1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on round 19 of the A-League which starts in Sydney on Thursday evening when the unbeaten Sky Blues FC host the Nix before it concludes in the Harbour City on Sunday. Perth also host the defending champion second franchise from Melbourne in the W-League decider.
Sydney FC v Wellington Phoenix, Thursday – Allianz Stadium
One goal separated these sides when they met in Wellington in October but it only came late in the game when Milos Ninkovic nudged home in the second minute of stoppage time. Sydney’s unbeaten run rolls on and they have netted 38 times in 18 matches whilst the Nix, currently placed eighth, have only scored 26 times. Sydney’s keeper Danny Vukovic has only conceded eight goals this campaign and the last goal he let in at Allianz Stadium was in November when Graham Arnold’s side beat Perth 4-1, and that deflected in off Rhyan Grant. Brandon O’Neill is suspended for the Sky Blues and ex-Sydney forward Shane Smeltz is also banned for Wellington.
Big game for: Michael McGlinchey. The All White had a goal scratched out for off-side the last time these sides played so he’ll be keen to score at a ground where he has found memories when the Mariners won the title in 2013.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Hopefully a good game. The infernal Thursday night timeslot is with us for the final time this season. It suits few people to attend and with only five fixtures per weekend shouldn’t take place.
Adelaide United v Perth Glory, Friday – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium
Back in November, when Adelaide was still a fortnight away from picking up their first win of the season, Perth won 3-1 when these sides last played after going down 1-0 22 minutes into the contest. Andy Keogh netted twice in the game. Winners last week at home 3-2, Perth should be in the box seat to triumph here but this is the sort of match the fifth-place side have lost in recent times when looking to climb the ladder. Adelaide were beaten in Canberra by the Mariners but have managed to do some recruiting this week, including adding Asian Champions League winner Kim Jae-Sung.
Big game for: After his ban Liam Reddy will return between the sticks. However the recent record away from home isn’t great, conceding eight goals in four games despite some great saves. Although that has been behind a disrupted defence.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Sunday night in Perth Bobby Despotovski’s side will be looking to claim the W-League crown after romping into the final on the back of a 5-1 semi-final triumph over Sydney FC. Standing in the way will be last season’s champs Melbourne’s Citizens.
Newcastle Jets v Melbourne Victory, Saturday – McDonald Jones Stadium
The Jets have been a stone in the Victory’s shoe in recent seasons however Melbourne have won 2-0 and 4-2 against Newcastle this campaign, so Kevin Muscat’s team have the upper hand. With Marco Rojas scoring in each fixture (including a double in the win in Melbourne in November) the Kiwi enjoys playing the Jets. Newcastle are back in their home city for the first time since round 15 when they drew 2-2 with Perth.
Big game for: After Besart Berisha featured in some of the more controversial parts of the Melbourne Derby, Muscat will be hoping it’s a quieter time for the forward here.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: More forward goals. Laying down the marker for the Jets front-men Mark Jones wants goals from his attackers, and not just his wingers. That means you, Morten Nordstrand!
Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships v Brisbane Roar, Saturday – AAMI Park
Consecutive 2-1 defeats and three losses in their last four games doesn’t have the home side sitting well ahead of the visit of third-placed Brisbane who sit two points above them on the ladder. John Aloisi’s team balancing act resulted in a 0-0 draw against Sydney FC in their last A-League fixture, a match which so easily could have gone either way, before Wednesday night’s upset 2-0 triumph in China against Shanghai Shenhua.
Big game for: Irony. When the draw was known a while back, due to probable Asian Champions League commitments Brisbane requested this game be shifted to Sunday but the light blues’ refused this request. Ironic given the home side threw their toys out of the cot with recent travel delays getting to Coffs Harbour. The final layer of irony has them missing six players due to various suspensions (including Dean Bouzanis’ who on Wednesday got a five-week ban for discriminatory language) so they’ll be understrength at a time when Brisbane will be somewhat fatigued.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: With Michael Theo and Brett Holman rested from the trip to China, Brisbane will be welcoming players back to their side as the hosts miss key players including Tim Cahill and Bruno Fornaroli due to their bans plus Michael Jakobsen’s calf injury is a concern.
Western Sydney Wanderers v Central Coast Mariners, Sunday – Spotless Stadium
An enthusiastic start saw the Wanderers beat Wellington in New Plymouth 3-1 last weekend and with plenty of time to plan for this fixture Tony Popovic’s side should be well placed here. Having won in the ACT the Mariners recovery from playing in hot conditions will be pivotal to their success. Nico Martinez has continued to come alive in recent weeks for the home side so he could have another big game.
Big game for: Vedran Janjetovic. After the Wanderers placed a ridiculous media ban on their newly acquired shot-stopper he spoke during the week about leaving Sydney FC. The 29-year-old is seeking his third clean sheet in six starts for the red and black half of Sydney.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Community engagement. The Mariners had the great opportunity to link with the local community given Canberra United were hosting a W-League semi-final but did nothing of note in the lead-up to last weekend in the ACT. They could have hosted a joint training/signing session or any number of things even arriving a day or two before the game but didn’t. Canberra, Dubbo or North Sydney Oval. Wherever the Mariners take home games away in the future they must do better. Perhaps the FFA need minimum standards for such initiatives in the future.
The betting bit – One serious, one not
Staying with the Victory ($1.90) to win on Saturday and this could be followed by the Mariners fans bringing some more snakes for Janjetovic to eat on Sunday afternoon.
Profit: – 52.30 (ten units per investment)
This preview first appeared on From the sideline of sport