Almanac Soccer – A-League 1,000: The Concussion Edition

@hamishneal

1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on Round 20 of the A-League which starts on Friday night in Adelaide and concludes at Gosford on Sunday evening.

Adelaide United v Newcastle Jets, Friday – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium
It’s the second free-to-air game in a fortnight for last season’s champions and this time they’ll be hoping they aren’t embarrassed 5-0 as what happened last weekend against Perth. After a 0-0 draw on Monday night when they dominated chances on goal (8 shots on target to 2) Newcastle will be looking for a win in Adelaide after they shocked the Reds in Newcastle with a late winner to Morten Nordstrand when they met in December. With Eugene Galekovic still out missing and now Iacopo La Rocca sidelined for six weeks or so the Reds will struggle for team cohesion at the back, and it’s not been the best this season anyway.

Big game for: Newcastle’s unbeaten week of football. In addition to Jets draw on Monday, next door to McDonald Jones Stadium earlier in the evening Northern NSW National Premier League side Broadmeadow Magic beat Chinese Super League side Liaoning Whowin 2-1. On Wednesday evening the Sehnyang-based club continued their pre-season tour with a 2-2 draw against Edgeworth Eagles – after 2012/13 A-League Golden Boot Daniel McBreen chipping the keeper from distance for the second half equaliser. Newcastle area sides are unbeaten against pro football sides this week. Can they make it four games?

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: All Australian sides are at home to commence their Asian Champions League group campaigns after this A-League round with Adelaide featuring on Wednesday against Japanese giants Gamba Osaka who qualified for this stage via the recent ACL playoffs.

Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships, Saturday – Westpac Stadium
The return of experienced striker Shane Smeltz from suspension is helpful for Wellington but the visitors have six players available with chief goal-scorer Bruno Fornaroli and chief pest Fernando Brandan back. The light blues beat the Phoenix in November 2-1 in Melbourne with Fornaroli and Nick Fitzgerald scoring for the home side. Wellington had a chance to sneak things to 2-2 at one stage against Sydney FC but Kosta Barbarouses shot wide and Sydney FC dominated the rest of the fixture with Wellington dipping in form.

Big game for: Ryan Lowry. In addition to Liaoning Whowin touring Australia Beijing BG, from the Chinese second tier, played in Wellington on Tuesday evening losing 1-0 to the Nix in a game which saw the first use of the Video Assistant Referee for an A-League side. Lowry featured and with Andrew Durante suspended should partner Marco Rossi in defence.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Visitor cohesion. With a host of players coming back it will be interesting to see how Michael Valkanis fits back in the players, perhaps more so on the bench, after a good comeback from 2-0 down against Brisbane.

Western Sydney Wanderers v Sydney FC, Saturday – ANZ Stadium
After crowds totaling under 18,000 combined for both sides last weekend when they hosted home games officials are expecting over 40,000 for the second Sydney Derby at ANZ Stadium this season. The Wanderers looked listless in defeat to the Mariners whilst Sydney scored early and won easily 3-1 against Wellington on Thursday. Last month saw a 0-0 stalemate at Allianz Stadium when former Sydney FC keeper Vedran Janjetovic kept his first clean sheet for his new side. Wanderers skipper Dimas is suspended for this game.

Big game for: Quality goals. Sydney’s strike in the 22nd minute, finished by forward Bobo was terrific. It was a perfect demonstration of the precision and speed the league leaders can produce when given time and space.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Japanese powerhouse Urawa Reds get to take in the delights of Campbelltown Stadium when the Wanderers open their ACL campaign on Tuesday after they play the Sky Blues this weekend.

Perth Glory v Brisbane Roar, Saturday – nib Stadium
Perth notched their seventh win of the campaign when they dispatched Adelaide and are a chance to move into third spot if they win here and Wellington win earlier on Saturday. However Brisbane, about to start their ACL campaign, can move to within four points of second-placed Melbourne victory with a win here. In October John Aloisi’s side won 2-1 when they hosted the Glory and have lost only once in their last six meetings against Kenny Lowe’s side.

Big game for: Defensive replacements. Daniel Bowles has been ruled out for the rest of the season for Brisbane after he injured his right knee late in the weekend’s fixture but John Aloisi has acted fast securing 37-cap Greek international Avram Papadopoulos as an injury replacement.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: After this game Brisbane host Thailand champions Muangthong United in their first ACL group game on Tuesday so a win here is crucial.

Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory, Sunday – Central Coast Stadium
It is heady days for the Mariners with Paul Okon’s side having won their last three games but the Victory have not lost in their last 10 games against the Central Coast. The home side took advantage of early wastefulness from the Wanderers last weekend but may not get the same help here with Melbourne having scored 39 goals but the Wanderers only 23 (the same as the Mariners.) Like the Sydney Derby another captain is missing here with Mariners’ Nick Montgomery out due to accumulated yellow cards.

Big game for: Seeing Paul Izzo not play. The Mariners keeper, in consecutive games across eight days, has admitted to been dazed and then, on Sunday, was involved in a head-to-head collision with Wanderer Scott Neville. A cursory look at standard concussion protocols tells you Izzo should have been withdrawn against Adelaide and should, consequently, not have played last Sunday (if diagnosed) given the stand-down period for diagnosed concussion is seven days*

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing how A-League expansion develops. The Victory often play in Geelong and the city has a confirmed group behind an expansion A-League franchise, however it’s been a busy week for the FFA with board structure issues continuing to cause consternation among the current clubs, so it’s no surprise the release of expansion criteria could be delayed.

The betting bit – One serious one not
We thought long and hard about the Mariners last weekend but went for the Victory (before their game was moved to Monday evening) this week we head to Sydney for the league-leaders ($1.87) to win the Derby followed by fun sauce bottle promotions at Gosford on Sunday. The goal celebrations might be messy.

Record: 6/19
Profit: – $62.30 (ten units per investment)

*Due to brevity the details regarding concussion have been reduced per the normal size for the column. I’d strongly encourage you to view the links.

This preview first appeared on From the sideline of sport

About Hamish Neal

Born in Lower Hutt New Zealand Hamish is forever wedded to all things All Black, All Whites, Tall Blacks and more. Writing more nowadays in his ‘spare time’ (what is that anyway?) but still with a passion for broadcasting. Has worked in various sports development roles in England, Northern Ireland and Australia.

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