Friday 29th November: Central Coast Mariners vs Melbourne Victory (Bluetongue Stadium)
In what could be described as the Battle of Once -Were-Assistants Phil Moss faces Kevin Muscat with both clubs winning last week. The Victory are arguably in better form, thanks to some very good work from the likes of Troisi, Thompson, Nichols and Coe, and their win last round against Adelaide was quite an achievement. Having said that their defence is not as strong as could be hoped, with Contreras particularly a volatile weakness. They are also missing Broxham and Leijer with the later suspended for a red card from last week’s game. The Mariners have an excellent record at home and whilst no one is really setting the world on fire all are contributing. Flores is the obvious game-changer for the home team, though Duke, McBreen and Montgomery will be key. as I write this I am unsure if Reddy or Pasfield will be in goal, however neither should be a liability. Defensively the Mariners have plenty of quality, and it’ll be fascinating to see whether the Victory can break them down.
My Prediction: 1-1 Draw
Saturday 30th November: Brisbane Roar vs Perth Glory (Suncorp Stadium)
The Roar are deserved table toppers at the moment and with no major changes to their squad coming into this game it would be a brave person to punt against them at home. Berisha, Mackay, Franjic, Broich and Yeboah are all players who will test the capabilities of the visiting team. Kwame yeboah is probably the most exciting young prospect in the A-League right now and it will be interesting to see if Mike Mulvey continues to use him as a late sub. Berisha should also be better for his run last week, however the tempo of this game can’t be the same as that last week against the Wanderers, as the Roar will struggle with intensity and fitness. Perth are going to be without Scott Jamieson who has been lost for the remainder of the season, and marquee William Gallas who is out for a week. Their playing style has not been one to win many admirers nor many matches however they do have some capability to score goals thanks to Jamie MacLaren and Shane Smeltz. Smeltz may be the unknown factor in this game as he is finally free of injury and All-White commitments. Sidnei is also a potent member of the Glory squad, however away from home against a very strong Roar it’s well nigh impossible to see them winning
My Prediction: 2-0 Roar win
Saturday 30th November: Sydney FC vs Newcastle Jets (Allianz Stadium)
Back in Round One the Jets looked ineffectual whilst Sydney FC served competent if uninspiring football. Since then both Frank Farina and Gary Van Egmond have had intense scrutiny of the failings of their playing style and squad thrust on them, which has then transitioned to some very decent winning football. Both teams will be looking for their third win on the trot, and whilst neither is looking to threaten the likes of the Roar or Wanderers just yet if they keep racking up victories they could well challenge. Sydney FC have got issues with that old bogeyman of theirs, i.e. the red card monster, and are missing Bojic and Tiago due to on-field indiscretions. As always when fit del Piero will be crucial to the fortunes of the home team, however Richard Garcia and Seb Ryall should not be forgotten. SFC’s Serb connection also looks decent with Despotovic and Petkovic helping out in front and back respectively. However there is something exciting about how the Jets has transitioned with their young players in recent weeks, and whilst they may not play joga bonita football Adam Taggart is going to be enemy no.1 for the home team. Gallaway, Holle, Brillante and Goodwin are part of this cadre of youthful quality, and with Heskey, Nathan Burns and Zadkovich also there to add experience there is much to like about the visitors.
My Prediction: 2-1 Jets win
Sunday 1st December: Wellington Phoenix Vs Western Sydney Wanderers
Back at the ‘Cake Tin’ for the first time since Round One, and with some bad luck and international commitments causing disruption to their season, the Phoenix are possibly in the best position they have been for some time. To be honest though they will need to get the best out of Moss, Ifill, Husysegems, Hernandez and Brockie to challenge a weakened but angry Wanderers who will be looking to smack back after last week’s loss. Still without Hersi and Juric, but also missing Ono, it could be said that much of the offensive threat of the visitors has been de-fanged. However Santalab and Bridge are going to still be of concern for Ernie Merrick and if there is a time for Aaron Mooy to step up this could be it. Matt Spiranovic should be starting again however it will be intriguing to see what happens with Topor-Stanley, Beauchamp and D’Apuzzo. The flukey Wellington winds and potential for a good crowd may influence the game but it’s hard to see past a visitor win.
My Prediction: 2-0 Wanderers win
Sunday 1st December: Melbourne Heart Vs Adelaide United (AAMI Park)
In what may be jokingly called ‘Sack Race: Part II’, John Aloisi and Josep Gombau will both be looking for their charges to stop the rot and both score goals and more importantly win a game. Like everyone else I was very partial to the tiki-taka possession style of the Reds however after some initial promise it has taken the visiting team nowhere. For the Heart their inability to score goals, defend with passion and intelligence, and the overall gutless performances particularly as shown against Sydney FC last week makes them look like certain wooden spooners if they continue in such a vein. However in what could be seen as a vital change in their dynamic, Harry Kewell is finally back and will need to play the whole 90 minutes of a standard and belief that will compel his team mates forward. David Williams may assist, and Kisnorbo’s return will strengthen the backline. Adelaide must stop the slow and steady two steps backwards, one step sideways, maybe half-a-step forwards football and press for more direct movement. Bruce Djite is a welcome addition to the (potential) starting line-up, and whilst Cassio will be missed it’s the other Latino players such as Ferreira, Jeronimo, Carrusca, Isais and Cirio that need to turn Gombau’s system into a winning one. Zullo and Elrich need to help stop the goal leakage too. By game’s end we could be seeing one coach shown the door.
My prediction 2-2 draw