Here’s the A-League Round 5 preview panel.
FRIDAY, November 23
Western Sydney Wanderers v Newcastle Jets at Spotless Stadium 7.50pm
Head to Head: Western Sydney 8 Newcastle 4 drawn 6
Last clash: Round 20 2017-2018 – Western Sydney 2 Newcastle 2 at Spotless Stadium
The international break ends and Newcastle resume their valiant search for goals, and a win. Last year’s runners-up are languishing in ninth and can expect no favours from a Wanderers team buoyed by a first season appearance at Spotless Stadium. The hosts welcome back Roly Bonevacia while Josh Risdon is coming off the high of a bright Socceroos showing. The Jets unfurled their best performance so far in a 1-1 draw with Sydney FC and are promising plenty from attacking midfielder Dimitri Petratos, stung by failing to retain his Australian squad spot.
Key: Oriol Riera. Wanderers’ Spanish striker bagged both goals in their last-start draw with Brisbane. He did the same from the penalty spot when they drew 2-2 with Newcastle in February.
Tip: Western Sydney Wanderers
SATURDAY, November 24
Wellington Phoenix v Adelaide United at Westpac Stadium 5.35pm
Head to Head: Phoenix 8 Adelaide 17 drawn 9
Last clash: Round 25 2017-2018 – Adelaide 3 Phoenix 1 at Hindmarsh Stadium
Both are coming off losses before the break, with Adelaide’s defeat against pace-setters Perth a rare setback in what had been a brilliant start to their season. The FFA Cup champions are unbeaten in their last eight against the Phoenix, who haven’t kept a clean sheet in 16 successive games at Westpac Stadium. Fleet-footed winger Craig Goodwin should fully test a Phoenix team who have been toothless in attack since round one. Nathan Burns’ return from paternity leave could be timely for the hosts.
Key: Roy Krishna still needs a goal to become the Phoenix’s greatest scorer. For now, they’d like anyone to register and break their goal-less run.
Tip: Adelaide United
Brisbane Roar v Melbourne City at Suncorp Stadium 7.50pm
Head to Head: Brisbane 9 Melbourne City 11 drawn 5
Last clash: Elimination final 2017-2018 – Melbourne City 2 Brisbane 0 at AAMI Park
Brisbane have won six of their last nine at home to this weekend’s opponents but will need to play smarter to repeat the dose. Poor starts and defensive mishaps have dogged the eighth-placed Roar. The hosts’ winless run stretches back to their last game of last season when beaten 2-0 by Melbourne City in the elimination final. Stefan Mauk scored in that game for City before his off-season shift to Brisbane. However, he’ll need to pass a late fitness test if he’s to face his former club. Dane Ingham (quad) is out for Brisbane while Melbourne are poised to welcome back key midfielder Luke Brattan.
Key: Bruno Fornaroli. The Uruguayan finally got off the mark last start against the Phoenix. Have the floodgates opened for the lethal City marksman?
Tip: Melbourne City
SUNDAY, November 11
Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory at Jubilee Stadium 5.00pm
Head to Head: Sydney 13 Melbourne Victory 14 drawn 19
Last clash: Semi-final 2017-2018 – Melbourne Victory 3 Sydney FC 2 at Allianz Stadium
If this latest chapter of the “Big Blue” is half as dramatic as last season’s semi-final, it’s a heavyweight contest to savour. Sydney FC won’t have forgotten their epic 3-2 loss which halted what seemed an unerring march towards a second straight title. Instead Terry Antonis’s memorable extra-time winner sent Victory on their way to a record fourth crown. The undoubted match of round five also pits Victory creator Keisuke Honda against Sydney finisher Adam le Fondre in the clash of two red-hot imports. The home side’s defence has been more robust, which is why they’re second on the ladder to Victory’s fourth.
Key: Jubilee Stadium. A sold-out crowd of 20,000 will be baying for Victory’s blood although there’s no better team than Kevin Muscat’s champions when the stakes are raised.
Perth Glory v Central Coast Mariners at nib Stadium 7.00pm
Head to Head: Perth 11 Central Coast 21 drawn 8
Last clash: Round 23 2017-2018 – Perth 3 Central Coast 1 at nib Stadium
First versus last and Perth only look like they’re getting better. Somehow Tony Popovic has to squeeze in a host of fit-again players to his over-performing Glory team, including brilliant skipper Diego Castro. The unbeaten hosts could also potentially call on Brendon Santalab, Tomislav Mrcela and Matthew Spiranovic. The Mariners started with successive draws but slumped in big losses to Adelaide and Melbourne Victory. They are desperate to create more chances for Ross McCormarck. The Scotsman could be joined up front by the returning Matt Simon but Tommy Oar is out with a knee complaint.
Key: Castro. The evergreen Spaniard hasn’t played since his pre-season hamstring twinge but has the class to only add to all the good things Perth are doing.
Tip: Perth Glory