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

@hamishneal

1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on Round 10 which includes two games at ANZ Stadium and also sees the A-League roadshow head to Hamilton on New Zealand’s North Island.

Sydney FC v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships, Friday – ANZ Stadium
It was mind games central in Newcastle on Sunday as Graham Arnold freshened his side after their FFA Cup Final defeat. This included Filip Holosko missing out on the squad altogether (he’s named to return here) whilst for the visitors to Sydney on Friday night they made six changes last weekend prior to their draw with Brisbane Roar which had just the whiff of controversy about it. Having beaten Sydney FC in the FFA Cup decider the Victorians somewhat got lucky against the Roar after Jade North took a dive. Hopefully this weekend goes by without these sort of antics. Last season when the two sides met in Sydney (in Round 1) it was a 1-1 draw and the visitors also drew 1-1 recently in Sydney when they played the Wanderers in round seven.

Big game for: Backing up. Who impressed John van’t Schip enough of the fringe first-teamers in Melbourne to earn a repeat start this weekend? Neil Kilkenny is also back from suspension.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Scoring in a big game at the closest thing Australian football has to a national stadium will mark the report card as A + for Tim Cahill’s 2016 in Australian domestic football. To go with a Melbourne Derby goal, Cup win and with his team sitting second in the competition he can’t have done much more.

Wellington Phoenix v Central Coast Mariners, Saturday – FMG Stadium
The magical mystery tour of venues for these two sides continues in Hamilton and joins, Nelson, Canberra, and Sydney as one of four cities the two sides have played in during the pre-season and opening months of the competition. The Phoenix were abject at times against Adelaide and Ernie Merrick had quit as coach by early afternoon on Monday. This leaves former Nix forward Chris Greenacre and ex Oxford United boss Des Buckingham in charge on an interim basis as the Nix face a Mariners side who, despite getting beaten by three goals, were not terrible against the Wanderers. Paul Okon’s side could easily have been level at the interval if Roy O’Donovan and then Adam Berry were more clinical after the Wanderers hit the lead 2-1 but such was the lack of finishing prowess even the sending off of Wanderers ‘keeper Jerrad Tyson meant the man advantage for a period wasn’t enough for the home side. The Phoenix won last month when these sides played in the ACT.

Big game for: Ankle specialists. Mickael Taveres has left Australia to get treatment in Europe for his ankle injury in a slight on local specialists, especially as the Mariners’ new Centre of Excellence complex has a medical centre.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing who take the Wellington penalties. Whilst Roy Krishna is the known striker in the team marquee striker Kosta Barbarouses would seem in need of a confidence boost goals-wise. Given Krishna has been underwhelming in recent weeks could the former Melbourne attacker be a better option from the penalty spot for Wellington’s interim bosses?

Western Sydney Wanderers v Melbourne Victory, Saturday – ANZ Stadium
Sixth hosts third in the A-League ladder with the away side a chance to be second on Saturday night. Melbourne beat the Wanderers comprehensively in Round 6 but Kevin Muscat’s side will be without Marco Rojas here due to a hamstring injury. However the Kiwi international was also missing from that fixture in November in which German Maxi Beister found the net on his A-League debut and the Wanderers are yet to keep a clean sheet this campaign.

Big game for: Nico Martinez. If the Wanderers are to improve on their spot the playmaker needs to step up every week. His attack was terrific in Gosford but playing Melbourne in a fixture of this magnitude is the next tier up in the competition.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Who wins the Number 9 lotto? Lachlan Scott got the start over Brendan Santalab against the Mariners which would seem a clear indication Tony Popovic thinks the striker can’t play full games. Oh and Kerem Bulut has been named in the squad this weekend.

Perth Glory v Newcastle Jets, Saturday – nib Stadium
Mark Jones got an early Christmas present with Newcastle skipper Nigel Boogaard, Daniel Mullen and Andrew Nabbout all available for the trip to Western Australia. Speaking of injuries Adam Taggart has been limited in recent weeks due to a calf concern featuring for only 11 minutes when the Glory got a lucky 1-1 draw in Melbourne last weekend against a wasteful Victory outfit. Josh Risdon is due to return for Kenny Lowe’s team.

Big game for: Perth have got a good draw facing the Jets here before Sydney FC visit the west. Lowe’s team would want at least four points from the next fortnight or they may struggle to maintain fifth spot.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Much attention this week has been on attacking recruiting with former Jet Mark Bridge and ex All White Shane Smeltz possibly bound for the Hunter. For that to happen the Jets need to have someone leave and Tasmanian Andy Brennan may be given a chance to look elsewhere.

Brisbane Roar v Adelaide United, Sunday – Suncorp Stadium
Following the public dust-up between himself and his opposing coach last weekend, John van’t Schip, John Aloisi is back at home with his Brisbane Roar side looking to confirm their spot, at least in the top four. The Roar still have Brett Holman out but the visitors have up and down team news with Isaias suspended but Cirio returning. The Roar are unbeaten at home this season and Adelaide’s win over Wellington means they have a chance to get their mojo back.

Big game for: Winning again in Queensland. Adelaide won in January last season 4-1. Yes it’s a different team but some key players have recent good memories at the venue.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Do the Aloisi duo stay together? One of the surprising names linked to the now vacant Phoenix gig is Ross Aloisi, the current number two to his brother in Brisbane. Is this his last home game on staff?

The betting bit – One serious one not
Perth ($1.70) simply have too good a squad to not start at least winning at home consistently. This will be followed by an ‘Our City’ Tifo or similar at ANZ Stadium on Friday night laying down the fan challenge for Saturday night’s game there.

Record: 3/9
Profit: -$37.30 (ten units per investment)

This preview first appeared on From the sideline of sport

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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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