In a remarkable finish to the A-League home and away season, all teams currently in the top four still have a chance to win the trophy most coaches say they covet, the Premier’s Plate. It’s a scenario likely to have A-League fans on the edge of their seats throughout the weekend. However, it could all be decided as early as Saturday evening if current outright leader Brisbane Roar can defeat Melbourne Victory to clinch the plate.
The Roar is the only one of the top four sides which can be certain of the silverware if it wins its final round match. If it doesn’t win, then that opens the door to Adelaide United, Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City.
The final round kicked off last night in Melbourne with the blockbuster between fourth-placed Melbourne City and second-placed Adelaide City. Today’s action kicks off with a dead rubber, albeit a keenly contested derby.
Central Coast Mariners v Newcastle Jets, 5.15 pm, Sat 9 April, Central Coast Stadium
This could be another low scoring game if it goes according to script. Recent F3 derbies have been tight contests, producing just six goals in the last five derbies. Both clubs have struggled this season, although the Jets have shown more of a competitive edge. Neither team has won at its last five starts.
The Jets will be without skipper Boogaard, sent off for the second consecutive week in last week’s 2-1 away loss to the Roar.
Melbourne Victory v Brisbane Roar, 7.30 pm, Sat 9 April, AAMI Park
All the other top four clubs will be keeping a close eye on this match. Victory must back up after a mid-week away draw against South Korea’s Suwon Bluewings which puts it within reach of qualifying for the last 16 of the ACL. It will have to make do without suspended striker Beshart Berisha, who is appealing his two-match ban. However, it may have the services of Carl Valeri in midfield. Victory will be keen to redeem itself after the 5-nil loss it suffered against the Roar in Brisbane just a month ago.
Victory keeper Lawrence Thomas may be in for a busy night as he was mid-week in the ACL match, against a Roar team that will be pressing for a win to clinch the Premier’s Plate. And what a feather in the cap that’d be for coach John Aloisi if they did manage to win.
Wellington Phoenix v Western Sydney Wanderers, 3.00 pm, Sun 10 April, Westpac Stadium
Under normal circumstances you would expect third-placed Wanderers to cruise past ninth-placed Phoenix, especially if the Wanderers are still in with a chance of landing the Premier’s plate by the time this match is played.
Even if the plate is beyond them at kick off, they’ll be keen for all three points to secure a top four finish, knowing the Glory is waiting for an opportunity to grab a top four spot should one of the current group slip out.
But it will have to overcome a Phoenix side which, despite its lowly position, has a good record against the Wanderers, having won four of the last six encounters between the two.
Sydney FC v Perth Glory, 5.00 pm, Sun 10 April, Allianz Stadium
This match won’t impact the race for the Premier’s Plate but it could shape the top four. Glory has won 10 of its 11 matches and could break into the top four to secure a home final, if it can defeat a Sydney team that is completing a disappointing league season.
Sydney has suffered from a lack of firepower. Fortunately for Graham Arnold’s team, it looks like qualifying for the next round of the ACL after a midweek away win against South Korean outfit Pohang Steelers.
Glory doesn’t have a goal-scoring problem. Striker Andy Keogh last week set an A-League record by scoring in his eighth consecutive match in an impressive 3-2 win over Melbourne City.