The current European Championship qualification structure must be reformed.
The A-League enters its run home to the finals, after a split Round 21 that brought much drama and controversy.
We lost a manager during the week, with Mike Mulvey shown the door at the Central Coast after conceding a cricket score against the Phoenix.
Alen Stajcic takes the reins temporarily and it will be fascinating to see how the Mariners react to this new wave of drama, with just six matches remaining in their season.
Round 22 throws up two vitally important matches in terms of the potential make-up of the top six. The Sydney FC vs Melbourne City clash at Leichhardt on Sunday evening could end the home side’s Premier’s Plate aspirations or make City’s finals chances look questionable.
Friday’s clash between the Reds and Glory in the city of churches may well go a long way towards securing a plate for the westerners and the ramifications for Adelaide are significant, with the Jets mounting an impressive late season surge.
It promises to be a cracking weekend of football with the Wanderers and Newcastle looking to continue their recent good form and Victory hoping to keep pace with the Sky Blues in second place.
Good luck with your tips and be sure to enter them in the sheet below to have your say as the voice of the crowd. Here are the thoughts of the panel as we enter the final six weeks of the regular season.
Perth Glory, Newcastle Jets, Melbourne Victory, Wellington Phoenix, Sydney FC.
Much as the Reds seem to revel in making life uncomfortable for visiting teams, they just can’t seem to score a goal. Glory have squeezed the life out of opponents this season and that’s exactly what they’ll do once again at Coopers Stadium.
The Jets have won both games against the Mariners by a single goal this season, but surely the Novocastrians will cut loose here? The Mariners are an absolute rabble, and not even the arrival of Alen Stajcic as interim coach will have much of an effect on the outcome in Newcastle.
Beware the wounded Victory. Kevin Muscat’s side have been ratcheting up the excuses of late, but this might be the night they finally turn their performances into a result. They should smash a tired-looking Roar outfit at home, with Kosta Barbarouses likely to terrorise his former club once again.
Wellington have threatened to cut loose all season, but it took some generous assistance from the hapless Mariners to help them do exactly that in Gosford last weekend. The Wanderers have left their run too late, so expect the Kiwis to collect all three points here.
Can Sydney FC make it a clean sweep for home teams this round? Both of these sides have flattered to deceive all season, but the Sky Blues have looked much the better side in doing so.
They should have the quality to take another three points off a City side that rarely plays its best football away from home.
draw, Newcastle, Victory, Wellington, Sydney,
After looking peerless for some time, the Glory have started to show signs of nerves as the silverware looms ever closer.
They were lucky to escape with anything against City last time out; thanks to an astonishing and calamitous final ten minutes for Melbourne where Perth pulled back a two-goal deficit.
Adelaide have been less than impressive lately, with losses against both Sydney clubs and a boring draw with the Jets. This is a tough match to call. Draw.
The F3/M1 derby would normally be played with a great deal at stake for both sides. Sadly, this edition will be all about whether the Jets can find another three points in their attempt to squirm their way into the top six.
It also sees an A-League managerial debut of the former Matilda’s boss Alen Stajcic. Newcastle to win comfortably.
Victory should recover in time to deal with the Roar at Marvel Stadium on Saturday, after their midweek loss to Sanfrecce.
Anything less than a win against Brisbane might see them destined to a third place finish come season’s end and that motivation will be enough to eliminate any chance of a costly slip up against the battling Roar.
Hopefully the big guns back up in what could be an entertaining affair.
It would be tough to back up eight goals in normal circumstances, however the Phoenix will have put that bizarre result against the Mariners to the side, knowing full well that they are still in a tooth and nail fight to play finals football in 2019.
Wellington currently sit fourth yet are realistically just a sloppy draw and a poor loss away from slipping outside the top six altogether.
The real issue for them this weekend is the excellent recent form of the Wanderers – unbeaten in four – and charging late in the season. This is the danger game of all danger games and the cake tin might be the difference for Mark Rudan’s men.
There are times where I am still unconvinced of Sydney FC’s credentials. Then, as they did against Adelaide a fortnight ago, they produce a professional performance and look like real chances come May.
City should be buoyed after the injection of Jamie Maclaren into the squad and finally, with a focal point up front, the A-League can see just how dangerous this team could have been had Fornaroli-gate gone down a little different.
With the ladder leaders all bar beaten last round, City threw it away. As disappointing as that was, they do have a pattern of pushing the top sides to the brink and Sydney FC are as big a fish as they come. The Sky Blues will prevail by a single goal.
Perth, Newcastle, Melbourne Victory, Wellington, Sydney FC
Tony Popovic was an interested spectator court side at the NBL finals the other night. No doubt he’ll be hoping some of the Perth Wildcats’ success will rub off on the Glory. Not that they really need it.
Despite a scare against Melbourne City last round their destiny is in their hands, with just a few hurdles to overcome.
One of those will be Adelaide United on Friday night at Cooper’s Stadium. With their season seemingly meandering along it’s hard to see Adelaide giving the Glory too much to worry about.
You would think an improving Newcastle should beat a demoralised Central Coast. Dimi Petratos is back in form and goalkeeper Glen Moss is one of the best custodians in the league.
After last week’s train wreck, Central Coast appointed ex-Matildas coach Alen Stajcic as their new coach. The youngsters will be out to impress and the neutrals will be keen to see how Stajcic performs. The Mariners might improve but Newcastle should get the three points.
Melbourne Victory haven’t won one of their last six competitive matches although they can take heart from their improved showing against Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Can they hold off a Brisbane Roar outfit that capitulated so feebly at home last week? Yep. Melbourne by 3-1.
It might surprise that Western Sydney Wanderers have the best record of any team over the past four weeks. Oriel Riera had a great game last week and the Phoenix defence will need to keep an eye on him.
Against a poor Mariners outfit it was hard to assess Wellington’s form but Roy Krishna was in great touch. At home Wellington should get the points.
Sydney FC are only six points behind Perth with 18 points for which to play. They certainly won’t be giving up their premiership without a fight. Despite the mid-week Asian jaunt I expect Sydney to romp home against Melbourne City.
|Round 22||Mike||Stuart||Paul||The Crowd|
|ADL vs PER||PER||DRAW||PER||PER|
|NEW vs CCM||NEW||NEW||NEW||NEW|
|MVC vs BRI||MVC||MVC||MVC||MVC|
|WEL vs WSW||WEL||WEL||WEL||WEL|
|SYD vs MCY||SYD||SYD||SYD||SYD|