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


1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on Round 27 of the A-League. Sydney FC, after deferring getting the trophy, will hoist the Premier’s Plate on Saturday plus other games will decide the make-up of the first weekend of the finals.

Melbourne Victory v Central Coast Mariners, Friday – AAMI Park
A 3-0 win in February and 4-1 triumph in Melbourne during December have the second-placed Victory well placed here. Set for a week off after this game Kevin Muscat has the chance to rest anyone who he feels needs it whilst he also gets Alan Baro and Jason Geria back from suspension. The Mariners will want to improve their points total after a confident win over Newcastle on Sunday.

Big game for: Marco Rojas. The Kiwi international scored twice in one of these fixtures this year so is in good form against the Mariners. It’s a level of performance he’ll want to continue for the finals and Confederations Cup.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: For everything Paul Okon has done to improve the Mariners I’m still baffled Liam Rose plays in defence. Hopefully the Mariners recruit key central defenders and Rose gets the chance to move back to the midfield next term.

Sydney FC v Newcastle Jets, Saturday – Allianz Stadium
Looking to get to 66 points Sydney FC will probably win 2-0 as they have done twice in Newcastle this campaign against the Jets. Milos Ninkovic is set to feature here and he has netted in each of the two games versus Mark Jones’ team so looks set for a season hat-trick. It’s hard to see Newcastle scoring based on recent form. Their decline in the last five weeks has been disappointing and this will be harder with skipper Nigel Boogaard suspended. Should they concede to Graham Arnold’s side (having let 17 goals go in without scoring in the current run of games) without scoring the Jets will own an A-League record currently held by the now-defunct New Zealand Knights.

Big game for: The Sky Blues will return several key players from yellow card imposed suspensions and should slot back in.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: There will be several Jets playing their last game for the club and that could include some imports, still contracted for next season, that haven’t been consistent performers this season – looking at you Kokko!

Adelaide United v Western Sydney Wanderers, Saturday – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium
The Wanderers’ 2-1 triumph in Adelaide in October was followed by a score-less draw in February in Sydney between the two clubs now on different end-of-season paths. Adelaide’s Asian Champions League win in South Korea on Tuesday night has given them second spot on goal difference in Group H but the Wanderers are last in group F and need plenty to go their way. The final league game gives them a chance to refocus but the Reds are a tricky prospect with confidence and given Wanderers coach Tony Popovic has elected to rest a host of players including Jumpei Kusukami.

Big game for: Bench striker Brendon Santalab scored twice in Adelaide to help the Wanderers to one of their eight wins this season. Who will be the hero here as the Wanderers work out where they will be playing in week one of the finals?

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: After the season-ending injury to Tarek Elrich it was bad news for Guillermo Amor’s outfit from an ACL point of view in their win with three key players, including recent Socceroo squad member Riley McGree, getting sanctions after yellow cards which means they miss the next ACL game against Gamba Osaka.

Brisbane Roar v Wellington Phoenix, Sunday – Suncorp Stadium
After Wednesday night’s ACL victory over Kashima Antlers kept alive their hopes to progress further despite the fact they still sit last in Group E. In February Wellington won 2-1 with goals to the now-departed Shane Smeltz and Roy Krishna whilst a Jamie Maclaren strike in January saw the Roar win 2-1 in Wellington so these game have been tight and decided late in the piece. John Aloisi has returned several big names to the matchday squad after they missed the Perth game.

Big game for: With Wellington out of playoff contention coaches Des Buckingham and Chris Greenacre should be playing their fringe youngsters before having to apply for the job in coming weeks. Given Shane Smeltz departed for Indonesia during the week it’s time to say “the kids are alright.”

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: No more VAR controversy. Technology is fine but introducing it two weeks before the finals undermines integrity of the competition. Plus the foul on Phoenix defender Marco Rossi went unpunished, as did the Sydney FC players calling for the VAR to be used. Otherwise a great first use of the technology.

Perth Glory v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships Melbourne, Sunday – nib Stadium
It’s been arguably the most exciting match-up between two sides in the A-League this season so it’s appropriate these two sides meet to conclude the 27 rounds – they could actually be the first finals game also depending how the results fall this weekend. In October, Perth courtesy of an Andy Keogh hat-trick won 3-2 in the Victorian capital before a 3-3 draw back at AAMI Park in December had a dash of controversy plus two great penalty saves from Perth shot-stopper Liam Reddy.

Big game for: Tim Cahill’s goal last weekend was well finished but for the second Melbourne franchise to ‘do the double’ the continued pinpoint work of Nicolas Colazo (illustrated by his delivery to Cahill) will be crucial.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Brandan is injured so there will be no shenanigans like his clash with Dino Djulbic in the December fixture

The betting bit – One serious one not
No wild swings here after getting VAR’ed last weekend. Western Sydney ($2.35) have already saluted in Adelaide this campaign and can again into a surprise Viking Clap from the Cove on Saturday.

This football 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.

Leave a Comment