Friday 31st October: Melbourne City vs Adelaide United (AAMI Park)
Whilst the wheels have not fallen off the Sheik Mansour-owned Melbourne City just yet, they looked wobbly last week and are in danger of coming loose from the axle if John van t’Schip can’t get more value from his players. Of course much of the attention will be on David Villa up front, especially considering he has had his ten game guest player stint reduced to four. However the Spanish superstar’s final match should not be about him for City to win and put things back on track. Solid performers Duff and Mooy need to lift, but more importantly the likes of Kisnorbo, Ramsay, Partaalu, Hoffman and Germano need to deliver. aside from Partaalu the others were part of the old Heart squad and so far they are showing the same up and down form that consigned City’s previous entity to the bottom of the table in 2013/14. It may be helpful if David Williams returns and brings with him the goal scoring boots he had last season as well, but it’s the midfield and back where City need to do better.
As for the Reds their lot is a far happier one, thanks to some quality performances on the pitch since the 2014/15 season began, and the stability of the squad in terms of delivering effective football based on Gombau’s technical direction. Bruce Djite makes a welcome return from injury, however it is the Latino/Iberian quartet of Carrusca, Isais, Cirio and Sanchez that forms a vital engine for Adelaide’s progression. It’s also good to see how well Awer Mabil and Tarek Elrich, one a relative youngster, the other a season veteran, are playing. This is a quality squad playing away from home and they’re deserving of favouritism.
Final Verdict: There will be plenty of people to see Villa say farewell to the A-League, and again on paper City look decent. However the Reds are a boss machine right now and I can’t see them losing. My Prediction: 1-3 Adelaide United.
Saturday 1st November: Perth Glory vs Newcastle United (nib Stadium)
These two teams conceded six goals inn total against their opposition last round which indicates they both may have defensive issues, yet in all honesty it’s not as ugly as the raw stats predict. In fact Perth have a nil balance on their for and against record as it stands after three rounds, and Newcastle’s shocking effort last round against the Phoenix has warped what was a reasonable start to the season. Perhaps the biggest disparity is that the Glory have discovered a goal scorer in Andy Keogh, whilst for the Jets no one has really put their hand up to replace Fulham’s Adam Taggart in 2014/15.
Another issue that will be sure to bedevil the Jets is they are still on the road and not yet to come home to Hunter International Stadium, whereas the Glory are back from a jaunt cross the Nullabor to Adelaide, and are at home. There may be some tired legs in the purple and white thanks to their extra-time win midweek over Melbourne Victory in the FFA Cup, however there should be no excuses in a side brimming with youth and experience. The combination of Maclaren and perhaps de Silva from the younger ranks with Garcia, Nicholls, Hersi and Keogh should be a winning one. As for Newcastle this is the ideal opportunity for someone like David Carney or Marcos Flores to remind fans and neutrals alike why they were once icons of the A-League is seasons past.
Final Verdict: Perth should do the job on a struggling Jets, who are nowhere near as blessed when it comes to potential and talent both in front of their own goal nor the opposition’s. My Prediction: 2-0 Perth Glory
Sunday 2nd November: Sydney FC vs Central Coast Mariners (Allianz Stadium)
A tantalizing clash between two clubs that have plenty of history, plus the added piquancy of the relationship between FC coach Graham Arnold, the Mariners and their coach Phil Moss, this will be a match that could finally establish the home team as a favourite for title honours this season. With a near full squad and at home Arnold must feel very confident of snaring all three points, even though the Mariners will be no push overs. The defensive effort against the Roar has probably silenced many who saw chinks in Sydney FC’s backs, whereas the undoubted quality of the likes of Janko, Ibini, Gameiro, Brosque, Antonis and possibly Smeltz means that Sydney can go all out. as for the visitors, their squad is not exactly equal in terms of depth or on paper quality. However as shown in past seasons any game involving Central Coast is not one resolved at a desk; they will give all, and in the likes of Montgomery, Duke, Bosnar, Roux, Caceres and Simon they too have some players to be reckoned with.
Final Verdict: The week’s break for the visitors won’t be that beneficial, and the Mariners have hardly set the world on fire with their form before the enforced lay-off. Sydney FC look the goods for another win. My Prediction: 3-1 Sydney FC
Monday 3rd November: Melbourne Victory vs Wellington Phoenix (AAMI Park)
Arguably the match of the round, it is nicely set up thanks to the preceding weeks’ form from both the home team and the visitors, plus perhaps more importantly the after effects of the Victory’s loss against Perth in their midweek FFA Cup match against Perth Glory. The suspensions to Leijer and Giorgevski will undoubtedly unsettle the Victory, and Delpierre, Berisha and perhaps Thompson could all be in doubt due to injury. Up front this shouldn’t be too big a problem for Muscat as he can still call upon Finkler, Barbarouses and Tunisian international Ben Khalfallah to deliver goals, However at the back there may be some concerns, especially considering in each A-League game played this season Victory have conceded at least one goal, and arguably if there is a squad with plenty of goals in them that they are yet to meet so far in 2014/15 it’s Wellington.
The Phoenix will undoubtedly find their cross-Tasman journey a challenge however they are certainly up for it thanks especially to the front trio of Brockie, McGlinchey and Burns. Burns is probably the pick of the three and some in the media are already talking up his chances for a return to the Socceroos. Bonavecia is going to cause headaches for the Victory midfield, but the question is how well can Wellington’s backs contain a possibly undermanned Victory? Ernie Merrick is a cagey coach with a wealth of experience if not of funds for his squad, and he will give his protege and friend Kevin Muscat plenty to think about.
Final Prediction: this match will be determined by fitness issues for either Berisha and/or Delpierre. If one of those two can play then the momentum may well be with Melbourne. If neither plays then watch out for a possible upset in favour of Wellington. My Prediction: 2-1 Melbourne Victory