And while the number is unlucky for some, it won’t be for fans of the A-League, who are being treated to eight fantastic games this week.
After the success of the new Reaction format, we’re following suit with our preview blog, to help keep you up to date with all the latest news for the week ahead…
Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Victory – Wednesday 8am, BT Sport 1
The ‘Nix kick off a Wednesday double header, as they take on last placed Melbourne Victory in Wollongong.
The Kiwis will be frustrated following their controversial draw against Brisbane on the weekend. While normally a decent result between two teams in similar positions in the league, Wellington were denied an extra-time penalty by VAR for a seemingly clear hand ball in the area, much to the ire of Ufuk Taulay.
Phoenix fans will be excited to see the return of a familiar face, with former ‘Nix captain making his return to the side following his return from a spell in India. Taulay has confirmed to the media that the former Newcastle centre-half will be named in the starting line-up for Wednesday’s clash, and you expect his experience and leadership will go a long way toward settling the otherwise young defence, who have looked shaky in the absence of Luke DeVere.
Last time these two met back in MW9, the ‘Nix fell to a Rudy Gestede brace in a rare Victory win. Victory can take confidence from having beaten the ‘Nix in recent weeks, however, they have been on truly horrific run since and will travel to New South Wales without the Benin international who proved so pivotal last time round. Gestede is still missing through injury, while Leigh Broxham remains be unavailable through suspension.
With the Big Blue being postponed thanks to the horrific weather Australia has been experienced, the Victory will be the fresher of the two sides and have an excellent record against the Wellington outfit, losing just one of their previous nine clashes, so there are some positives for Grant Brebner to focus on. As I mentioned in the now defunct Big Blue preview, a trip away from the pressure cooker environment that their form has created back in Melbourne may be just what they need to get back on track.
Perth Glory v Sydney FC – Wednesday, 10:15am BT Sport 1
In a similar vein to Victory, the Sky Blues will be rested after missing out on their previous MW13 fixture, but they face the long journey out west to HBF Park.
Perth will be hoping the home advantage will help them put a stop to their abysmal run of form on Wednesday. The Glory are now without a win in four games, and put in a fairly feeble performance in their 3 – 0 loss away at Western Sydney at the end of last week.
The club announced the signing of A-League winning defender Jason Geria this week, who has been playing in the Japanese second division since leaving Australia three years ago, but it is a little early for his inclusion in the match day squad. Regardless, they will be hoping their new signing will bring some experience, defensive solidity and a winning mentality to the club as we enter the second half of the season.
Sydney’s form is a polar opposite to the home side, with Steve Corica steadying the ship to see the Sky Blues go four without a loss. They’ll be hoping to capitalise on their old rivals poor run of form this week, and hope that goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne can avoid another costly slip up as he comes up against Perth’s formidable roster of attacking talent.
Melbourne City v Central Coast Mariners – Monday, 8am BT Sport 1
Melbourne City have looked like the team to beat since their 3 – 2 win over Sydney FC back in MW9. A four match winning streak has seen Paddy Kisnorbo’s side march up the ladder, and they head in to this fixture in fifth with three games in hand on the likes of Western Sydney Wanderers and Macarthur who sit between them and the Mariners.
The two teams last met back in MW6, City throwing away a two goal lead to hand a Matt Simon inspired Coasties side a 3 – 2 win in Gosford. While the Mariners remain at the top of the league, they will come up against a very different Melbourne City side when they travel to AAMI Park on Monday.
City’s run of good form has coincided with the return of Andrew Nabbout to the starting eleven, and while you can’t place the responsibility for the turnaround solely at the feet of one player, the winger has been nothing short of superb since recovering from a hamstring injury.
The Socceroo has formed a formidable partnership with Maclaren and Noone up top and the trio have combined to contribute 12 goals and 10 assists so far this season, Nabbout providing 3 in just 5 games. The negative impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have been felt throughout the game in Australia, but one positive, at least in City’s case, has been the Coronavirus enforced cancellation of Nabbout’s move to Perth Glory. City’s ability to capture the former Victory player looks to be an early contender for signing of the season.
The fairytale continues for the Mariners, who have lost just one game since January. The resurgence of Western Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne City has seen their lead narrow, but the Gosford side still remain three points clear at the top of the ladder.
It’s still amazing that last week’s game against Perth went ahead given the torrential downpour that waterlogged the pitch, but the Mariners showed grit and determination to come from behind, drawing level in the 90th minute thanks to Matt Simon. The Wizard of Woy Woy has hit a sweet run of form, scoring in the Yellow and Navy’s previous three games to draw him level with breakout star Alou Kuol on six goals.
Daniel Bouman (3 assists) and Jack Clisby (90 crosses, 29 chances created) are providing their forwards with chances, while captain Oliver Bozanic’s performances from midfield have been key in the Coasties turnaround and earned him the PFA Player of the Month award for February.
The league leaders taking on the most in-form side in the division is always going to be a thrilling prospect, and I expect this one to be no different. The Mariners like to sit back and absorb pressure before hitting teams on the counter, so it will be interesting to see how they cope coming up against the onslaught of that City front three. Jamie Maclaren has moved ahead in the golden boot race, with an impressive return of a goal every game (10 in 10), so you’ll expect him to really test Mark Birighitti and the Mariners defence on Monday.
