Thursday 26th December: Sydney FC vs Brisbane Roar (Allianz Stadium)
With both teams coming into this round off a loss each, this will be a key game to determine how each club builds towards the second half of the current season. Farina must be praying and hoping that del Piero can return (which is most likely alongside Brett Emerton), whilst Mike Mulvey will be less than happy to know that Besart Berisha is again out for a few weeks with an injury. Janjetovic will possibly be under multiple threats thanks to Ivan Franjic and the Borussia Monchengladbach bound Kwame Yeboah, whilst at the other end of the pitch Despotovich and Garcia must try and replicate the work of the Jets. Whilst the sky blues are playing at home I don’t believe this will count too much in their favour. It’s almost impossible to go past a Brisbane Roar team that with Broich, McKay, Brattan and Miller looks more capable than the vast majority of Farina’s team (excluding ADP).
My Prediction: 2-0 win Roar
Friday 27th December: Melbourne Heart vs Wellington Phoenix (AAMI Park)
The so-called desperation derby does have the reek of mediocrity wafting around it, although to be fair to the visitors they know how to win games this season (well, one win anyway). Much will depend upon how Harry Kewell plays for the Heart (if indeed he does at all), and whether the players can continue to rally around the hapless John Aloisi. Without Paul Ifill the Kiwis are vulnerable and Hernandez and Brockie need to start doing more than making impressions of being quality footballers. It is possible that without Kisnorbo (suspended after last week’s red card) the Heart defence may be better, however can anyone realistically say that their attack with the myopic Michael Mifsud and the stuttering David Williams improve enough to beat Glen Moss in the visitor’s goal? Whatever the result don’t expect Aloisi to be sacked; he is like a barnacle on a sinking ship and can’t be levered off simply because he is integral to the whole box and dice of Heart’s floundering efforts. To cull the coach would effectively castrate every other aspect of the Heart.
My Prediction: 1-1 draw
Saturday 28th December: Melbourne Victory vs Western Sydney Wanderers (AAMI Park)
In what should be the game of the round the Wanderers will be looking to extend their dominance of the bigger and older Melburnian club away from home, with a team that is firing on all cylinders. The home team have plenty of potential going forward however I am still to be convinced that defensively they can match the visitors. Assuming Ono and Hersi start and Mooy returns Tony Popovic will have plenty of confidence in all three sectors of the Wanderers’ structure. Kevin Muscat on the other hand will be keen to see Nicholls, Troisi, Finkler, Thompson and Pain apply pressure to Popovic’s back four. If Juric can replicate even half the performance of last round against the Mariners the Victory will be in trouble, though Contreras, Milligan and Traore are not that bad. The vibe from AAMI Par will also be intriguing, as the RBB are sending a massive deputation down south whilst the off-field ructions in the Victory’s support base are still to be resolved.
My Prediction: 0-1 win Wanderers
Sunday 29th December: Adelaide United vs Newcastle United (Coopers Stadium)
In what should be a fascinating game the Jets will be feeling pretty confident of giving Josep Gombau’s Reds a challenge if not a beating. Last time the teams met at Coopers Stadium the visitors won quite easily, and if Brillante, Hoole and Zadkovich are reinforced by Nathan Burns and Emile Heskey Gary Van Egmond will have a strong foundation to build towards an away win. Having said that the Reds enigmatic record in the last few weeks will give plenty of their fans reason to think they will win. Isaias and Djite did not play as crucial a role in the game against Perth last round as was needed, whilst Michael Zullo is rapidly losing some of the lustre he had surrounding him when he first came to the Reds. Galekovic will be hopeful that the at times porous Reds defence keeps more solid this game, whilst Birighitti will be pondering how to stop the inevitable shots he will face from Carrusca, Neumann and Ferreira. Adealide really do need the win, the Jets will probably accept a draw at worst.
My Prediction: 1-1 Draw
Tuesday 31st December: Central Coast Mariners vs Perth Glory (Bluetongue Stadium)
Two neophyte coaches will be looking for improved performances from their respective teams in this final game of Round 12, and with the home advantage the Mariners should be the team to satisfy their coach by match’s end. Glory are a decent team however they have relied too heavily on a style of football that is very opportunistic plus needing one or two of their squad to rise above their usual standard. Sidnei is a prime example of this; whilst he helped destroy Wellington he hasn’t exactly helped rain in goals in other games. Injuries and lingering doubts over the stability of the team’s inner core must cause Kenny Lowe some concern, whilst for Phil Moss he has the comfort of being at Blue Tongue. Whilst the Mariners were deservedly beaten last round they still have quality in their team. McBreen must start doing more with the opportunities he is presented, whilst Mitchell Duke also needs to lift. Defence is a problem and Seip seems to be the core headache there, though in this match I don’t expect him to be as sorely tested by the Glory as he was by the Wanderers.
My Prediction: 2-0 win Mariners