Coaches made the news again after last week’s round, with the verbal stoush between Brisbane Roar’s John Aloisi and Melbourne City’s John van ‘t Schip creating early headlines. That was overshadowed, however, by the shock resignation of Wellington’s coach Ernie Merrick following the Phoenix’s loss to bottom side Adelaide United, in what was Adelaide United’s first win of the season. The ‘slippery fish’ Henrique was the star for a United team, with his two cracking goals from outside the box giving his team the three points and lifting it off the bottom of the ladder, where the Phoenix took its place.
In the aftermath, Merrick announced his resignation, saying he felt he could not take the team any further, bringing to a likely close a long career as coach in the A-League. Merrick was the last of the foundation coaches remaining in the competition.
Round 10 kicked off on Friday in Sydney with a grudge match between FFA Cup finalists and the top two teams Sydney FC and Melbourne City, just 10 days after Melbourne City’s win in a tense, sometimes spiteful Cup final. It was the first of two Sydney-Melbourne derby matches this round.
Saturday’s matches begin in New Zealand.
Wellington Phoenix v Central Coast Mariners – 5.35 pm, Sat 10 Dec, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
It’s not often a bottom of the table team goes into a match a slight favourite, but Wellington at home against the seventh-placed Mariners, whom they beat 2-0 just a month ago with an understrength side, could justifiably feel some confidence going into this match.
Former coach Ernie Merrick’s assistants, Chris Greenacre and Des Buckingham, are the Phoenix caretaker coaches until the Phoenix appoint a permanent coach by January.
Central Coast, coming off the back of a heavy defeat to the Wanderers 4-1, welcomes back skipper and midfielder Nick Montgomery but loses defensive midfielder Mickael Tavares to an ankle injury. Its likeliest route to goal is through pacey forward flankers, Connor Pain, Trent Buhagiar and Fabio Ferreira.
Western Sydney Wanderers v Melbourne Victory – 7.50 pm, Sat 10 Dec, ANZ Stadium
The sixth-placed Wanderers lost just one of its last eight games since the season’s opening round loss to neighbour Sydney FC, and that was away to Melbourne Victory 3-0. Popovic’s men will be fairly confident they can make amends for that scoreline, for in truth their performance that day deserved a better result. Argentine playmaker Nico Martinez has been one of the standout players in the A-League this season and if he fires they’ll be hard to stop.
Victory, on the other hand, will be missing one of its most dangerous forwards, Marco Rojas, through a hamstring injury. Along with the other Sydney-Melbourne derby this week, this game promises to be the match of the round.
Perth Glory v Newcastle Jets – 10.00 pm, Sat 10 Dec, NIB Stadium
Perth Glory was fortunate to come away with a point from Melbourne Victory last week, however the Jets were powerless to halt Sydney FC going down 2-0.
Both teams welcome back key players from injury and suspension. The Jets have Andrew Nabbout, Nigel Boogaard and Daniel Mullen coming back. Glory is still without an injured Castro but welcomes back Rhys Williams and Socceroo full back josh Risdon.
History dictates a Glory win with eight straight wins in its last eight matches against the Jets. The ninth-placed Jets, on the other hand, have poor form going into the match and with five losses from their last six matches it’s difficult to see them causing an upset. Despite the return of Boogaard and Mullen it’s difficult to see the worst performed defence in the competition keeping out the twin Glory threat of Andy Keogh and former Jets striker Adam Taggart.
Brisbane Roar v Adelaide United – 5.00 pm, Sun 11 Dec, Suncorp Stadium
This match features the return of Adelaide United recruit Henrique to his former club Brisbane Roar. Adelaide has gained points in its last two matches including a scoreless draw against league leader Sydney FC followed by last week’s first win of the season over Phoenix. It receives a boost in its attacking options with the return of Cirio from a long injury layoff. It also welcomes back coach Amor from his two-match sideline suspension. On the downside, it will be without influential holding midfielder Isaias, who is out suspended.
The Roar has drawn its last four matches 1-1 and will be looking for a win at home to get back on the winning track.