1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on Round 21 of the A-League which commences in Melbourne on Friday night and concludes in Newcastle on Sunday evening with the F3 Derby.
Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships v Sydney FC, Friday – AAMI Park
Despite falling to the Wanderers, ladder-leaders Sydney have a 17-point gap to their Friday night opponents who are in third spot. When these sides last met in December Bobo netted an 81st minute penalty to cancel out Fernando Brandan’s first half goal. After the intense atmosphere of the Sydney Derby Graham Arnold’s side will face the prospect of matching up against Michael Valkanis’ side who were at almost full strength last weekend so will be well tuned up for this game after a 5-1 win over Wellington.
Big game for: Bouncing back, Sydney FC hasn’t beaten the home side in their last six games (including the 2016 FFA Cup Final) with three defeats in that period.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: After their refusal to apologise to Sydney FC and Graham Arnold in two club media releases for the RBB’s crude banner last weekend have the Wanderers taken on the mantle of the competition’s most unlikable club? That would take some doing after the antics of the home side’s sweary captain and diving pest in the last few months? The light blues will be hoping they can keep flying under the radar now. One thing is for sure, the RBB are the least likable fan group.
Brisbane Roar v Wellington Phoenix, Saturday – Suncorp Stadium
After a 0-0 draw during the week in the Asian Champions League Brisbane will be hoping they get some good luck injury wise in advance of this game given they lost midfielder Thomas Kristensen in the warm-up in Perth before the game finished 2-2. Wellington are coming into this match off a four-goal defeat and head to a venue which has only seen them win once in 14 contests – and that was a rain-shortened game in March of 2015. Kristensen should be back however they will be without Luke DeVere due to injury.
Big game for: The Wellington starting eleven. The Phoenix reserve side got smashed 7-2 in the Kiwi domestic comp last weekend with several A-League contracted players failing to take their chance to push for a top team spot and got lambasted by coach Andy Hedge. Who starts on Saturday is anyone’s guess but we already know Dutchman Roly Bonevacia has not been included in the travelling squad.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: A Boateng-repeat. Maybe not immediately but there is a hope that the A-League’s Ingham brothers could clash on the international stage. Youth Socceroo training camp attendee Dane scored his maiden A-League goal in Perth on the weekend and Melbourne Victory brother Jai recently declared an interest in playing for New Zealand. They could be the A-League’s answer to the Boateng brothers of Ghana and Germany who have played against each other in two World Cups.
Melbourne Victory v Adelaide United, Saturday – AAMI Park
Wednesday night saw Adelaide beaten 3-0 by Japanese giants Gamba Osaka and Guillermo Amor’s team travel to Victoria having scored only twice in their last six road games. Last month the Victory won 2-0 when these side met in Adelaide with James Troisi and Besart Berisha scoring. Given Kevin Muscat’s side are at full strength and have cut their margin to Sydney FC to eight points following a win in Gosford there is plenty of motivation to do well here.
Big game for: Marcelo Carrusca is one of the Adelaide players that didn’t feature in the ACL during the week as he didn’t make the cut due to the fewer amounts of foreign players allowed to play in the ACL compared to the A-League. He responded by scoring the winning penalty against Newcastle so could have a big few weeks in the A-League now.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: I don’t mean to harp on the concussion issue but how can Adelaide goalkeeper John Hall have played on after he cannoned into one of the uprights making a save on Friday evening? He horribly misjudged a cross which led to a Gamba goal on Wednesday. One might almost think he was still impaired by the collision five days earlier.
Perth Glory v Western Sydney Wanderers, Saturday – nib Stadium
Western Sydney head to Perth looking to bridge the gap to the fifth-placed Glory (28 points) to one point with a win here but they’ve failed to secure three points in their last four trips west so recent history is against Tony Popovic’s side. Things get even worse for the Wanderers when you consider Perth striker Andy Keogh is back from injury however Dimas is back from suspension.
Big game for: Goals. Perth have netted 10 times in the last three games with at least two goals in each fixture.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: The proper sanction for the Wanderers. The Wanderers had a points penalty hanging over their heads before the start of the season but competition officials choose not to apply that in the wake of the crude and offensive banner which was displayed at the Derby – instead a $20,000 fine was levied to the club. What exactly needs to happen for the points penalty to be applied? Seems to be a high benchmark which I don’t think is sending the right message.
Newcastle Jets v Central Coast Mariners, Sunday – McDonald Jones Stadium
Both sides have five wins each this season, and, with six rounds to go after this weekend they are on track to surpass the 11 games combined the two clubs won last term. This is an improvement on any measure for both sides given recent seasons but a win for the home side could see them move back into the top six. The Mariners get skipper Nick Montgomery back from suspension
Big game for: A draw. The last five F3 derbies in Newcastle have finished in a draw.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: The possible return of Labinot Haliti. The 31 year-old has been cruelled by injuries in his time at the Jets to date but he scored on Wednesday in a 2-2 draw when Newcastle played touring Chinese Super League side Liaoning Whowin. With three key players suspended he must be a chance to feature here.
The betting bit – One serious one not
Back at pretty much full strength the Mariners $4.00 are not the worst away side this weekend and let’s go for them to win the F3 Derby into a comedy trophy banner in Melbourne, maybe on both Friday and Saturday night.
Profit: – $72.30 (ten units per investment)
This preview first appeared on From the sideline of sport