After 26 rounds of play, the A-League nears the end of another exciting home-and-away season.
Perth are Premiers, Central Coast have a new spoon and Robbie Fowler is the talk of Brisbane.
Just two matches will have a bearing on top six positions this weekend, with Wellington and Adelaide in a battle for fourth place.
Both could and should win their matches; the Reds away to Brisbane on Thursday afternoon and City at home to the Mariners, yet predictability is not an A-League thing.
In terms of tipping, Paul Nicholls holds a slender lead over the Roar of the crowd with the writer a further four off the pace. I need a five from five week heading into the finals and rest assured, I will be giving my all in the final round.
Be sure to place your tips into the sheet below and have a say as the voice of the people.
Here are the thoughts of the panel on the upcoming round.
Adelaide, Draw, Draw, Victory, Perth.
Just when you think Brisbane Roar might win a game, they go and lose 6-1 to the Newcastle Jets! The Roar will be chastened by that defeat and the Reds have struggled for goals all season, but even so it’s hard to see anything but a win for an Adelaide team looking to seal a top-four finish.
Melbourne City are just about the most boring side the A-League has ever produced and they’ve already said they want to finish sixth to face Melbourne Victory and avoid an interstate trip in the first week of the finals. Don’t expect either side to go hell for leather in a game that looks likely to end in a draw.
How knackered will Sydney FC be following their midweek AFC Champions League exploits in Shanghai? They haven’t always found the Jets the most accommodating of opponents and with the Novocastrians looking to sign off the season with a positive result, this one could finish all square in Newcastle.
Jason Hoffman of the Newcastle Jets (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)
Western Sydney Wanderers hosting Melbourne Victory at ANZ Stadium five days after the new Western Sydney Stadium opened its doors is symptomatic of the A-League’s relentlessly poor planning. The Wanderers need a clean-out on the pitch, but it won’t arrive before one final defeat to visiting Victory.
It’s not quite Kaliningrad to Vladivostok but the Distance Derby is still no mean feat. Perth Glory will want to head into the finals in a confident frame of mind, and despite a couple of recent defeats they should just about manage to shade proceedings against a talented but temperamental Phoenix side.
draw, draw, Sydney, draw, Perth
The rounds starts with a moving Anzac Day fixture at Suncorp Stadium and after a thrashing at the hands of the Jets last weekend, who knows what the Roar will produce in this one.
Adelaide need a win to lock up fourth place and Brisbane need to save some face. Adelaide have managed just 32 goals for the season and the Roar have been defensively awful at times with 66 conceded.
Try lining up those two statistics and concocting an informed view. Draw.
Nothing would be more Melbourne City – as they look for confidence going into a final’s series – than another mysterious and inept attacking performance in week 27 and a loss to the reinvigorated Central Coast.
Will it happen? I’m not too sure, but something tells me that the influence Alen Stajcic has had at the Mariners has them capable of a morale boosting win to end the season. Logic says City at home, Jamie Maclaren to score and multiple goals.
Therefore, my tip is a 0-0 draw.
It is hard to know just how good the Jets were against the abysmal Roar last week and exactly what they will produce against the Sky Blues.
A fatigued Sydney will probably rest a number of troops for this one. That throws the proverbial spanner in the works. Can the Jets show some character and finish with a flurry? Look for a brilliant effort from the Sydney ‘B’ squad and a win on the road.
Kevin Muscat rested much of his squad for the Asian Champions League clash on Tuesday night and his team played superbly for a brave draw at AAMI Park.
Surely the big guns will be back for this one? I’m not so sure. Victory are third on the table and will remain third no matter what.
Why would he risk Keisuke Honda, Ola Toivonen and Kosta Barbarouses when he appears to have already lost James Troisi for the finals? And what of the Wanderers, they stank against the Mariners last week. Toss a coin for this one…….draw.
Tony Popovic faces the same dilemma as Muscat with the idea of avoiding injuries heading into the finals a very attractive one.
Yet with a week off to start the finals and a few bodies already rested last weekend, he may play his strongest 11 in an effort to build momentum. Wellington need a win to leapfrog Adelaide; dependant on the Reds’ result in Brisbane.
This one has me stumped yet the home ground advantage and the huge crowd expected should see the Glory finish the home-and-away season with a hard fought win.
Ivan Franjic of the Glory (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
Brisbane, City, Sydney, Victory, Perth
Adelaide have lifted in recent weeks and will want to beat Brisbane on Anzac Day to host a semi-final. With Robbie Fowler about to take over the reins at the Roar and the retirement of Matt McKay, the lads in Orange will be wanting to put in a big shift.
They can’t really get any worse than last week can they? I’m going for the Roar in an upset.
Melbourne City will feel a little hard done by last week, going down in the final stages against Wellington. Riley McGree looks in good touch and at home, City should prove too strong for the Central Coast.
Jamie Maclaren of Melbourne City. (Photo by Mike Owen/Getty Images)
Newcastle shocked a lot of people with their superb showing against Brisbane. Unfortunately it’s a case of too little too late. Sydney FC have the luxury of clinching second place and could take the opportunity to rest a few players from their mid-week Asian trip. Yet Sydney’s unity is tight at the moment and they might just get the job done against the Jets.
Melbourne Victory’s B-boys put in a great Asian’s Champions League showing and proved there is decent depth in their squad. Victory’s A-boys weren’t too far off the pace against Adelaide and their quality should overcome the inconsistent Western Sydney Wanderers.
At home it is hard to see anything but a Perth Glory victory over Wellington. Against Sydney FC, Perth played slightly within themselves but will want momentum going into the finals. Against a Phoenix team looking ahead to the following week, Perth should get all three points.
|BRI vs ADL
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|NEW vs SYD
|WSW vs MVC
|PER vs WEL