
Bez says: The Mariners currently sit third, Wellington ninth, yet each side’s form does not match their current table standings. Central Coast were woeful at home last week to the Melbourne Heart with little to no attacking options going forward, it seems life without Marcos Flores and Michael McGlinchey could be tough for the reigning champions. They are unbeaten in their last five at the ‘Cake Tin’ (W4, D1), however form counts for a lot, and at the moment Wellington have it in spades. They have won their last three matches including their impressive come from behind victory away to Western Sydney on New Year’s Day. That win on the first day of 2014 could just be the kick start Ernie Merrick’s side needs to move themselves further up the ladder in the second half of this season. Bernie Ibini returns for the Mariners after a failed spell in China, however I don’t think he will be enough to help his side overcome the Phoenix. Wellington 2-1.