A-League 1,000: The Festivus Edition


1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on round 12 of the A-League which commences on Christmas Eve in Parramatta and finishes on Sunday in Brisbane. Happy football festivus!

Western Sydney Wanderers v Newcastle Jets, Thursday- Pirtek Stadium

Not quite a bursting bubble for the Wanderers, but a draw in Perth has halted their winning run. However, the manner in which they came from behind to snatch an equaliser nine minutes from time shows the sides’ resolve – and how important Mitch Nichols is. Jason Hoffman’s accumulation of cards means the Jets right winger misses out here, which results in another backline reshuffle with Nick Cowburn moving into the starting eleven. Daniel Mullen is expected back which will be a boost for the Jets and the will build any result on a strong defence but, again, they need more vigour in attack.

Big game for: Seeing what Tony Popovic does with his marquee Italian. Federico Piovaccari came on after 69 minutes in Perth, and despite a recent return to form hasn’t made a starting his own based on his marquee deal. Given rotation, he probably starts here, as does Romeo Castelen.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Milos Trifunovic started the season all guns blazing, but hasn’t fired in recent weeks. The Serbian could fairly expect to be subbed more in coming weeks as the game wears on if he fails to fire, as Scott Miller looks for variety in attack.


Adelaide United v Wellington Phoenix, Saturday – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium

The last time these two teams met there were six goals, as the Phoenix won in Wellington in the first ‘Save the Nix’ game, but even if they aren’t in roaring form attacking-wis,e the Reds are very solid in defense, noticing their fourth clean sheet in their draw against the Jets in round 11. The Phoenix got lucky against Sydney, with Roy Krishna’s late penalty and face a bit of a battle here with Tom Doyle (suspended) and Louis Fenton (ankle ligament injury) missing in defence, so the signs are good for Guillermo Amor’s side.

Big game for: Jeffrey Sarpong. Started in Wellington, and the coming period will be crucial as to whether the former Dutch youth international is retained beyond his current two-year deal (or let loose prior to that), with the one-time Ajax player struggling to find his feet in the A-League.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Adelaide’s lack of an in form striker is proving to be problematic, after they failed to capitalise on chances in Newcastle. With 50 chances on target this season, and three of their ten goals penalties, maybe it’s time to dip into the market for a guest striker?


Sydney FC v Central Coast Mariners, Saturday – Allianz Stadium

Sydney couldn’t get home in Wellington but players like Brandon O’Neill, from set pieces, and Andrew Hoole on the flanks, showed promise. Hoole’s propensity to push forward to play balls in behind the opposition is something the Mariners right-sided players such as Storm Roux could look to exploit on the counter-attack if the Sydney winger is retained after his penalty miss in Wellington. Tony Walmsley’s side still lack something in attack and a lack of experience in defence continues to cruel them in games. That said, it was only one brain snap that saw Brisbane get a win in Gosford.

Big game for: The Sydney strike force. Alex Brosque is back with Filip Holosko suspended and the skipper has a big responsibility here.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Some better news across the A-League regarding injuries. After Melbourne City’s Corey Gameiro, once of Sydney FC, tore his ACL in late November, Mariners right winger Jake Adelson had news confirmed on the weekend that he had suffered a similar fate. All this after only two seniors games for the 19 year-old who was once on the books of Everton’s academy.


Melbourne Victory v Perth Glory, Sunday – AAMI Park

Perth will not fear Melbourne here despite the fact they are eighth and their hosts are fifth. Mitch Oxborrow now presents as a threat at set pieces after his great free kick put Perth ahead for a second time before the Glory conceded a late goal to the Wanderers last weekend. Kenny Lowe’s squad rotation has turned out okay in this period for the FFA Cup runners-up, but the scenario around which foreign player goes to make way for Andy Keogh must be affecting team moral. Victory are in uncharted territory, as teams seem to be working out how to penetrate their midfield with greater ease. The absence of Carl Valeri has probably been a major factor in this.

Big game for: Perth’s returning players. Plenty will fall on the shoulders of players like Chris Harold, who was used off the bench last weekend. The regular starters will bring plenty of experience with Harold alone nearing on 100 A-League games.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing Melbourne’s midfield line-up, who Kevin Muscat puts out, and how they adjust to a reinvigorate Perth outfit.


Brisbane Roar v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships, Sunday – Suncorp Stadium

The Melbourne second franchise look the real deal after a big derby win last week – it’s time to believe in John Van’t Schip’s side, who will now win the league! Okay that is over the top, but on the evidence to date it would be surprising if the light blues don’t finish in the top four. Brisbane’s concern here will be they dominated possession in Gosford but only slightly bad reads by Josh Rose and Harry Ascroft meant they got a win. Melbourne could already be two goals to the good in this game before something similar happens in the Queensland capital.

Big game for: The Melbourne starting eleven. Unlike some other A-League sides who have been scratching around for bench players, the light blues have experience A-League players waiting in the wings. Competition for places is a great motivation.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing how Brisbane’s internationals get into the grind of the A-League season as the weather heats up and sides start to work out the like of Corona and Javier Hervas.


The betting bit – One serious one not:

We have slipped in the last fortnight and Adelaide are hence barred until they return to winning ways. This week we return to Parramatta with the home side to get up ($1.45) plus Perth unveiling their Santa Keogh on Christmas Eve.

Record: 6/11

Profit: 27.45 units (ten units per investment)

This preview first appeared on https://hamishneal.wordpress.com/

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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