1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on round eleven of the A-League which sees the Phoenix stage a home game in Auckland as the first of three fixtures on Saturday.
Newcastle Jets v Adelaide United, Friday – McDonald Jones Stadium.
Aiming for back-to-back wins, something they only achieved twice last season, the Jets return home after a deserved win in Perth. Mark Jones is slowing getting key players back with Andrew Nabbout and Daniel Mullen key in Perth. To score twice in the first half having conceded early shows a team with an ability to ignore misfortune and stick to their plan. When Guillermo Amor’s side travelled to Newcastle in round one they were lucky to leave with a point as Andrew Hoole should have secured the win for the home side.
Big game for: Nigel Boogaard. The Jets skipper wasn’t required off the bench on Saturday night but may play a key role here after another week back at training.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Jesse Makarounas possibly in the goals again. The former Victory player scored, albeit due to a defensive mix-up, when these sides met in round one. He will want to be in the mix again.
Wellington Phoenix v Western Sydney Wanderers, Saturday – Mt Smart Stadium.
Western Sydney may well be glad to be out of the country for a few days having suffered a second 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Victory last weekend. They produced plenty of chances at ANZ Stadium but lacked quality in the final third. Wellington won handily in Hamilton over the Mariners last weekend with off-season recruit Kosta Barbarouses key in helping deliver their first goal and another ex-Victory player Vince Lia scoring a pearler. Despite the Wanderers winning only twice this season they do still remain sixth and did beat the ‘Nix during the final round of last season 2-0 in Wellington with Brendon Santalab netting twice. So they have recent form in New Zealand.
Big game for: The next Phoenix coach. With the club looking to make a decision before Christmas about a replacement this could the final game in which Chris Greenacre and Des Buckingham are the interim bosses. Maybe one of them will end up dropping the interim tag?
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Wellington won in Auckland last season in farcical circumstances with a poor pitch and jersey mix-up making up the day when they beat the Victory at QBE Stadium. Hopefully everything is better across town at the home of NRL side the Warriors on Saturday.
Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships v Melbourne Victory, Saturday – AAMI Park.
The home side won the first #melbderby of the term in spectacular fashion but Kevin Muscat’s outfit have won as many games, five, as their opponents on Saturday night despite having played one less match. John van’t Schip’s side are a point ahead of their Victorian capital rivals and have had another week of dealing with controversy after one of their matches with Fernando Brandan reprising his role as this season’s pantomime villain (Watch out Brandan! He’s behind you!).
Big game for: Marco Rojas. Not needed last week in the end the Kiwi maestro trained earlier this week and should return for the big game after his picked up a hamstring injury earlier this month.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Using facts. Luke Brattan did his best to contribute to 2016’s buzz-word of post-truth when he bemoaned Sydney FC breaking up play during the light blues draw in Sydney. Melbourne’s second team committed 21 fouls on Friday, the most of any A-League side on the weekend.
Perth Glory v Sydney FC, Saturday – nib Stadium.
Andy Keogh’s goals, seven, are joint second top for the campaign‘s Golden Boot award and on track for another run at that crown but Perth are anything but overly impressive as a team hanging onto fifth spot with the Mariners (ninth on the ladder) only three points behind them. Kenny Lowe’s team was beaten 4-1 by Sydney FC last month but two goals in the last ten minutes did somewhat blow out that score. Matt Simon misses the trip west after the shenanigans in Sydney last weekend.
Big game for: Liam Reddy. The former Sydney FC shot-stopper played a key role in ensuring Perth weren’t beaten by more last weekend with 11 saves against Newcastle. But…
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Goals baby! Perth have conceded 19 goals (joint second-most) and Sydney lead the league in finding the net with 21 goals in ten games. So it’s a busy day again for Reddy in prospect.
Central Coast Mariners v Brisbane Roar, Sunday – Central Coast Stadium.
After moving into the top six following round nine the Mariners lost to Wellington in Hamilton and fell back to second-last when they simply lacked any quality link-up play and were profligate on the rare occasions they had with only six shots on goal. Paul Okon will be hoping he can get Mickael Taveres, Nick Montgomery and Jacques Faty all back in his side together but that is not likely to happen until at least January so the home side will have a tough few weeks ahead, more so than normal. Brisbane recruit Thomas Kristensen has been a great addition to the club and he will look to add to his four goals since he joined the club.
Big game for: Jamie Young. The back-up Roar ‘keeper nabbed a clean sheet in his first start of the season coming in for the injured Michael Theo. Young only needs to repeat the dose to go joint-second on that tally for the competition this season. Sydney FC’s Danny Vukovic with six clean sheets is four ahead of a clutch of four players all currently on two clean sheets.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Connor Pain not cutting back in. The former Melbourne forward was easy to pick up for the Phoenix defence when, in the first half in particular, he was consistently trying to cut back in on the Phoenix defence. Variety creates chances and execution scores the goals. At the moment the Mariners have little of both.
The betting bit – One serious one not
A relatively settled strong home team is always favoured at this time of the year as players eye a busy holiday scheduled on and off the park so Wellington ($2.60) as outsiders here can edge the Wanderers to chalk up another ‘home’ win away from Westpac Stadium for the year. In Melbourne I expect to see a crying Tim Cahill banner in the manner of the ‘crying Jordan’ meme after this week’s promotional exploits.
Profit: -$47.30 (ten units per investment)
This preview first appeared on From the sideline of sport.