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


1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on Round 2 of the A-League which sees the second Derby game for the season taking place on Saturday night and sees the champs, Adelaide, at home for the first time this campaign.

Adelaide United v Western Sydney Wanderers, Friday – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium
Three and a half seasons in Melbourne saw Jesse Makarounas yield only 36 matches for the Victory but the midfielder pounced on a Newcastle error and helped the champs earn a point in unconvincing fashion against the Jets. Guillermo Amor will be happy his side are facing the Wanderers who were at sea as Sydney FC outplayed them to win 4-0 but the Spaniard’s side is still has huge room for improvement. Nikolai Topor-Stanley is set to join UAE side Hatta Sports Club but the defender didn’t feature last weekend anyway and all of Tony Popovic’s side need to improve. Japanese recruit Jumpei Kusukami was a notable good performer in his A-League bow.

Big game for: Defensive tactics. Brendan Hamill was played out of position and it showed in Sydney’s goal-scoring and needs rectifying this weekend. Hamill will likely play in the centre of defence here.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Week four for Adelaide? James Holland and Sergi Guardiola have only arrived in the last fortnight or so before game one. Combinations with their teammates will take some time to come together.

Sydney FC v Central Coast Mariners, Saturday – Allianz Stadium
Graham Arnold’s side play in four different cities and two countries between now and the end of the month with games in Canberra (FFA Cup v Canberra Olympic), Wellington and Newcastle before they return to Sydney so winning home games, something they struggled with last season, is important. Last year’s Central Coast Mariners would likely have gone to water had they been 3-0 down away from home in a match but Paul Okon’s side, aided by some relaxed Perth defence, rallied to jag a point in Perth so can take some confidence into this fixture. However, for a team that’s performed poorly in the last year or so it’s important not to overreact to a positive result. However, the Mariners do get Fabio Ferreira back from injury.

Big game for: Jacques Faty was short of match fitness last weekend according to Okon but when things went dire for the Mariners Jake McGing (who did score against Sydney FC last campaign) performed capably in that role if Okon is looking to making a tactical change in the starting eleven.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Plenty of goals. Across three games last season the Mariners conceded nine goals to Sydney FC including a 4-1 defeat but they did register a 2-2 result in March coming from 2-0 down with six minutes left to snare a point.

Melbourne Victory v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships, Saturday – Southern Cross Station Arena
Both Victorian sides return to Melbourne after away games to start the season, but Kevin Muscat’s Melbourne Victory should have come back with a win as their cross-town rivals did. If not for a Luke DeVere goal which stole a point for Brisbane they would have. The Victory controlled large parts of the game but often got caught out going wide and losing possession. The light blues will not get the same leeway on the wings as they did against Wellington with Victory’s wide players more experienced than Phoenix right back Jacob Tratt and left back Adam Parkhouse both stepping up from the NPL (and in Parkhouse’s place, playing out of position.) John Van’t Schip’s side may need to go through the middle more and will want to continue to test out new victory defender Alan Bora.

Big game for: Late goals. The Victory concede more goals than they score late in matches as pointed out by Ben Cuzzupe so perhaps Kevin Muscat’s side need to have some sort of alert horn sound at the 60 minute mark to wake them up. Like a shouty Poznan perhaps.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: All the money in world but not knowing the laws around playing uniform etc is baffling. Check your uniform before the game chaps, even if you are on the bench.

Newcastle Jets v Brisbane Roar, Sunday – McDonald Jones Stadium
The tenure of Mark Jones in Newcastle started with a point and the fixture list helps his side who now face a Matt McKay-less Roar after Brisbane snatched a point against Melbourne Victory but not before the Roar skipper had been sent off. John Aloisi’s side was good and pressing Melbourne last weekend so Newcastle can expect more of this. Former Roar midfielder Devante Clut laid on a nice ball which nearly saw Newcastle score late in their game against Adelaide and Jones will be looking for more of this from the 20 year-old if he starts. Given the injury issues the Jets have that’s a likely chance. Former Melbourne Heart mentor Aloisi is likely to call on Jacob Pepper to replace McKay this weekend.

Big game for: Putting a team on the park. Ex Jets coach Scott Miller was plagued with injuries and suspensions at time in his tenure and things have started off the same for Jones with three players injured and two unavailable before the match. It could take a few weeks for Newcastle to field a consistent eleven.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Michael Theo. The one-time Socceroo squad member was back as Brisbane’s number one on the weekend after Jamie Young spent plenty of last season as the Roar’s main keeper. The A-League’s most successful shot-stopper will be ruing he let one by and wants a clean sheet here.

Perth Glory v Wellington Phoenix, Sunday – nib Stadium
Wellington suffered a repeat of their opening game of the last A-League season as Ernie Merrick’s side were beaten by a goal despite only playing against 10 men for part of the match. Absentees aside, Wellington will rue several of their missed chances. Speaking of last season it’s notable the Glory lost their first home game last season to Wellington so despite the draw to Paul Okon’s side the result was an improvement on 2015/16’s first home game for Perth. It’s hard to know how Kenny Lowe’s team will respond after throwing away a three-goal lead last weekend but one-time Phoenix keeper Liam Reddy (okay, yes, he has played for most clubs) will be kept busy if Wellington can turn out the sort of performances they did in pre-season when their best 11 started games.

Big game for: Whoever backs up from the All Whites games. If all of the Nix New Zealand representatives return from their USA trip in shape to play, even off the bench, it will be a much different side which is named by Merrick with changes in defence, midfield and attack likely.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: A challenge for TV ratings with the plethora of Sunday night options, and a 9pm kickoff in New Zealand. These will be crucial games for the Nix ‘metrics’ after a weekend in which they recorded their highest home game rating on Fox Sports since round one of 2013/14 when Alessandro del Piero appeared for Sydney FC.

The betting bit – One serious one not
Slow start for TBB with a clumsy goal doing us in but if Wellington get most of their key All Whites back $4.50 seems reasonable. Last week delivered in spades with comedy goals in Perth and Newcastle which cost both home teams a possible victory, good to see the teams giving the neutral fans what they want. With teams still getting used to each other could we see more of the same this weekend?

Record: 0/1
Profit: -$10 (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.


  1. Dennis Gedling says

    Just remember with the Glory v Phoenix game that the Rugby League test will be on the same surface the night before so it may not be the usual smooth deck. If I said that may help Phoenix that would imply I think they’re a bunch of lowskilled hacks who would benefit from a cow paddock so I will not say that.

    Sure thing this weekend-A booking at the least for Faty.

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