It’s that time of the week already, as we countdown to another round of exciting A-League action.
Time sure flies when you’re covering a football league on the other side of the world…
There’s some fantastic clashes this week, so let’s get stuck in and see what awaits us in MW11!
Adelaide United v Newcastle Jets – 8:35am BT Sport 2
Adelaide will be full of confidence heading in to this Friday fixture, having secured two massive 3 – 2 wins over teams at the top of the table. Stefan Mauk has been particularly troublesome for team in the last couple of weeks, and there was a dream return for Craig Goodwin against Western Sydney Wanderers too.
The Jets were unbeaten in five before their 2 – 0 defeat to then bottom placed Wellington Phoenix on the weekend and will have been frustrated by their inability to break down the ‘Nix, despite having plenty of chances.
The Reds have weathered a couple of second half collapses in recent weeks, and the Jets will look to pressure an Adelaide defence that has conceded the most goals in the A-League so far. The visitors have attempted the third most shots in the league (151), but capitalising on them is an issue, having scored just eight goals in 20 games. On-loan Ramy Najjarine is missing through injury, and they are clearly missing his creative spark. The pressure will be on Ugargovic to create opportunities, and Valentino Yuel, who has scored four of their eight, to finish them if they hope to come away with something against a resurgent Reds.
Brisbane Roar v Sydney FC – 6:05am BT Sport 1
If you’re getting some déjà vue here, don’t worry…
Brisbane welcome Sydney just two weeks on from their 0 – 0 draw at the Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, and will be hoping to capitalise on a run of poor form from the reigning Premiers, who currently sit ninth on the ladder.
Both teams will be looking to bounce back from defeats in the previous round, though the Roar will be happy to have broken their goal drought in their loss to Perth.
Dylan Wenzel-Halls has looked dangerous in recent outings. He’s been creating chances and getting in to the right positions, but just can’t find the back of the net… you feel he just needs a bit of luck to go his way to get him firing again. With the pressure of the goal drought lifted, Warren Moon will be hoping to see his young striker return to the score sheet this week.
I don’t know what Sydney have done to offend the crossbar, but it has well and truly turned against the Sky Blues. I’ve lost count of how many times Kosta Barbarouses has clattered shots off the posts over the last few weeks, and similarly to Dylan Wenzel-Halls, you feel the New Zealander just needs some luck to go his way.
Sydney were the better side for the first half hour against Macarthur, but Retre’s red card killed off their hopes of a comeback in last week’s derby. Having played three games in eight days, fatigue has certainly played its part in their drop off and with another game coming up in this round, head coach Steve Corica faces a juggling act to try and get the best out of a tired squad.
If Brisbane can find their shooting boots, this could be another tough one for Sydney FC.
Melbourne Victory v Melbourne City – 8:10am BT Sport 1
This could be a very painful Melbourne derby for the Victory.
Something has clicked at City in the last few rounds, and that front three of Craig Noone, Jamie Maclaren and Andre Nabbout have been an absolutely devastating combination up top.
You certainly can’t accuse Grant Brebner’s men of lacking heart, having battled back from 3 – 1 down against Western United, but to lose to a ten man Green and Black with the final kick of the game must have been absolutely soul destroying for the Victory players.
Max Crocombe has put in some sterling performances for the Big V, but despite the Kiwi international’s best efforts, they have still conceded 12 goals in their last five games.
Rooted to the bottom of the ladder again, and with a poor defensive record, you have to worry for a Victory side coming up against an in-from Maclaren who has now bagged seven goals in eight appearances.
City assistant coach Des Buckingham was full of praise for the Socceroo and the hard work he has been putting in to lead the front line. It’s certainly paying off, and the lethal front man is my ‘One to Watch’ this week!
Wellington Phoenix v Perth Glory – 5.05am BT Sport 3
Wellington kick off Wollongong Appreciation Month in style on Sunday, with a double header at the WIN Stadium. Wollongong Wolves will face Manly United in an NPL clash before the ‘Nix take on Perth in what is set to be a fantastic day of footie for supporters.
Ufuk Taulay’s counterattacking set up paid dividends against the Jets last week, and the Phoenix will be looking to throw as many bodies behind the ball in a bid to shut out the record breaking goalscorers at the Glory’s disposal.
