With nine rounds of the A-League season remaining, there’s plenty to play for amongst the top six teams, apart from the Premier’s Plate which runaway leader Sydney FC have firmly in their grasp even at this stage. However just four points separates second placed Perth Glory from sixth placed Brisbane Roar, with Glory, Melbourne City and Phoenix all on 30 points. Fifth placed Adelaide United missed a chance to join those three when they surprisingly lost to a rejuvenated Western Sydney last week.
Whilst the Wanderers revived their chances of finals football, Western United and Melbourne Victory dropped further behind the top six and this week they face crucial matches to keep their finals hopes alive.
The Sydney derby kicks of Rd 21 on Friday evening whilst Phoenix has the bye this round.
Saturday’s matches begin in Newcastle.
Newcastle Jets v Perth Glory
The Jets coach Carl Robinson has two new signings at his disposal for the visit of Glory which will provide the 10th placed Jets with a stern test. Fellow Welshman, and experienced midfielder Joe Ledley is available as is forward Bernie Ibini. Key men in deciding this clash could be the Jets’ Irish playmaker Wes Hoolahan and Glory’s Spanish maestro Diego Castro. The Glory coach Tony Popovic will be urging his players to put the speculation surrounding the club’s ownership, behind it and focused on maintaining second place ahead of nearest challenger Melbourne City.
Melbourne Victory v Adelaide United, 7.30 pm Sat, 29th Feb, Marvel Stadium
Victory is still chasing a first win under coach Carlos Salvachua, and even though it clinched a point against the Jets last week, they’ll be desperate to win against old rivals Adelaide, to keep any hope of finals football alive. The Reds will be determined to bounce back from their shock 5-2 loss to the Wanderers last week and keep in touch with the top four. United will be without the winning goal scorer from the last time these two met, Ben Halloran, out injured but welcome back former Victory man and Socceroo James Troisi to their squad. If United can muzzle Victory’s Marco Rojas and Ola Toivonen, they should be able to take the three points.
Prediction: Adelaide United win
Western United v Central Coast Mariners 4.00 Pm , Sun 1st March, GMHBA Stadium, Geelong
Western United will no doubt see this game as a chance to reboot its finals push after disappointing recent results including last week’s 3-0 loss away to Phoenix. They host cellar dwellers Mariners, in what could be United’s last game at GMHBA Stadium in Geelong in a long while. The Mariners have lost their last six games, whilst United hasn’t scored in their last three matches. The last time they met here was in January when United won 3-0. Apostolos Stamatelopoulos returns for United whilst Panagiotis Kone is out with an arm injury.
Prediction: Western United win
Melbourne City v Brisbane Roar 6.30 pm, 1st March, AAMI Park
If their two previous encounters this season are anything to go by, this fixture promises to be an exciting finale to the round with the Roar defeating Melbourne City 4-3 and drawing 2-2 in their two meetings. Jamie MacLaren and Roy O’Donovan each scored hat tricks in the seven goal thriller. Sixth placed Roar is the in-form team, having proven their mettle by holding Perth Glory to a 1-1 draw last week.
Third placed City is coming off the bye and will be desperate maintain their chase for second spot.