Brisbane Roar v Melbourne Heart:
Last weekend Brisbane Roar sealed their third Premiers’ Plate, albeit in the dying embers of their clash with the Melbourne Victory. The result took some pressure off the Roar, whilst throwing the Victory back in the mix with the Mariners and Wanderers for second place.
Last ditch results like these show the resolve that Roar’s playing group has at present, and exactly why they are the clear benchmark in the league. Their precision movement, both on and off the football, in tandem with the exquisite speed at which they play their game, and you have a lethal combination as most of the opposition have found this season.
As for the Melbourne Heart, a wonder goal from Dutch maestro Orlando Engelaar wasn’t enough to knock off the Mariners and in the process saw their finals hopes slip that little bit more away from their fingertips. They are now dependent on some results in the coming weeks to go their way and it is never a great predicament to be in, especially when you are travelling to the home of the Premiers and two-time A-League champions.
The Roar will want to keep the momentum going into the finals and therefore won’t take their foot off the pedal. In turn, they may very well put the Heart’s campaign to make the finals to arrest, to excuse the pun. Roar 2-1.
Central Coast Mariners v Western Sydney Wanderers:
This match definitely has the most riding on it this weekend. These two sides are separated are by two points and sit two spots apart, essentially making it a ‘six-pointer’ at this stage in the season.
The Mariners are coming off a hard-fought 2-1 win down at AAMI Park against Heart, which effectively extinguished Heart’s hopes of the finals. The Mariners showed the steely resolve we have come to know over many years, showing exactly why they are reigning champions.
They never gave up despite falling behind and pushed right to the end of that clash, which exactly the attitude that they need to start presenting more often if they are to make a serious play in retaining the coveted and affectionately named ‘toilet seat’. Wanderers, however, will have plenty to say when they travel to Bluetongue Stadium on Saturday evening.
Wanderers have a decent record on their travels to Gosford and will take a level of confidence into this clash after a 3-0 win over Perth last Sunday, in addition to their Asian Champions League victory from mid-week.
They have the runs on the board of late, and are also starting to show exactly why they have to be considered the real deal when it comes to title contention. This will be a cracker and a difficult fixture to pick. It will be high scoring though. Draw 2-2.
Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC:
Regardless of where these two sides sit whenever they meet, there’s a fierce rivalry and always provides for a fiery encounter. Ensuring entertain to the respective sets of fans as well as the neutral.
The last time Sydney FC travelled south of the border to face the arch-nemesis on Australia Day, they prevailed in emphatic fashion with a 5-0 win. Victory manager Kevin Muscat will be hoping and aiming to ensure that a repeat of that performance is not put out once again.
Circumstances have changed somewhat since that encounter, with the Victory now well and truly entrenched in their ACL group stage campaign and in the process have found a greater level of consistency, despite their last gasp defeat to the Roar last weekend. They sit equal third with the Mariners and only four points above their opponent for this weekend.
The Sky Blues in contrast, were poor in Adelaide last Friday night, as they continued to turn over possession regular and were simply outplayed throughout the clash, both on and off the ball. They need to show more ruthlessness when they have the ball, in particular in front of goal, and more importantly when they don’t.
This clash will definitely have some spice as the Big Blue generally does, but Sydney may just have the psychological edge after their last result in January. Sydney 2-1.
Wellington Phoenix v Adelaide United:
These two sides are in contrasting situations at present and it is literally every point counting for differing reasons.
Let’s start with the boys from across the Tasman. Phoenix are coming off an absolute belting at Hunter Stadium last weekend, where they conceded five in the process and are now in a similar predicament as the Heart.
They are now dependent on other sides to provide the favours they need, and I doubt they are going to get any assistance from anyone at this stage of the season and with the log jam we have in the middle of the A-League table. The Phoenix really need to keep winning and allow fate to guide them to a finals berth at the expense of possibly the side they face this weekend, Adelaide United.
The Reds were clinical in the disposal of Sydney FC last Friday night and should they repeat that performance, they will go along way to taking the three points at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington. Sitting in fifth position and with three rounds left, a win this weekend would all but seal their place in the A-League finals in Josep Gombau’s debut season.
The last time these two sides, Adelaide were rampant in a 5-1 demolition at Coopers (Hindmarsh) Stadium. However, the last time Adelaide travelled across the ditch, they were surprising losers at Auckland’s Eden Park.
Will the déjà vu occur in the Reds’ travels, or will Adelaide take another step closer to the finals and extinguish the rise of the Phoenix for good? Adelaide 1-0.
Newcastle Jets v Perth Glory:
The Jets returned to form last weekend against a hapless Wellington side in the Hunter, with a 5-0 win the tonic required for Newcastle to go on a run into the finals with just three rounds remaining.
With this being their last home game of the season, the Jets will need, not just want, to capitalise on their home ground advantage when they face the bottom-placed Perth Glory on Sunday evening. This is a crucial fixture in the quest to join another five teams in the final series and failure to claim all three points in this clash will be have to be seen as nothing other than a disaster.
Glory are travelling to the eastern seaboard to face the Jets with nothing other than pride to play for as their chances are gone to play finals football this season. It is ultimately about a number of players playing for their futures at the club, and I guess for some, their careers.
They have been poor throughout the entire campaign, with an inability to value possession being the key ingredient to their failures. With the Jets having much more to play for this weekend, can only lean one way. Newcastle 3-0.