It all starts now – A-League Finals Preview
'The Rub Down' gives you the inside tip on this week's A-League finals action.
After 30 rounds of an action-packed season which included the debut of Melbourne Heart, the fall of Sydney FC and the seemingly last hurrah from North Queensland Fury we are left with six contenders for the title. The Rub-Down breaks down the matchups for Week 1 and gives you the inside tip on who will win.
Adelaide United vs Wellington Phoenix (Hindmarsh Stadium, Friday 7:30pm)
Form: Adelaide head into the game off the back of a morale-boosting win against Melbourne Victory and will be competing in their league leading 12th A-League final so have experience on their side. Wellington had a fairytale run to the preliminary final last year and are showing the right signs again heading into the finals with 3 wins in their last 4 games. However, they are winners of only 1 of their last 8 away games, but notably the win came two weeks ago at Hindmarsh against Adelaide.
Key changes: Wellington has two massive inclusions to their side with skipper Andrew Durante returning to the heart of the defence and super-import Paul Ifill back to bolster the attack. Equally important, Adelaide welcomes back the league’s top scorer Sergio Van Dijk and former Brazilian Cassio to sure up the left side.
Rub-Down predicts: Draw 1-1 (Adelaide on penalties). There is not much to separate these sides and with both defences in superb form this will not be an open affair. If it goes to a shootout Galekovic has the experience to get the job done.
Gold Coast vs Melbourne Victory (Skilled Park, Sunday 4:30pm)
Form: Gold Coast suffered a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of title favourites Brisbane Roar to end the regular season and their only win in the last 4 games was a shaky 2-1 win over Perth Glory. They also suffered a humiliating penalty loss to Newcastle at this stage last year so will be keen to avoid bowing out early again. Melbourne Victory played well but couldn’t score in their 2-1 loss to Adelaide last week but the previous form, including a recent 2-0 win over Gold Coast, means they will head in full of confidence.
Key changes: Gold Coast welcomes back top scorer Bruce Djite from a hamstring injury and he will partner Shane Smeltz upfront. Joel Porter returns to the bench. Victory welcome back midfield hardmen Billy Celeski, Leigh Broxham and Grant Brebner.
Rub-Down predicts: Melbourne 2-0. The Victory have the physical and mental edge on their opponents after a bruising encounter a few weeks back. They also have the finals experience to get the job down away from home. The 5,000 Gold Coast fans who show up will be disappointed.
Brisbane Roar vs Central Coast Mariners (1st Leg, Bluetongue Stadium, Saturday 7pm)
Form: Brisbane come off the back of a rout of local neighbours Gold Coast and an Australian football record of 25 games unbeaten. They now sets their sights on the record across all football codes being 26 unbeaten games by Geelong in the VFL during 1952-53. Their only concern is a lack of finals experience. Central Coast dispatched Newcastle with a clinical 1-0 win last week and gave the Roar the biggest test of their season in a pulsating 3-3 draw last time out. Graham Arnold will have his men prepared for battle.
Key changes: No big surprises as Massimo Murdocca and Jean Carlos Solarzano both return for Brisbane after being rested with niggling injuries last week. Matt Simon and Rostyn Griffiths likewise return for the Mariners. Both sides are at full strength.
Rub-Down predicts: Brisbane 3-2. Both sides play an attractive style of football but both are susceptible at the back when under constant pressure. This game will ebb and flow as the goals pour in but I expect Brisbane to take a slender lead back to Suncorp for the second leg.
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