Another round of A-League action is almost upon us once again!
There are some big games this week as we approach the half-way point mark, so let’s take a look at what’s in store for the twelve teams.
Melbourne City v Macarthur FC 8:00am – BT Sport 1
Melbourne City will be brimming with confidence after their record-breaking victory in the Melbourne Derby last week. Despite a slow start to the season, Paddy Kisnorbo’s side has really begun to hit their stride, winning all their games since their 1 – 0 loss to Newcastle back in early February. With league leading goalscorer Jamie Maclaren up top and Craig Noone and Andrew Nabbout out wide, they have one of the most formidable front lines in the league right now and their 6 – 0 demolition of the Victory will only provide further fuel for their ascent up the A-League ladder.
Macarthur have been enjoying a phenomenal start to their debut season. The Bulls have put together an impressive, technically gifted squad that have helped them reach the lofty heights of second place on the ladder as we approach the mid-way point of the season.
Macarthur like to keep the ball, retaining possession and calmly work their way up the pitch to create their chances. They have attempted (6,157) and completed (86%) the most passes in the A-League and in Basque midfielder Beñat, they have an experienced head who is comfortable on the ball (729 passes in 11 appearanes) and provide key, creative passes (28 chances created, 3 assists) from the middle of the park.
The Bulls have a clear vision of how they want to play football, however, their inability, on unwillingness, to alter their style of play has proven to be their undoing at times. They were unable to dictate their style of play at the Central Coast Stadium on Monday night, with the Mariners pressing early to disrupt their passing game, before sitting back and hitting them on the counter, and the Macarthur players became visibly frustrated as the game wore on.
In his post match press conference, Ante Milicic made it abundantly clear that his side had no intention of playing a more direct style, and their compact set up has stung before by sides beating them out wide and punishing them on the break (see their 4 – 1 humbling at the hands of Western United), so it will be interesting to see how Macarthur cope with the pace of Noone and Nabbout out wide.
Sydney FC v Newcastle Jets 6:00am – BT Sport 1
Sydney FC have not had the best start to their title defence so far, but finally managed to secure a win last week, their first since the end of January, and did so in style against an Alessandro Diamanti-less Western United. Bobô returned to the starting line-up and the whole team seemed to benefit from his experience and presence in the front line, particularly Kosta Barbarouses who partnered the Brazilian up top. Kosta was a consistent danger for Sydney, winning a penalty for their opener and assistant Rhyan Grant, who grabbed the winner on his 200th appearance for the Premiers.
The Jets will head to Sydney aiming to avoid a third successive defeat. Goals have been an issue for Newcastle, finding the back of the net just nine times all season, less than the Melbourne Victory side rooted to the bottom of the table who have a game in hand. Valentino Yuel remains their leading goal scorer with four in eleven, and their poor form in front of goal has seen them slide rapidly towards the bottom of the ladder.
Despite the best efforts of Yuel and Steven Ugarkovic, there’s been a creative void in the team, left behind by on loan Ramy Najjarine who has been missing with an ankle injury. Head coach Craig Deans will be hoping that new recruit Liridon Krasniqi will be able to hit the ground running and find a way to help get his forwards firing again. The 29 year old attacking midfielder is available for selection after joining on loan from Malaysian Super League side Johor Darul Ta’azim II.
The Jets strength lies in defence, they are tied for the third most clean sheets in the league with the likes of Adelaide and their opponents Sydney FC, however, they’re tough tackling and no nonsense approach to defence has seen them give away the most fouls (153).
Sydney have been far from prolific this season, but Sky Blues head coach Steve Corica will be hoping his side have turned a corner after finding the back of the net in consecutive games for the first time since MW2. If his forwards haven’t packed their shooting boots, this game has a dull 0 – 0 written all over it.
Melbourne Victory v Adelaide United 8:00am – BT Sport 1
I’ve no idea what to expect from the Victory this week.
They were well and truly humbled in the Melbourne Derby, and there have been fan protests and calls for the resignation of the coaching staff and board in the aftermath of their record 6 – 0 defeat to City. The club have reiterated their support this week, and have boosted his coaching staff with the return of former assistant Jean-Paul de Marigny who was part of the set up for the Victory’s Championship winning 2014/15 and 2017/18 sides.
You feel it will be a tough task for Grant Brebner and his players to bounce back from such a crushing defeat, especially when their form this season has been poor.
How the Blue and Navy do respond will have a huge part to play in the rest of their season, and another defeat would do their morale or the feeling around the club no favours.
At the other end of the spectrum, Adelaide have won their previous three games, and are very much a team on the up. Their massive 3 – 2 win over the Mariners has kickstarted a rise up the ladder, and the Reds now sit eight places above their opponents.
Love him or hate him, Stefan Mauk has been a real handful for defences over the last few rounds, chipping in with goals and drawing fouls (and controversial penalties), while the re-signing of Craig Goodwin has proved to be an excellent piece of business. The fan favourite has slotted in to the side perfectly, scoring two goals in two appearances and providing a real threat from set pieces. The on-loan midfielder will be looking to continue his great run of form in to MW12.
United do have some injury issues, and the club have confirmed that the hamstring injury Mo Toure sustained when he came off the bench is “significant” and it looks like he will be out for an extended period. The 16 year old has been a real impact player for the Reds, chipping in with three goals in his 10 appearances, but I expect the club will be extra cautious with his injury due to his age.