The Jets couldn’t find the creative spark to break through the brick wall defence, but you would expect that the Glory have enough magic sprinkled throughout their side that they should be able to create something here.
With Neil Kilkenny’s vision and dead-ball skills, a seemingly ageless Diego Castro, the mazey runs of Nick D’Agostino and the new threat of Kosuke Ota on the left flank, there are plenty of different ways for Perth to look to find a way to create chances for Bruno Fornaroli to put away.
The Kiwi outfit have shown a blend of patience, discipline, gamesmanship and maturity beyond their years over the last few weeks, and will certainly not make it an easy task for the visitors.
Western United v Western Sydney Wanderers – 7:10am BT Sport 3
Western Sydney Wanderers seem to be on the slide, and will be looking to avoid a third defeat in a row when they head to Ballarat this week.
Carl Robinson’s side have only managed to pick up one win since the 19th January and the head coach seems to be unsure of his best 11, especially in attack where they have so much depth. Mitch Duke has looked good since his return, but will take time to really get back up to full sharpness.
United on the other hand are playing fantastic football, and have won three of their last five, doubling their goal tally along the way. Iker Guarrotxena, Victor Sanchez and Allessandro Diamanti are all enjoying a particularly rich vein of form. Besart Berisha has rolled back the years and is playing like a young, well, like a young Besart Berisha, and you would expect him to pose a threat to a Wanderers backline that has conceded ten goals in their last five games.
Central Coast Mariners v Macarthur FC – 8:05am BT Sport 1
TOP OF THE TABLE CLASH KLAXON!
With the Mariners finishing bottom of the ladder and Macarthur not even being in the A-League last season, you’d be forgiven for being surprised to see either of these two sides at the top of the league, let alone both.
League leading Central Coast welcome the second placed debutants to the Central Coast Stadium for my Game of the Week.
Solid at the back and lethal going forward thanks in part to the emergence of Alou Kuol who has bagged six goals despite starting just four times, the Mariners sit four points clear at the top of the ladder.
Macarthur have enjoyed a fantastic start to their first season in the A-League, and I have to admit, they’re one of my favourite teams to watch.
They lead the league in shots (162), passes (5,531) and passing accuracy (85%), and share the clean sheet record (4) with the Mariners while on an individual level, Matt Derbyshire is currently tied with Melbourne City’s Jamie Maclaren at the front of the Golden Boot race. With a “tiki taka” style approach and a focus on retaining possession and passing to create chances, the Bulls offer something a little different from other teams in the league, and have shown a willingness and ability to be patient, and utilise their comfort on the ball in possession to strangle the life out of games, as Beñat did so effectively in the Sydney Derby last week.
Macarthur were on the losing end of this fixture back in MW2, so it will be interesting to see how this one plays out now the Bulls have had more games and experience under their belt.
Sydney FC v Western United – 8:05am BT Sport 1
You’ve got to feel a bit sorry for Sydney.
The games just keep on coming for the Premiers, and they come up against another in form side who have love to play fast, attacking football. I’ve already sung the praises of the Green and Black’s in form attackers, and it will be interesting to see how United head coach Mark Rudan manages his squad for the two fixtures this week, as despite their youthful performances, age is not on the side of Bes and Diamanti, and you expect they will need to be managed accordingly.
Sydney are struggling to create chances, with no player setting up more than one goal so far, and most of their opportunities come from of 20 year old full back Joel King, who leads the way for Sydney (18) in chances created and crosses (32).
Things don’t get much better when they are through on goal either.
Kosta Barbarouses has let loose nearly as many shots (21) as the leading goal scorers, and more than United’s Besart Berisha (17), but has found the back of he net just three times, one of those coming from the penalty spot. Veteran Bobô, who had been so prolific in his previous spell in the Sky Blue shirt, has managed just two shots on target in the three games since his return to Sydney.
18 year old Patrick Wood has been a bright spark since stepping up from the Sydney NPL side, and certainly has a goal in him. He bagged 11 in 13 for the reserve side, and has already equalled Barbarouses goal count this season, netting three times with five shots on target, however, it’s a lot of pressure to put on a youngster if you expect them to lead the line in a title defence in their first season with the senior squad.