If Central Coast can weather the storm away from home, it will be another huge statement of intent for the team that finished dead last in the 2019/20 season.
Macarthur FC v Western United – Saturday, 6am BT Sport
Saturday morning sees the league’s two youngest teams go face to face at Campbelltown Stadium.
Last time the two sides met back in MW9, Western United demolished the Bulls 4 – 1, and that performance will still be fresh in the mind of Macarthur coach Ante Milicic heading in to the weekend.
Macarthur started the previous round in second place, but following a 3 – 0 loss to Melbourne City they enter this fixture down in sixth. The Bulls have impressed many with their positive passing based playing style, though their unwillingness to go adopt a more direct game plan when needed has been costly at times.
Matt Derbyshire remains in the Golden Boot race, having scored 7 in 12, but he has found the back of the net just once in their last three games. The Bulls will need him on top form, as their second biggest contributor in front of goal is 35 year old midfielder Mark Milligan, who has scored 2 in 11…
The Green and Black will be hoping for a repeat of their MW9 performance, where the front three of Guarrotxena, Berisha and Diamanti tore the Bulls apart. Mark Rudan’s side broke their two game losing streak with a clinical performance against Brisbane Roar, back up goalkeeper Ryan Scott putting in a Man of the Match performance in Kurto’s absence.
Kurto returns to the squad this week following his concussion, so it will be interesting to see if he returns to the starting eleven. The 29 year old Pole brings plenty of experience, but Ryan Scott has deputised brilliantly for him in the previous two and a half games and could, deservedly, retain his place in the team.
He may be 37 years old, but Alessandro Diamanti is still a cut above the rest. He’s created more goal scoring chances than any other player in the A-League and is leading the league in assists, with 6 in 9. United struggle without him, and you could see a massive difference when he returned to the pitch in the second half against Brisbane, as evidenced by the unbelievable assist he provided for Dylan Pierias’ winner.
He will be key for Western United if they hope to come away with the three points this weekend.
Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory – Saturday, 8am BT Sport 1
It’s the first Big Blue of the season!
The Victory head out of state for the first time since February to face their old rivals in New South Wales, and are in desperate need of a win to kick-start their season. It has been over a year since the two sides last met, Sydney running out comfortable winners in a 4 – 1 defeat at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium, and you can easily see a repeat of this coming given the Vic’s current form.
Victory have just one win from their last eight outings, and have conceded 13 goals in their previous three games, resulting in protests and calls for resignations from amongst their supporters. Perhaps an escape from Melbourne and the growing pressure from the home crowd will be just what the Big V need to get things back of track?
They will travel without captain and club stalwart Leigh Broxham who is suspended, and front man Rudy Gestede who joins the clubs growing injury list. Max Crocombe was dropped to the bench last week, with Matt Acton taking his place, though he failed to do much better. Many were surprised to see the Kiwi benched, so it will be interesting to see who gets the nod on the road.
Sydney currently sit in fifth place, having endured an inconsistent start to their title defence. The Sky Blues struggled with a congested fixture list, though Steve Corica has managed to steady the ship in recent weeks, and they head in to this match unbeaten in three.
After popping up with an extremely rare goal in last week’s 2 – 1 win over Newcastle, Alex Wilkinson looks set to make his 150th appearance for the club on Saturday, while youngsters Patrick Flottmann and Jordan Swibel have been promoted to the extended squad.
Andrew Redmayne has been making some costly errors between the sticks this season and Steve Corica has faced questions from fans and members of the media over his performances in recent weeks. Back up goalkeeper Tom Heward-Belle has made just one A-League appearance for the senior side since 2017, so it looks unlikely that he will be putting pressure on the experienced Redmayne. Victory will hope they can force another error from the former Melbourne City man this week.
Kosta Barbarouses has faced criticism for his profligacy in front of goal this season. The Kiwi has attempted fourth most shots in the league, 28 in 11, but has managed just three goals. Coming up against the leakiest defence in the league might be just what he needs in order to finally get the monkey off his back.
Western Sydney Wanderers v Perth Glory – Friday, 8am BT Sport 1
Western Sydney Wanderers kick off a hectic week of A-League action on Friday, as they welcome Perth Glory to the Bankwest Stadium for their first meeting of the 20/21 season.
The Wanderers are riding high after taking all three points in last week’s seven-goal thriller against Wellington Phoenix. An 84th minute goal from Kwame Yeboah secured back to back wins for the Red and Black and saw the Wanderers end MW12 in second place on the ladder.
The visitors are now without a win in three, however, Richard Garcia will be pleased to have come away with a point against league leading Central Coast, especially considering the conditions the game was contested under. Perth currently sit back in ninth place, however, with three games in hand on much of the league this is not necessarily a realistic reflection of their form.
Speaking to media ahead of the clash, Wanderers coach Carl Robinson confirmed that he’d been working closely with his defence in the aftermath of last week’s win. They’ll need to be on top form, as despite their winless streak, Perth remain one of the most dangerous attacking sides in the league (21 goals in nine games) and will relish the chance to come up against a side that has conceded two or more goals in five of their matches this season.
Both sides like to play positive, attack-minded football and prone to errors in defence (Perth are yet to keep a clean sheet this season), so this one is sure to be an exciting one for the neutrals!