The A-League home and away season concludes this weekend with most positions on the ladder already determined, with the exception of fourth, fifth and sixth. However, even if minor changes take place, it seems almost certain the first week of finals next week will feature a Melbourne derby, whilst Adelaide United and Phoenix look almost certain to meet in the other elimination final.
Only a massive turnaround in goal difference this weekend would see sixth placed Melbourne City swap positions with Wellington in fifth spot and hence meet Adelaide in the first final.
Melbourne City v Central Coast Mariners, Friday 26 April, 7.50 pm, AAMI Park
City has performed below expectation this season and with just one win from its last four matches it will be determined to finish on a winning note heading into a likely elimination final against arch rival Melbourne Victory. Its form at AAMI this season has been solid, unbeaten in its last 11 games there, however it is yet to win against the Mariners this season. Last week it welcomed back Riley McGree who scored a brace in the unlucky loss to the Nix. This week it welcomes back skipper Scott Jamieson from injury. The Mariners will be hoping to end the season with a second win in a row.
Newcastle Jets v Sydney FC, Saturday 27 April, 5.35 pm, Mc Donald Jones Stadium
Jets fans must wish that some of the finishing displayed in their team’s 6-1 demolition of Brisbane Roar last round, was on display earlier in the season when the team seemed incapable of finishing the numerous chances they created. It’s probably a major reason that last year’s grand finalist will be missing in action in the upcoming finals series. They host a Sydney FC which has plenty of action left in them with both A-League finals and AFC matches to look forward to. With this in mind, Sydney FC coach Steve Corica could opt to rest players against the Jets. The Sky Blues can expect a tough challenge against a Jets team which have emerging talent in winger Joey Champness and midfielder Angus Thurgate.
Western Sydney Wanderers v Melbourne Victory, Saturday 27 April, 7.50 pm, ANZ Stadium
Reigning champion Victory are assured of third spot, but with two losses from their last three league starts, they’ll be looking for some momentum going into the elimination finals next week. Victory has the upper hand over the Wanderers, unbeaten in their last 10 meetings. Victory stars Honda and Toivonen were rested in the midweek AFC Cup draw against Guangzhou. They should be fresh to start, whilst midfielder Terry Antonis, who played midweek, could be set to play his 50th game for Victory. Victory midfielder James Troisi however will miss out with a hamstring injury.
Perth Glory v Wellington Phoenix, Sunday 28 April, 7.00 pm, HBF Park
The final match of the final round of the A-League home and away season promises to be an entertaining match. Adelaide’s Anzac Day win against the Roar, means they secure fourth spot on the table and a home final ahead of Phoenix. Phoenix had a welcome return to the winners’ list last week against Melbourne City, following on from coach Mark Rudan’s announcement that he would be leaving the club at the end of the season.
His Glory counterpart, Tony Popovic rested a few players in last week’s first away loss of the season against its main rival Sydney FC, whilst giving his son Kristian Popovic a debut off the subs bench, as well as a first appearance this season to Chris Harold. There is a possibility this match could be a dress rehearsal for a semi-final meeting between these two teams.