Almanac Soccer – A-League 1,000: The Distance Edition
1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on round 14 of the A-League which starts on Thursday night in Perth and finishes in Gosford on Sunday.
Perth Glory v Wellington Phoenix, Thursday – nib Stadium
Following a less than spectacular 0-0 draw against bottom side Adelaide the Nix travel to Perth to face Kenny Lowe’s team who picked up a point in Sydney in round 13. Both sides played in wet conditions so it will be interesting to see how they back up here. Despite recent dramas Perth can take heart from the fact they enter the game sitting in fifth place and also beat Wellington 2-0 here in October. One benefit for the visitor’s is the availability of former Glory marksmen Shane Smeltz after not much to mention from last weekend when they played poorly at home, even despite the poor weather.
Big game for: In addition to the return of Smeltz and I’d not be surprised, with Vince Lia suspended, to see Alex Rodriguez start here after he showed some urgency when he came on late in the game against the Reds.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Can Perth return to form at home? Beaten by Sydney and Newcastle the home side haven’t won at home since round seven when they beat Adelaide.
Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships v Western Sydney Wanderers, Friday – AAMI Park
Despite five games without a win the home side can’t be accused of been a dull side and after a late penalty got them home in Gosford they should be confident of getting a result here. Tony Popovic’s team have recruited two former Sydney FC players in midfielders Terry Antonis and goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic and both will be keen to impress in training plus possibly this game before the Sydney Derby next weekend. The last time these two played resulted in a 1-1 draw with the Wanderers levelling late in the piece at Spotless Stadium.
Big game for: Expectation. Scheduled as the free-to-air match twice in the first half of the season or so shows a certain amount of expectation from the A-League decision-makers of these two sides so hopefully the game lives up to it.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Michael Valkanis taking on the coaching reigns. With John van’t Schip’s departure due to family issues it will be interesting to see if the former Socceroo is given the job fulltime but that appears an outside chance with the CityFootball Group lining up other locally-based names already according to The Australian’s Ray Gatt. Wellington this week gave their assistant coaches the remainder of the season as co head-coaches and that is following a recent trend evident among Bundesliga clubs.
Brisbane Roar v Newcastle Jets, Saturday – Suncorp Stadium
Hopefully things are better with the Suncorp Stadium surface and the Jets will be hoping to turn things around quickly after the Victory beat them 4-2 in Geelong. They can feel aggrieved at some of the decisions they encountered and another set of away calls might make Mark Jones blow a fuse. In round two when these two sides played Newcastle scored a big 4-0 triumph and it is one of only two defeat’s for John Aloisi’s team in this campaign. However their other defeat was last weekend when Sydney won easily 2-0. In that match Brisbane failed to fire in the last third with eight attempts from outside the area demonstrating how strong Sydney was in defence, particularly given the fact the Sky Blues played most of the second half down a player with Alex Brosque sent off.
Big game for: Dimitri Petratos. The Brisbane striker should have done better on several occasions in Sydney last weekend and is a key player for Brisbane here.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Ma Leilei starting again. The Chinese recruit was key in recent weeks laying on the last pass for some Jets goals and had his own great finish in Geelong.
Adelaide United v Melbourne Victory, Saturday – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium
Adelaide held out Wellington thanks to a great game from skipper and goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic on Sunday and the one-time Victory player will likely be in the thick of things here with Kevin Muscat’s team having netted 13 times in their last four fixtures. In round three these sides looked set for a draw in Adelaide until Marco Rojas popped up to score from close range for the visitor’s. Guillermo Amor’s side in that regard showed one of the better defensive performances against the Victory this season so all hope is not lost here but it is forecast to be a hot day (39 c) so Adelaide will be encountering two extremes of weather within a week.
Big game for: Sergi Guardiola hit the post in the round three game between these two sides and the import’s return of three goals from 13 games in miserly for a player taking up a key overseas player slot.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Some control from the visitor’s coaching staff. Victory assistant Jean-Paul de Marigny had only just returned from a suspension before he was sent from the touchline in Geelong due to some colourful language. And this was when Melbourne had gone 2-0 up! The former Jets assistant has been sanctioned with a three game ban.
Central Coast Mariners v Sydney FC, Sunday – Central Coast Stadium
Sydney FC easily dispatched Brisbane and have had four different goal-scorers in their last two games so things don’t look good for the home side here. However the light blues had scored five goals the last time they came to Gosford so you never know. Paul Okon has flipped around his attacking set-up in recent games so hopefully he can settle on his best group here as they may not get many chances against Graham Arnold’s outfit. Sydney FC will likely play Seb Ryall in central defence with the midweek departure of Matt Jurman to the K-League.
Big game for: Substitutes. Annoyingly for the Mariner Jacques Faty came off early in this game due to a different injury to the one which recently saw him sidelined so hopefully they don’t have to burn a replacement early in the game here.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Another Matt Simon return to Gosford. The irony of Brosque’s suspension means the former Mariners forward is in prime position to start against his old side here. Let the fun begin.
The betting bit – One serious one not
Perth’s only clean sheet this season was against Wellington when they played in at the start of the season but the addition of Smeltz for Wellington ($3.50) is a bonus and the second trial for the Nix coaching duo begins on Thursday into a comedy set of corner posts from the Wanderers fans in Melbourne on Friday.
Profit: -$77.30 (ten units per investment)
This preview first appeared on From the sideline of sport