Tomi Juric is nearing a return, and the Socceroo’s experience and goalscoring ability will provide a boost whenever he re-joins the Adelaide frontline.
Central Coast Mariners v Perth Glory 5:00am – BT Sport 1
It’s déjà vue time again…
Less than a fortnight on from their last clash, the Mariners welcome Perth Glory to Gosford for a rematch of their 2 – 1 victory over The Glory.
The visitors will be looking to kickstart a turnaround in fortunes at the Central Coast Stadium, having lost their previous two games including a 3 – 0 capitulation to Wellington Phoenix. Despite the wobble, Perth remain one of the most dangerous sides in the A-League with creativity and goal threats right across the park, and Richard Garcia will be hoping that they will be able to find a way to break down the stingiest defence in the league.
The Mariners are enjoying a fairy tale season, transforming from the worst team in the A-League last season to one that sits seven points clear as we near the half way mark. Club captain Oliver Bozanic has been key to their upturn in form since re-joining from Hearts for the side for his third spell on the Central Coast, and while super sub Alou Kuol remains the side’s leading goal scorer, Marcos Ureña and Matt Simon have really begun to find their groove in the last few rounds.
This should be another thrilling contest between the league’s two most prolific sides, but with home advantage and the league’s best defence, you wouldn’t bet against the Coasties continuing their dream start to the season.
Western United v Brisbane Roar 7:00am – BT Sport 1
With the talent available to them, especially the exciting attacking trio of Guarrotxena, Berisha and Diamanti, you would expect Western United to be faring better than the ninth place, but that’s exactly where the Green and Black find themselves after two consecutive defeats. Though the league is extraordinarily tight this year, Western are just six points behind second placed Macarthur, and have two games in hand on most of the other teams in the league.
United missed the creative magic of Diamanti against Sydney, and despite their best efforts Guarrozena and Berisha were unable to fill the void left behind by the former Azzuri winger. The Italian remaining at home as a precaution after playing the full 90 minutes with a tweaked back against Western Sydney Wanderers, however, speaking to the media after the Sydney game, Mark Rudan confirmed his star man would be available for their visit to Brisbane
.Filip Kurto will also be available for selection after recovering from his concussion, but Rudan will be without the experience of Andrew Durante in the heart of defence after the Independent Match Review Panel determined his 94th minute red card against Sydney was an example of “serious unsporting conduct” and deserving of a one match ban.
The visiting Roar are now without a win in five, but have managed have managed to end their goal drought and get Dylan Wenzel-Halls back on the score sheet, thanks to a howler from Sydney’s Andrew Redmayne. Brisbane are creating plenty of chances, with Corey Brown (25 chances created, 78 crosses and 5 assists) and Jay O’Shea (a league leading 30 chances) both creating opportunities for their attackers, and they could be key in testing the Western back three especially with the absence of the Durante.
You feel that if Wenzel-Halls worked on his positioning and made more runs in to the box (he has a habit of staying wide), his strike rate could go through the roof. This is something that will come with age, and the 22 year old has still let 32 shots loose on opposition and racked up six goals, so it’s unfair to criticise the young attacker.
Despite their winless streak, the Roar defence have remained solid, with goalkeeper Jamie Young being particularly impressive between the sticks in the two draws with Sydney. You’d expect him to be busy again this week as he comes up against the likes against Berisha and Diamanti, but if he can replicate his recent performances he will feel confident of keeping them quiet.
Western Sydney Wanderers v Wellington Phoenix 8:00am – BT Sport 1
Western Sydney Wanderers welcome Wellington Phoenix (try saying that fast) to the Bankwest Stadium for the final clash of MW12.
Kenny Miller oversaw a 1 – 0 win over Western United in the absence of an ill Carl Robinson, their manager watching on from his hotel room as Jordan Mutch grabbed a goal on his first start put an end to the Wanderers three match winless streak. Ziggy Gordon was an absolute brick wall in this match, breaking up play and keeping the Western United front three at bay, and Robinson will hope the Scotsman will be in similar form this week.
It’s only been a few short weeks since these two sides met in a 2 – 2 draw down in Wollongong, but the Phoenix look like a completely different team. The ‘Nix fast, counter attacking style has benefitted immensely from the return of David Ball following his suspension and his experience and clinical finishing, and his flourishing partnership with Ben Waine has seen the New Zealand side pick up big wins over Newcastle and Perth.
There will undoubtedly be a clash in styles here, and it will be exciting to see how the duel plays out.
Wanderers like the ball at their feet, utilising their young, attacking minded wing-backs to stretch the play and get the ball up the field to their forwards. Mitch Duke continues to improve and will only continue to do so the more playing time he gets, while Robinson has plenty of strength in depth that he can turn to for some impact off the bench.
.Ufuk Taulay prefers his side to sit back, absorb the pressure before hitting the opposition on the counter. Reno Piscopo has played a key role in the success of this tactic providing a target out wide, receiving balls over the top to kick start the attack. The Phoenix will undoubtedly look for him to take advantage of the space in behind Wanderers wing-backs if they advance too far up the field.
Oli Sail continues to improve and has made some superb saves in his last few appearances to secure the three points, while Cammy Devlin and Alex Rufer have continued to impress in the centre of the park.
It might not be the most glamorous tie of the round, but the tactical battle between these two should be a treat. A perfect way to kick start your Monday!