1,000-ish words, thoughts, and musings on Round 22 of the A-League which runs from Friday through to Monday evening with a public holiday in WA.
Brisbane Roar v Western Sydney Wanderers, Friday – Suncorp Stadium
After another stunning Saturday night game at Pirtek Stadium the Wanderers travel to Brisbane to meet a sliding Roar whose only home wins in 2016 have come against the Mariners and Perth. Adelaide’s Pablo Sanchez iced the Roar’s latest defeat with a clever goal but Brisbane had several errors in the lead up to it. Multiple times they gave the ball away in quick succession before Sanchez beat his defender and raced through on an angle. Brisbane must be hungrier to win the ball. Wanderer Romeo Castelen’s impact when he comes off the bench of late has been hugely significant for the home team. And speaking of the bench I’d be pretty certain in saying Thomas Broich will start this fixture after he was surprisingly left out of the starting 11 in Adelaide.
Big game for: All the Brisbane attackers. 34-cap Socceroo Tommy Oar is waiting in the wings and any slip in form could result in a period on the pine in the run-up to the finals to allow room for the new addition.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing the goalkeeping battle. Liam Reddy is two games into his Wanderers career and his opposite Michael Theo hasn’t had the best of seasons since his return from injury. But he is a multiple title-winner who performs in big games.
Wellington Phoenix v Adelaide United, Saturday – Westpac Stadium
After last weekend Adelaide has been re-named Bruce United, as pointed out elsewhere here on The Footy Almanac, after Messrs. Kamau and Djite each netted in the 3-0 win over Brisbane whilst Wellington pulled off a 2-1 upset win over Melbourne’s light blues. Wellington could be a very different line-up given Blake Powell could be available again after a hamstring worry and Hamish Watson is back from suspension. Ernie Merrick faces some interesting selection headaches with players like Matthew Ridenton having performed above expectations playing out of position last weekend.
Big game for: Unbeaten runs. Not since the last weekend in November has Adelaide lost in the A-League. But for the Nix to make the finals they almost need to ‘win out’. Who continues in the positive here?
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Stefan Mauk and George Mells playing in behind the Adelaide ‘almost front four’ last weekend provided great support. Which isn’t bad for a duo who only just recently made it into this squad.
Melbourne Sheep Cow Whales Ships v Sydney FC, Saturday – AAMI Park
Following a rollicking victory in the Asian Champions League on Wednesday Graham Arnold’s side make the journey south but they will have a host of players missing with four regulars suspended and one injured. Skipper Alex Brosque is beset with more hamstring worries but Matt Simon, who was hospitalised after the draw to Victory, has been named. A patch-work Sydney side will at least be confident with players like Robert Stambolziev putting in sterling efforts on Wednesday evening in Sydney. John van’t Schip’s side will get Harry Novillo back but even allowing for the wind last weekend in Wellington they must do better in defence. The return of Aaron Hughes should help that and for an experienced backline they most do better as out-scoring teams 3-2 or 4-1 all the way in the finals might not be possible.
Big game for: Banter. Guangzhou Evergrande posted this quite breathtaking tweet before Sydney FC beat them on Wednesday. I can’t imagine Melbourne’s second franchise doing similar. Or maybe they will.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Ryhan Grant performed a bizarre mini-star jump before Kosta Barbarouses netted the decisive goal on Saturday, he’s suspended from this fixture so hopefully he spends the weekend getting back to basics.
Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory, Sunday – Central Coast Stadium
From Osaka to Gosford the Victory meet Tony Walmsley’s side after they left Japan with a point following a 1-1 draw with on Wednesday. Midfielder Gui Finkler could get some good chances with the Mariners around the penalty area if the defending is clumsy and he will be hoping these chances don’t hit the woodwork. The Victory will be hindered with Kosta Barbarouses suspended. That said at least the Victory defence will be glad they don’t need to face up against strikers like Patric who battered the Victory goal at Suita City Football Stadium. The Mariners have Fabio Ferreira back from suspension and also defender Jacob Poscoliero but that is somewhat offset by Nick Montgomery’s suspension.
Big game for: Burgeoning combinations. Striker Josh Bingham had some lively combination with Luis Garcia early last weekend but will the duo get a chance to work much on these here in a game they may struggle to get the ball in?
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Forehead enthusiast Roy O’Donovan is available again, and whilst they are probably unlikely to mark up against each other, in a game after an extended suspension for a head-butt I’m sure with the possibility for having to tackle Besart Berisha that nothing will go wrong.
Perth Glory v Newcastle Jets, Monday – nib Stadium
Is the must-watch game of the round on Monday night? Perth were unlucky not to win last weekend and they meet an resurgent Jets side who, whilst they haven’t beaten top sides in recent weeks, have shown better fluidity in this period of three wins and draw. Mateo Poljak will have his work cut-out trying to stop the on-rushing Glory midfielders including Gyorgy Sandor as they endeavor to sneak into the Newcastle final third.
Big game for: Jets midfielder Steven Ugarkovic. The Olyroo netted a tidy goal to clinch the #beachclassico but he will need to be as clinical here. The Perth defence will swarm on any Newcastle breaks and goalkeeper Ante Covic will likely be equal to the task.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Newcastle’s Enver Alivodic has been lively down the right flank so with Marc Warren suspended his replacement and Alex Grant will need to be aware of the Serbian’s influence.
The betting bit – One serious one not:
History suggests Newcastle, who last won in the west when former All White Vaughan Coveny scored for them, won’t win in Perth. Emotional game for Kenny Lowe’s side last weekend but they get the win ($1.55) into a comedy boat-reated tweet from one A-League side this weekend.
Profit: 47.55 pending units (ten units per investment)
This preview first appeared on From the sideline of sport