It’s been a long time coming, but with just one win in their past 11 matches, Western Sydney Wanderers finally pushed the eject button for coach Markus Babbel early in the week.
The German coach follows Ernie Merrick and countryman Marco Kurz as the third A-League coach in three weeks to lose his job.
The Wanderers immediately announced Babbel’s assistant Jean Paul De Marigny as caretaker coach whilst they search for a permanent replacement.
Meanwhile the player transfers continue with Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City both announcing what they hope will be key signings. Victory has signed Kiwi international winger Marco Rojas for his third stint at the club, replacing the departed Kristijan Dobras. City has signed central defender Jack Hendry from Scottish champions Celtic, in a bid to shore up coach Erick Mombaert’s defence. Hendry signs as an injury replacement for sidelined Austrian defender Richard Windbichler.
Western United announced the departure this week of veteran Turkish defender Ersan Gulum who is expected to return to Turkey. His departure comes amid speculation that Canberra-born defender and former Sydney Olympic player George Timotheou is looking to return from Europe in search of more game time, and could be headed to Mark Rudan’s team.
Overlooked by Graham Arnold for the Olyroos’AFC U23 Championships in Thailand currently underway, it is understood that Timotheou is looking to return to Australia from Beligian club Zulle Waregem in search of more game time to come into contention for Olyroos selection ahead of the Tokyo Olympics later this year.
On Tuesday, ahead of this weekend’s Rd 16 of the A-League, Victory kicked off a gruelling schedule of four matches in 11 days which includes a mid-week game in Japan as they try and juggle AFC Champions League qualification with domestic league matches. Tuesday night’s match was a confidence boosting 5-0 home win over Indonesian champions Bali United, which means Victory progresses to the next round of Asian Champions League play-offs, against a much stronger opponent, J-League team Kashima Antlers next Tuesday in Japan.
Before that they’re aiming to take some points out of the Big Blue against runaway league leader Sydney FC in one of two Friday night matches in Rd 16 of the A-League; the other between Wellington Phoenix and Newcastle Jets. Western Sydney has the bye this round.
Central Coast Mariners v Brisbane Roar, Sat 25/1, Central Coast Stadium, 5.00 pm
Struggling Mariners host a Roar side undefeated in its last four games and looking to break into the top six. These two last met in November with the Roar winning 2-0 thanks to goals from Roy O’Donovan and Scott Neville. With new signing Scott McDonald and an in-form Dylan Wenzel-Halls, Roar coach Robbie Fowler has even more attacking options. Defender Tom Aldred also returns to strengthen the backline whilst the Mariners name Samuel Silvera in the match day squad after he missed last week through an overseas trial.
Prediction: Roar win
Melbourne City v Perth Glory, Sat 25/1, AAMI Park, 7.30 pm
Even with the Big Blue being played on Friday, this match-up between second and third on the ladder shapes up as the match of the round. Glory seems to have the wood on City in recent encounters winning their previous meeting this season by 3-0. They’ll be strengthened by the return of Chris Ikonomidis and Ivan Franjic from injury, whilst City’s defence will be strengthened by the return from injury of Scott Galloway and the inclusion of new signing Jack Hendry. Glory broke the club record by making it six wins in a row last week. City will be determined to halt that run and hold onto second place.
Western United v Adelaide United, Sun 26/1, EJ Whitten Oval, 6.00 pm
This match shapes as a historic encounter for a number of reasons. It’s the first A-League meeting between these two sides, and it’s the first time Western United will host a match at the EJ Whitten Oval, traditional home of AFL team the Western Bulldogs. It will also mark Western United striker Beshart Berisha’s 200th A-League appearance. Both teams are just inside the top six at present and will be looking to consolidate their place. They both returned to the winners circle last round after recent lean spells. James Troisi’s return from injury for the Reds is a boost to their offensive play. For United, key playmaker Alessandro Diamanti has been named in the squad despite an injury concern.
Prediction: Western United win