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

1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on round 18 of the A-League which sees the Mariners take another home game to the ACT and the Phoenix host the Wanderers in New Plymouth as Guns N’ Roses takeover their stadium in Wellington.


Brisbane Roar v Sydney FC, Friday – Suncorp Stadium
Sydney head to Brisbane for the second time this season after nabbing a 1-1 draw in November and do so having beaten the Victory 2-1 last round. Graham Arnold’s side came from behind after James Troisi opened the scoring with the goal for substitute Bernie Ibini perhaps the most pleasing aspect for Arnold as his side builds towards the finals safe in the knowledge they have the Premier’s Plate all but sewn up. Last time here Sydney did score first but wasted several good opportunities. It was probably one of the least impressive games in their unbeaten streak. Brisbane beat Global FC 6-0 in their Asian Champions League playoff game on Tuesday evening but will make team changes here.


Big game for: Brett Holman. An experienced player doing well in back-to-back A-League games could be what brings Sydney’s unbeaten run undone.


The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: After on Tuesday night win John Aloisi might tinker with his squad here and Corey Brown returns from an A-League suspension after featuring against the Philippines outfit during the week.


Wellington Phoenix v Western Sydney Wanderers, Saturday – Yarrow Stadium
Wellington have already had success in home games away from Wellington this campaign with a win and a draw. The draw came against the Wanderers when both sides played their part in an entertaining 2-2 encounter but Tony Popovic’s side should have done better leading 2-0 at one stage before having Dimas miss a penalty which would have seen them go 3-1 up in the second period. Wellington’s ability to recover from the oppressive conditions in their 2-2 draw in Adelaide will likely be a key factor.


Big game for: Marco Rossi. Even though defender Ryan Lowry got the TV man of the match in the South Australian capital, Wellington will welcome back the Italian to their back four this weekend and he will be looking for what would be his third clean sheet in four games.


The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Having chased the following players; Dimitar Berbatov, Didier Drogba, Roy Keane and Eduardo (with various levels of hope/opportunity recently) the Wanderers will fill their striker position with former Jets and Adelaide attacker Ryan Griffiths joining the club. The 35-year-old is available for selection this weekend.


Melbourne Victory v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships, Saturday – Etihad Stadium
The tide has somewhat turned compared to the last Derby these two sides played at Etihad Stadium when the Citizens won 4-1. Sure the light blues have won the FFA Cup but since then the Victory beat Michael Valkanis’ team 2-1 at AAMI Park and are six points clear of their city rivals in second place on the ladder. In the 23rd Melbourne Derby James Donachie is suspended which means Nick Ansell could return in his place whilst Josh Rose, who started in the light blues’ 2-1 defeat to the Jets in Coffs Harbour, misses out on the squad altogether as Manny Muscat returns.

Big game for: Continued improvement. Providing attacking support to Marco Rojas and Besart Berisha, James Troisi is becoming arguably the Victory’s most important player.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Agility. Michael Valkanis, coach of the City Football Group-backed side wasn’t happy with travel delays associated with their match in Coffs Harbour and the fact his side ended up travelling early on the morning of the match. If only they had the funds for alternative transport options when they knew of the problem early on Thursday, the day before the game…


Perth Glory v Newcastle Jets, Saturday – nib Stadium
Having only met in Newcastle on January 15 these two sides play again in Perth where the Jets won 2-1 in December. Andrew’s (Nabbout and Hoole) have each scored recently against Perth and the duo are crucial to the Jets’ success this campaign which has seen them notch five wins with a victory here, only three wins less than all of last season, with ten games still to go in the regular season. However Kenny Lowe’s side officially have welcomed Rhys Williams back into the fold so his experience could be crucial here. This is good news for a side looking to bridge the five point gap to the team above them in fourth.

Big game for: Nick Feely. With Liam Reddy’s late red card in Gosford, Feely, 24, gets the chance to add to his sole senior game for the club (which was an FFA Cup appearance in 2015.) The former Celtic youth player is one of a cadre of local players who have returned to the club in recent seasons.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: More regional games. The Jets have set the benchmark for future A-League games when sides take matches away from home. A sensible new venue and effective timing at the end of the school holidays meant a crowd of 7,891 showed up in Coffs Harbour. Given the corresponding fixture in Melbourne in November saw 7,745 attend, the figure in a city of 68,572 people was impressive.


Central Coast Mariners v Adelaide United, Sunday – GIO Stadium
Back in Canberra for the second time this campaign, the Mariners will be hoping for a better result than the 2-0 defeat they suffered at the hands of the Nix in November but they come into the encounter having impressively dispatched Perth 2-0 on Saturday. Adelaide opened with a goal before coming from behind to secure a draw against Wellington so Guillermo Amor will have taken some joy from that result. Less positive for Amor is the fact Henrique looks to be leaving the club, the side’s third major departure in the last few weeks.


Big game for: The warm-up fixture. The only side not linked to an A-League franchise in name (Canberra United) is in the W-League finals again. The two-time champions notched a third premiership (regular season) crown after Sydney FC stumbled in Adelaide and Rae Dower’s team are favoured to prevail for a tilt at a possible third grand final victory.


The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Recovery. It’s worth (again) pointing out the folly of the FFA going ahead with the two games last Sunday in Adelaide as they did. With the A-League fixture kicking off at 4:30pm local time when it was still 38 degrees, two drinks breaks per half followed as the pace and execution of skills in the game suffered. Both sides did well to play as they did but that fixture, and the preceding W-League game should have been delayed. Fairfax NZ journalist Liam Hyslop outlined how the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature measure (developed by the US military in the 1950s) is now seen by multiple scientists as ‘obsolete’. If WBGT is not a bad measure then FFA should hold their next board meeting in similar conditions.


The betting bit – One serious one not
After going with Sydney last weekend we flick to the team they beat Melbourne Victory ($2.15) to continue their recent dominance over the other team in light blue into a massive Canberra Cosmos banner at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.


Record: 5/17
Profit: – 63.80 (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.

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