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

@hamishneal

1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on round one of the A-League which starts in Brisbane and sees the defending champions, Adelaide, travel to Newcastle to conclude the weekend’s games.

Brisbane Roar v Melbourne Victory, Friday – Suncorp Stadium
Melbourne’s solid pre-season has seen them progress to the semi-finals of the FFA Cup so have been playing games of consequence for a month or so and should be tuned up for this one. Brisbane went out at the round of 32 stage in the FFA Cup falling to Perth 2-0 however they did beat the Glory in a recent trial. John Aloisi’s side seems to have benefited from being able to plan their pre-season after their Cup exit as the 4-0 win over Perth would indicate. One great story is the return of Roar defender Luke DeVere to the top flight who has endured a frustrating period after he suffered a thigh injury in one of those big name off-season games in June of 2015.

Big game for: Brisbane’s fans. Given the ongoing off-season shenanigans it will be interesting to see what fans turn out, and how vocal they are on Friday night.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing how the Victory go at one of their hoodoo grounds, Suncorp Stadium. Like Hunter Stadium they have struggled at the Queensland venue in recent times.

Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships, Saturday – Westpac Stadium
With Round 1 of the competition during an international window it means Nix coach Ernie Merrick is shorn of five players here and the visitors will be without Tim Cahill. The Phoenix have logged two wins in pre-season over the Mariners but did fall to defeat to the Wanderers in the FFA Cup coughing up a 2-0 lead. Melbourne’s light blues are into the FFA Cup semi-finals and have already scored eight goals in the knockout competition in three games so it could be a goal-fest on Saturday. It’s an interesting A-League debut in prospect for Danish defender Michael Jakobsen who will have to deal with the wind (although only expected to be 25 km/h) and Gui Finkler in his club debut so it’s an exciting contest in prospect.

Big game for: New South Wales NPL. Jacob Tratt is likely to have a lock on right back spot during the season but former Manly player Adam Parkhouse, known for his goal-scoring, will play left back on Saturday evening given Tom Doyle’s absence.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: A ‘show us your Tim’ tifo? Given the FFA want more people attending Phoenix fixtures the decision to deny having the game transferred to a free weekend for both sides later in the season is baffling. Having the big Phoenix players missing and denying Kiwi fans a chance to see a one-time Oceania junior national team star is a nonsense. The FFA must, as a minimum shift impacted games (if not the round) for the integrity of the league. I’ll be back in November to complain about this again.

Western Sydney Wanderers v Sydney FC, Saturday – ANZ Stadium
The first Sydney Derby of the season will be played at ANZ Stadium with both sides having contrasting pre-seasons. A fairly full-strength Wanderers outfit was beaten 2-0 by the Jets in Cessnock a fortnight ago whilst Sydney FC have had their new recruits perform well and help guide them to the FFA Cup semi-finals. With an Asian Champions League spot up for grabs to the FFA Cup winner Sydney’s last four game against Canberra Olympic is big, but it won’t be a distraction at this stage. Maybe in a few weeks, but not now. Lachlan Scott scored on multiple occasions in the FFA Cup for the Wanderers who have Kerem Bulut returning to the club. The departure of Mark Bridge could be felt in this game, especially as Sydney are spoilt for choice with Danny Vukovic and Vedran Janjetovic their top goal-keepers.

Big game for: Wanderers’ attackers. Despite Scott’s results in August with no goals from the team in a trial two weeks ago and only Dimas netting in their FFA Cup quarter final defeat, Tony Popovic’s outfit will want an early goal to settle their nerves. Recruit Nicolas Martinez will have an interesting first A-League experience.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Sydney improvement. Bernie Ibini isn’t likely to be at full match fitness for the sky blues in game one so anything Sydney do will be improved upon in terms of their attack which will have great depth if they remain fit this season.

Perth Glory v Central Coast Mariners, Saturday – nib Stadium
This match is a repeat of round one last season when the two sides met in Gosford. Central Coast won on that occasion 3-2 – it was one of only three wins all season for the side now coached by Paul Okon. The shambolic off-season which we noted in our season preview means the Mariners’ new boss Paul Okon is in charge of a team with players he didn’t recruit and having lost some of their better performers from last season. Perth have a very experienced backline and Diego Castro, the reigning Johnny Warren medallist, will link up with Adam Taggart for the first time in a competitive game for Perth this season, which certainly has the potential to be akin to Mooy-Fornaroli in terms of assist to the goal-scorer combination that duo had in Melbourne last season.

Big game for: No injuries. A baffling decision by the Mariners to play a pre-season game at a private school in Sydney on a ground (presumably) chopped up from a season of rugby union has seen Jake Adelson go down with a second season-ending injury. Quite why the club didn’t play the fixture at an NPL venue is puzzling. If you want to support the local game surely it’s better to pay venue hire to them compared to a private school. Best of luck to Jake in his recovery.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Defender Dino Djulbic scored twice in the FFA Cup this season and Perth have a variety of set piece options for goal-scorers

Newcastle Jets v Adelaide United, Sunday – Hunter Stadium
The Reds head to Newcastle after they were tipped out of the FFA Cup by Queensland team Redlands and face a Newcastle team which, despite their off-field upheaval, have performed well in pre-season. The Jets beat the Wanderers recently, won their three games played in China after an early FFA Cup exit and had recruited well given their ownership uncertainty. It’s a big call to say the Jets are a certainty to win this game even allowing for Adelaide’s off-season losses and the injury that means they won’t have to face Marcelo Carrusca but the Jets did well at the start of last season so they might be a have a chance to replicate that on Sunday.

Big game for: Jack Duncan, the Jets shot-stopper has played more games (nine) for Australia’s Under 23 side in the last three years than he has played senior club games (eight) since the beginning of the 2013/14 season. Back at the Jets and with Ben Kennedy absent (Achilles injury) Duncan has the chance to make the spot his own.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Adelaide could see more squad moves before the game on Sunday with former Jet Taylor Regan to possibly join them on the weekend to provide defensive cover for the injured Jordan Elsey.

The betting bit – One serious one not
Staying with the last game and given their recent win over the Wanderers and Adelaide’s changeover Newcastle ($3.50) to win at home looks a very reasonable opportunity into a comedy goal somewhere in Round 1. New teams/combinations, wet conditions expected at some venues there has to be some comedy value heading our way.

2015/16 record: 19/30
Profit: $84.05 (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.

Comments

  1. Dennis Gedling says:

    An entertaining start to the season.

    The controversy on both sides on Friday to open things. Phoenix almost stealing a point with the half their team on tour. Arnold getting further in to Poppa’s head. My lot, as per usual, shitting the bed against the worst team in the comp and the Jets drawing with the champs.

    Sydney may in fact be a big chance this season as much as I’d hate to see it.

  2. There was plenty in the opening weekend Dennis. Sydney, and Graham Arnold’s, big game results against the Wanderers are certainly skewed in GA’s favour.

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