Adelaide United travel to Sydney to face the Sky Blues on Saturday knowing that there is little room for error in their chase for a top six berth, with only goal difference currently ensuring their finals place. The scramble for the finals will pick up now with only ten matches remaining, and Adelaide Coach Josep Gombau indicated that the team understood the gravity of the upcoming matches, declaring their remaining games to be like finals.
The 2-1 loss to the Phoenix ended the Reds’ seven match unbeaten run. The score line flattered United as Wellington missed several chances to increase their lead, and the Reds only pulled a goal back late in stoppage time. The loss was a costly one, as the three points on offer would have pushed United into fourth place. The Reds are now in sixth place, and if results go against them this weekend, could find themselves lying in eighth spot on the ladder.
Adelaide struggled to convert their dominance of possession into clear cut chances, with just two efforts on target all match against the Phoenix. For most of the game, the Reds’ midfield was unable to break down a stubborn Wellington rearguard that has looked increasingly solid in recent weeks.
Marcelo Carrusca was unable to control the game against Wellington in the way that he so often does, and United will be hoping he bounces back to top form against Sydney. Nick Carle, who has committed the league’s most fouls as his direct opponent, Carrusca will fancy his chances. Carle was also sent off for a second yellow when the sides last met at Coopers Stadium on January 3rd.
Adelaide did have some good news this week, with former United player Michael Marrone rejoining the club, as Steven Lustica was released and joined his former side, Brisbane Roar. Marrone, 27, is included in the squad for Saturday’s match and should provide an upgrade at right back on Daniel Bowles, who has been dropped following his poor performance against the Phoenix.
Michael Zullo also returns from injury, meaning that Tarek Elrich could return to his more natural position of right back, leaving Marrone on the bench. There is also the option of deploying Marrone in a defensive midfield role and moving Osama Malik to centre back, where he has improved throughout the season.
Marrone’s signing gives United more options in defence and midfield than they had previously and Gombau welcomed this, stating:
“I think that he can bring to us a lot of possibilities…He is a player that can play in different positions and these kind of players are always welcome.”
Spanish winger Sergio Cirio also joins the squad this week after missing out on last round’s clash with a late setback. Two players are set to be omitted from the squad and with his fitness still questionable, there is the chance that Gombau will decide against his inclusion.
Long-term absentee Cassio is still out for an unknown period of time, while Jacob Melling is back in light training and is a few weeks away from being available for selection.
Sydney come into the game on the back of a hugely disappointing result away to Melbourne Heart, losing 2-1 despite the Heart being reduced to ten men for the majority of the match. Sydney managed to take the lead before falling victim to a comeback from the ten men of Heart.
Despite the poor result last round, there has been good news for Sydney this week with the re-signings of Nikola Petkovic and Ali Abbas, deals which will see them both remain at the club until the end of the 2015/16 season. Experienced former Socceroo defender Sasa Ognenovski has also signed with the club as he hopes to push for a World Cup berth.
“Bringing Sasa in, particularly after releasing (Pascal) Bosschaart and Tiago (Calvano), we were a little bit thin (in defence),” said Farina, who has previously worked with Ognenovski at Brisbane Roar.
“He’s a great one to pick up with his experience in Asia, here in the A-League and with the national team.
“He’s got a goal of getting to the World Cup, so he’s got every incentive to do well.”
34-year-old Ognenovski will go straight into the squad for Saturdays’ game and could claim a starting berth, fitness permitting. Richard Garcia misses out with an ankle injury, as do Pedj Bojic (back) and Terry McFlynn (quad). Rhyan Grant and Peter Triantis have longer term injuries.
The biggest problem for Sydney FC this season has been consistency, or rather the lack of it. The Sky Blues need to address this issue fast with the two sides directly above them on the table, Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne Victory, meeting this weekend. Adelaide went on a seven game unbeaten streak but now need an immediate response to last week’s setback. Can they do it?
Central Coast face Victory on Saturday evening before Sydney and Adelaide take the field, and if the Mariners prevail, the Sydney and Adelaide contest becomes all the more important with fourth spot on the line. Although there is still a long way to go in this season, finishing fourth guarantees a home final and a significant advantage to boot.
The race for the top six, and top four, is well and truly on now. But who will take the lead this weekend?
Sydney FC squad: 1.Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 2.Seb RYALL, 4.Ranko DESPOTOVIC, 5.Matt JURMAN, 6.Nikola PETKOVIC, 9.Corey GAMEIRO, 10.Alessandro DEL PIERO (c), 13.Sasa OGNENOVSKI, 14.Mitch MALLIA, 19.Nick CARLE, 20.Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk), 21.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 22.Ali ABBAS, 24.Hagi GLIGOR, 25.Daniel PETKOVSKI, 28.Matt THOMPSON, 29.Alec UROSEVSKI, 35.Dylan CATON
**two to be omitted**
Ins: 13.Sasa OGNENOVSKI (new signing),14.Mitch MALLIA (promoted), 35.Dylan CATON (promoted)
Outs: 11.Richard GARCIA (ankle injury – 1 week)
Unavailable: Rhyan GRANT (knee – season), Peter TRIANTIS (groin – indefinite), Pedj BOJIC (back – 2 weeks), Terry MCFLYNN (quad – 2 weeks)
Adelaide United squad: 1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (GK) (c), 2.Michael MARRONE, 3.Nigel BOOGAARD, 4.Jon McKAIN, 5.Osama MALIK, 7.JERONIMO, 8.ISAIAS, 9.Sergio CIRIO, 10.Marcelo CARRUSCA, 11.Bruce DJITE, 14.Cameron WATSON, 17.Awer MABIL,18.Michael ZULLO, 20.Paul IZZO (GK), 21.Tarek ELRICH, 22.Fabio FERREIRA, 23.Jordan ELSEY, 31.Ryan GRIFFITHS,
**Two to be omitted**
Ins: 2.Michael MARRONE (new signing, subject to international transfer clearance) 9.Sergio CIRIO (promoted), 18. Michael ZULLO,(returns from injury),
Outs: 16.Daniel BOWLES (omitted)
Unavailable: 6.CASSIO (hamstring tendon – indefinite), 15.Jacob MELLING (knee – 3 weeks)