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

1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on round 15 of the A-League which starts in Adelaide on Thursday night and concludes in Newcastle on Sunday. We will also take a look at the deferred game from round seven early next week involving Wellington and the Victory.

Adelaide United v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships, Thursday – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium
Adelaide have only scored once in their last four games and face a side who have scored nine times in that period so Adelaide’s keeper Eugene Galekovic is in for another busy night – but that’s not rare for the Reds this season. Interim boss Michael Valkanis guided the visitor’s to their first triumph since they won the FFA Cup when they edged the Wanderers 1-0 in Melbourne on Friday courtesy of an Ivan Franjic wonder-goal. Going with a flat back four worked for them defensively and consecutive clean sheets would be a rarity for the light blues but something that may further boost Valkanis’ (admittedly) slim hopes of keeping the top job. Adelaide see playmaker Marcelo Carrusca return and Iacopo La Rocca is also available again. It’s rare that Adelaide have had a near to their best 11 on the park so far this season but they are getting close.

Big game for: Corners. The away side were utterly dominant in attack last weekend despite only scoring one goal, for example they had nine corners to zero in the first half so we can expect more of the same here.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: The A-League cartoon villain, Fernando Brandan, returns from suspension against a club which has it’s own history for serial pests. Interesting times possibly for referee Jonathan Barreiro.

Melbourne Victory v Brisbane Roar, Friday – AAMI Park
After a charmed run over the last two months or so the Roar now face the free-scoring Victory having lost their last two games and conceded five goals in the process. John Aloisi’s side were caught out by Newcastle on the edge of the area a few times on Saturday, highlighted by Corey Brown backing off before Andrew Hoole scored, so they will need to be on their game here with Victory’s wide-men coming in on the angle. Melbourne and Brisbane played out a 1-1 draw in the opening round with Luke DeVere netting deep into stoppage time after it looked like Mitch Austin had found Melbourne the winner seven minutes from time.

Big game for: The table. The breakaway top four could become a breakaway top three with a five-point gap if Adelaide lose on Friday night and Brisbane are beaten here. A big fixture for the chasing pack.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: With trips to Wellington and Perth coming up I’d not be surprised to see Kevin Muscat put some of his stars in cotton-wool. With an ankle concern, Marco Rojas might only be on the bench here.

Wellington Phoenix v Central Coast Mariners, Saturday – Westpac Stadium
The Buckingham/Greenacre era suffered its first loss on Thursday but head home with three games in the Kiwi capital on the schedule in the next week and a focus on getting a first win in Wellington for this duo but not much time to plan for each opponent tactically. The Nix face the side which had the ‘best’ loss last weekend after the Mariners were beaten 3-2 by Sydney FC but once again gave their home fans great value for money. Roy Krishna’s suspension means ‘Buck-acre’ could return to 4-3-3, or push Adam Parkhouse further up the pitch in place of Krishna. After a 2-1 defeat in which they did not take their chances in the first half they will be looking for a fast start similar to the one they got last time they played the Mariners when they scored inside two minutes in Hamilton.

Big game for: Mikael Taveres could come back here for the Mariners having featured for their youth team side on Saturday in a 2-1 win over the Wanderers. (NB: The club now heads their NYL conference).

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: The Mariners scoring a penalty. Last weekend we said the Mariners had to take their chances. They had a chance to go level at 2-1 but Fabio Ferreira fluffed his lines with the spot kick and now, as Fox Sports Lab told me via Twitter, has missed two of his six penalty attempts in the last three years for the Coasties. Incidentally, striker Roy O’Donovan was successful with his one penalty attempt in that period.

Sydney FC v Western Sydney Wanderers, Saturday – Allianz Stadium
Graham Arnold’s side kept up their terrific record with a thrilling, if somewhat lucky, triumph in Gosford but enter the Sydney Derby not at their peak defensively now. Danny Vukovic still has eight clean sheets to his credit but Tony Popovic will have been happy to view in person the Mariners tearing apart some parts of the sky blues defense on Sunday. Wanderer Jumpei Kusukami will have looked at Connor Pain making inroads to get the Mariners a penalty last weekend and thought if he can get quick transition service he will be able to make trouble for the home side here. However with their own absences due to suspension the Wanderers could still be up against it.

Big game for: Squad depth. The game after Sydney conceded the most goals they have in a single game in this current league campaign coincides with their first home fixture without Matt Jurman after he left the club and with Seb Ryall facing time on the sidelines, Arnold is set for defensive reshuffle.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Making a statement in the absence of marquees. Jashua Sotirio’s pace helped him score against Perth two weeks back and without a big name striker, the 21 year-old will harness a far bit of the load in attack here.

Newcastle Jets v Perth Glory, Sunday – McDonald Jones Stadium
Home after a win at one of their favourite away venues Mark Jones’ side meet a Glory team they beat in Perth only a month ago 2-1 so they should win but this has all the hallmarks of the (cliché alert) trap game. Most of the short-term injuries are behind the Jets but Perth, who also have four wins for the season, are an unpredictable side. With the Rhys Williams saga still ongoing, Kenny Lowe at least has a side well rested after they won last Thursday against Wellington.

Big game for: Solid at the start. Newcastle conceded first in Brisbane, were behind after seven minutes when they last played Perth and also trailed Wellington twice at home recently before clawing back a point. It’s hard to keep going behind and getting results.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Scenes. The above said… Former Jet Adam Taggart is back having scored the winner last weekend and something is bound to happen. I’m thinking controversial late winner/equaliser.

Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Victory, Tuesday – Westpac Stadium
After their Friday night fixture Muscat’s team head to New Zealand for this game which was re-arranged after the recent major earthquake and associated aftershocks. The Nix will continue to be without Gui Finkler, who returned to Brazil due to a personal matter before the Perth game and is due back in round 16, so it could be a chance for them to solidify their starting line-up to a degree, but they will have Krishna back from suspension. Victory registered a five-goal triumph on Melbourne Cup eve the last time these two sides played with Besart Berisha scoring a hat-trick – two of them penalties.

Big game for: Cautions. The Nix have a host of players facing bans for accumulated yellow cards. However missing a game in the middle of a period with three games in eight days might not be the worst thing in the world if any of the players have any niggling injuries.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Continued marquee value. Socceroo Oliver Bozanic is a designated marquee but has yet to really dominate consecutive games (yes, I realise this is a vague performance metric but we need something to measure a marquee with) this year with the Victory to prove his continued worth outside the cap. Playing the eighth-placed team is a big chance for him to shine.

The betting bit – One serious one not.
Unlike golf thoughts, which garnered success late last year, I might have to mutually end the contract with this part of the column. Wellington’s great start was to no avail in Perth and this weekend they get a chance to make amends ($1.60) against a Mariners side that doesn’t travel well. Thursday night we are bound to see some crowd antics every time Brandan touches the ball.

Record: 3/14
Profit: -$87.30 (ten units per investment)

This preview first appeared on From the sideline of sport

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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