1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on Round 9 which commences in Victoria on Friday evening and concludes in South Australia on Sunday night.
Melbourne Victory v Perth Glory, Friday – AAMI Park
With the rich Melbourne team winning their first title for its senior men’s team on Wednesday night the original Victorian A-League club is back at AAMI Park after a straight forward 2-0 win over Newcastle last week thanks largely to Marco Rojas. Perth have conceded 10 goals in their last four games away from home but in the first game of that run (Round 3) they beat the FFA Cup winners 3-2. However, Perth’s key injuries will force Kenny Lowe into a major re-shuffle which will hinder any fluidity for a side already smarting from losing 2-0 to the Mariners whilst Melbourne get first-choice keeper Lawrence Thomas back.
Big game for: A safe warm-up. After Perth lost Josh Risdon in the warm-up and then forward Diego Castro early in the defeat to the Mariners coach Kelly Lowe will be hoping the side can navigate this game without, before and after it, without too many injuries with Risdon and Castro each now facing at least a month on the sidelines.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: There was great respect paid prior to the FFA Cup final in the wake of the Chapecoense tragedy in which the Brazilian club side was involved in a chartered plane crash which killed 71 people including players, officials, travelling journalists as they were heading to Colombia to play Atletico Nacional in the final of the Copa Sudamericana (the South American equivalent of the Europa League.) I’m sure all sets of fans will repeat the dose with a similar level of respect across the weekend.
Central Coast Mariners v Western Sydney Wanderers, Saturday – Central Coast Stadium
The home side currently occupy a top six spot and sit above Tony Popovic’s team in what has been a solid opening two months for Central Coast’s Paul Okon in his A-League coaching debut. In their 1-1 draw at home to Brisbane last weekend the Wanderers dominated the Roar with 19 shots in goal (11 of them on target.) Whilst the Mariners won easily in the end over the Glory they did allow Perth plenty of chances (14 shots on goal) but it was poor fishing which let the visitors down.
Big game for: Storm Roux. With Chesterfield’s Liam Graham going down with a severe injury the former Perth Glory player, assuming his eligibly has been cleared up, will be looking to make an impression on All Whites coach Anthony Hudson as the Kiwis look to fill the right back spot ahead of their remaining World Cup qualifiers.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: With Jumpei Kusukami off the mark with his first A-League goal look for more from the Japanese midfielder
Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships Victory v Brisbane Roar, Saturday – AAMI Park
After securing the FFA Cup John van’t Schip’s team will look to bridge the gap on their opponents from Wednesday night with a win here which would put them one point behind Sydney FC. For the lustre of the midweek win it’s worth noting that the Cup victory is just that, a cup victory. Whereas most of the top nations in the Asian Football Confederation see their Cup winner get a spot in the Asian Champions League the A-League currently does not so the locals needs to re-focus quickly. Brisbane’s Jamie Maclaren was often isolated during their stalemate in Sydney last weekend with little support from the wingers getting forward leaving Brisbane’s attackers left to try to make ground through the middle of the Wanderers’ midfield.
Big game for: Consistency. Brisbane have still only lost once this season but are seven points off top spot in fourth place. To aspire to a top two position they need to close out games when they get a lead, even if it is away from home.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Manners. What was Bruno Fornaroli thinking… The good thing about the lack of free-to-air coverage of the FFA Cup final was only 170,000 or so people saw and heard his unexpected outburst on the presentation stage. No-one is perfect but after 16 months or so in Australia surely he knows the burst of profanity after his acceptance speech was out of line.
Newcastle Jets v Sydney FC, Sunday – McDonald Jones Stadium
A strange game for Sydney sees them face a Newcastle side, who are probably playing with the least combined value of any side in the competition given their injury toll and lack of star marquees, after the Sky Blues lost the FFA Cup final 1-0 to the ‘richest’ A-League club on Wednesday night. Logic dictates Sydney will win convincingly and get their first win in a fortnight but logic doesn’t dictate the bounce of the ball necessarily. Graham Arnold will be hoping Alex Wilkinson returns for this game after his missed out on the Cup final.
Big game for: Newcastle’s midfield. Despite their injuries, the Jets still get to select arguably their best two in the middle of the park in Wayne Brown and Steven Ugarkovic. This duo need to start chancing their arm to create more opportunities for the likes of Morten Nordstrand and co.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Sydney’s discipline. They got through the FFA Cup final all fine as they did in their game against Adelaide but the Sky Blues could easily have finished both games with 10 men after David Carney and then Josh Brilliante on Wednesday night putting in malicious tackles. Brilliante’s later tackle appears to have caused Tim Cahill an, at least, minor injury.
Adelaide United v Wellington Phoenix, Sunday – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium
After they played the top side last weekend the Reds face the second-last Wellington outfit who are seeking their second win in Australia this season. Key duo Marcelo Carrusca and James Holland didn’t take chances they had at Allianz Stadium last weekend and simply must do better. Wellington’s Gui Finkler was kicked about on the park by Melbourne’s second team last weekend as they were beaten 2-1 in a game which saw the home team’s deliberate tactics to slow things down rewarded but one hopes Adelaide don’t resort to similar anti-football play here.
Big game for: Keeping fouls down. After Eugene Galekovic was clattered which led to a Perth goal in Round 7 the Adelaide shot-stopper wasn’t in action as much against Sydney FC with the home side only having one reasonable chance in the 90 minutes.
The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: The A-League silly season for the next few weeks. Thursday not only bought on the date upon which it is acceptable to start listening to Christmas music* but it also signaled the start of the negotiating period in the A-League when players with expiring contracts can start talking with opposing clubs. Time to crank up that rumour mill!
The betting bit – One serious one not
The Jets have already lost to Sydney FC in Newcastle this year with Alex Brosque and Milos Ninkovic netting in round four for the visitors and I think Arnold’s side ($1.70) will win again into a Cup winning banner which the Victory fans will find at the northern end on Friday night left for them by their Melbourne cousins.
Profit: -$44.30 (ten units per investment)
*This is the only acceptable Christmas song to listen to on three or more occasions during the next month.
This preview first appeared on From the sideline of sport