Borussia Dortmund players Jadon Sancho and Manuel Akanji have been fined undisclosed sums for violating the Bundesliga hygiene rules, with England winger England winger Sancho branding the decision an “absolute joke”.
What a difference two weeks makes in football. Teams in the bottom half are taking big scalps, Canberra’s finding form and the premiers are wobbling.
Here’s a look at how the final two weeks will shape the finals.
Fixtures: Adelaide (A), Canberra (H)
They have one hand on the premiership, but still one foot dangling out of the boat. Getting three points from Adelaide away isn’t a given, the Lady Reds have shown up more fancied opponents before. Canberra at home is also no guarantee, with the girls in green chasing a finals spot of their own.
Canberra have shown they’re willing to open space in defence to attack, so playing for a draw as they did in the City game won’t work here.
However, they are top for a reason. The premiership is a marathon, not a sprint. The Roar have taken points when it counts, even if they don’t score many goals. Canberra’s eight-goal thriller against Perth only got them a single point, while Brisbane’s last eight goals have netted them 15 competition points. Beat Adelaide 1-0 and the Premiership is theirs, and the final game will be a dress rehearsal for the finals.
Worst case, Brisbane could tumble as low as third; a super unlikely result. They’re protected as Newcastle/Canberra would take points off each other, then Newcastle/City. A home final is almost a certainty.
Fixtures: Melbourne Victory (A), WSW (H)
I said the Roar only had one hand on the premiership because I don’t see Sydney faltering in either of these games. 6-0-1 after their horrid start, they’ve beaten both WSW and Victory already this season, and neither have anything other than pride to play for.
The Sydney girls will subscribe to the old adage of only worrying about things they can control. Namely, get the six points and keep the pressure on Roar. That said, second spot isn’t the worst place to be – they’ll have home final in Round 1.
If the wheels were to fall off and Sydney drop both, they could find themselves outside the top four if several other results go against them. That probably won’t happen, but dropping one game could see them lose a home final to Newcastle or Canberra, a result they’ll be desperate to avoid.
Fixtures: Canberra (A), Melbourne City (H)
Losing to Adelaide at home last week hurts. Newcastle have the second-hardest run home, having to travel to Canberra before hosting City. Points won’t come easily, with both opponents needing to win as well. The only ace for Newcastle this week is Canberra is coming back from Bunbury, so they may be a little underdone.
If the Jets want to play finals, they need to win one of these two games, or at worst lose narrowly to Canberra and draw with City. The Canberra game is key; if the Jets get grounded and lose by more than two goals, they lose their goal difference advantage over City.
Will this be Newcastle’s year? Maybe. But I believe it will come down to the City game, and it will be a straight shootout to make the finals.
Fixtures: Bye, Newcastle (A)
I remember seeing a tweet that it was disappointing Roar played for a draw while City played for the win last week. Not quite accurate. The Roar play lowball football, the scores stay low and they control the tempo. City are a class team that, for whatever reason, just haven’t clicked yet.
Drawing with Adelaide earlier in the season and going down in the Melbourne derby are two obvious reasons for City’s current predicament. The equation is pretty simple: beat the Jets next week.
City can still get in based on Canberra smashing Newcastle and scratching a draw. But that relies on Canberra becoming more of a threat. Making the finals is step one, but an in-form Canberra, in-form Sydney and dominant Roar makes it tough beyond that. City have the class to beat Newcastle, but will the weight of expectation be their downfall?
Fixtures: Newcastle (H), Brisbane Roar (A)
The hardest finish to the season, coming back from Bunbury to host the Jets, before taking on the likely premiers at Suncorp. But when have Canberra ever done things the easy way? It builds character. The girls in green have shown when the going gets tough – and 0-3/1-4 down is pretty tough away from home – the tough find a pass to Ash Sykes and salvage a draw.
Attack isn’t an issue for Canberra; they will score goals. They’ve only been held scoreless twice this season and have put away 12 in the past three games. The problem is defence, with Canberra only notching one clean sheet two weeks ago against the Wanderers.
I like simple equations – win this week and Canberra make the finals. Newcastle/City will take points off each other. Any other result and the Brisbane game becomes a qualifier. With the Newcastle/City game being on Saturday, Canberra will know what needs to be done to make it.
Canberra can finish as high as top but will be content with a home final. They’ll be cheering on Adelaide this week for that to happen, with the door only opening if the Roar drop both games, or Sydney drop one. Otherwise, away finals against Sydney or Brisbane loom.
Fixtures: Wanderers (H), Bye
Just as well this last game isn’t televised on the East coast – the time difference puts kick-off at 11:15pm on Sunday. Only getting one point from the Canberra game puts the fork in the Glory’s season. Unless they smash Wanderers and all other results go their way, they won’t feature in the finals.
For those in Perth, head down to the A-League/W-League double-header. It will likely be the last chance to see Sam Kerr for the season. She’s a class above, slotting three against Canberra last week.
Melbourne Victory: Sydney (H), Adelaide (A)
WS Wanderers: Perth (A), Sydney (A)
Adelaide United: Brisbane Roar (H), Victory (H)
This weekend will speak volumes about how the finals take shape. I’ll be out and about watching the Canberra game, cheering from the sidelines. With some high-quality match-ups, the next two weeks will make for exciting viewing.