Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers said he could hardly walk after contracting the coronavirus in March but he has since made a full recovery.
It was Mike Tuckerman’s time to celebrate last weekend, with only a draw in the west blotting his copybook.
This week sees the A-League go into derby mode, with Melbourne, Sydney and F3 editions to whet the appetites of fans.
Elsewhere, Perth and Wellington will fight out an important top-six distance derby battle, while two sides with winning form meet up north when the Roar take on the Reds at Suncorp Stadium.
Be sure to enter your tips into the sheet below to have a say as the important voice of the crowd. It could use a boost after managing just the one correct tip in Round 17.
Good luck and here are the thoughts of the panel on all the Round 18 action.
Tips: Victory, Perth, Draw, Brisbane, Newcastle
Melbourne City crumbling under the slightest pressure in a campaign in which they were expected to provide a genuine challenge? When have we seen that before? City were diabolical against Adelaide United last time out and they lost their most recent derby with Victory at AAMI Park. They look like they’re running out of steam at a crucial juncture.
For a team boasting some of the finest attacking players in the league, Perth Glory sure can be boring. They’ve got the firepower to take the game to Wellington Phoenix but they often play as if they’re in straight jackets under Tony Popovic. The Phoenix have been the surprise package of the season, but they hate travelling. This is Glory’s to lose.
Well the summer heat won’t be a problem, but the forecast of heavy rain means the Sydney derby could be a slog of a very different kind in Kogarah. The Sky Blues are the best team in the competition by a mile, but they’ll run into a fired-up Wanderers side here. If the weather ends up being an equaliser, this one could finish all square in the wet.
There’s not a lot of love around for Brisbane Roar this season. They’re certainly a more compact side under Robbie Fowler, but some better finishing would see them easily occupying a top-six spot by now. This will be a fascinating tactical battle at Suncorp Stadium. If the Reds get dragged into a scrappy contest, they’ll come out of it with a loss.
The re-signing of Roy O’Donovan is a boost for the Jets and it sounds like Wes Hoolahan isn’t too far away either. That should generate a bit of confidence heading into the derby, and while results haven’t been what Jets’ fans were hoping for this season, this game marks a glorious chance to reward their long-suffering supporters. Expect a home win.
Tips: Victory, Perth, Sydney, Adelaide, Newcastle
The opening match of the round will be described by many as a clash between the rising Victory and a sinking City. Both descriptions are probably a little premature. Yes, City succumbed to the Reds last week and their last win was against the struggling Jets, yet they still sit second and will bare their teeth soon enough. Victory are improving, were buoyed by a terrific Asian Champions League result and will win this derby in style, however they are still well off the pace being set by Sydney FC.
The battle between third-placed Glory and fourth-placed Phoenix could be a ripper at HBF Park. Wellington have had a rest, Perth escaped with a point last weekend and the home venue might make all the difference between two evenly matched sides looking for a top-four position in 2019-20.
The season’s first Sydney derby provided a shock when the Wanderers toppled the Sky Blues at Bankwest. Since, Western Sydney’s season has arced dramatically and Sydney has clicked into gear in emphatic fashion. This should be an easy kill for Sydney, with revenge on their minds.
In the toughest pick of the week, Brisbane look to continue their winning ways with a home fixture against the fifth-placed Reds. Adelaide have eyes on the top four and come into the match off three straight wins. Brisbane have three wins and a pair of draws in 2020, with just last week’s loss to Sydney ruining their new year. Goodness me, I’m still not sure. Adelaide on the road in a very close one.
The Jets are one of the best last-placed teams we have seen in the A-League for some time. They often appear likely to grab at least a point and did so last week against Western United. There have also been a few comprehensive losses, yet recent form has suggested there will be a few more wins on the way this season. After a month of solid football, the Mariners have stumbled again and need a win to stay in touch with the pack. Tenth versus 11th may not always offer great interest, but this one does. Newcastle will win this one and give their home fans something to cheer about.
Tips: Victory, Perth, Sydney, Draw, Newcastle
After last week’s tipping disaster I’ve gone rogue and enlisted outside help. I’ve come to a dingy alley to meet Madame X, aka the Football Whisperer. She brings out a crystal football that fills with smoke every time she touches it.
Me: First up is the Melbourne derby.
X: Ooh, I see red. Is it blood? A red card perhaps, but how’s that possible if Harrison Delbridge is not playing? One team is supposed to be good but playing like crap, the other are awful but have sprung to life. A victory for the Victory, methinks.
Me: The distance derby?
X: There’s Mexican flair in the shape of Ulises Davila and a canny coach in Ufuk Talay, but wait, through all this purple smoke I see a wizard from Uruguay emerging. Bruno Fornaroli will be the difference.
Me: The Sydney derby?
X: After a drought-breaking win I see the Wanderers heading into the derby full of hope. And so they should with Irish lucky charm Simon Cox on board. But Stevie Corica’s evil-doers are up to no good. I see a man named Alf scoring a dodgy VAR penalty in the 98th minute. I also see a heavily guarded train pulling out of Kogarah station with a bunch of disappointed people.
Me: The R derby, Roar vs Reds?
X: The smoke is hard to read in this one. To be honest, I’m not sure if Roar’s coach Robbie Fowler really knows what he’s doing. Youth or experience? With Dylan Wenzel-Halls and Scott McDonald he’s got a bet each way. Draw.
Me: The F3 derby?
X: I see the return of the chosen one. He’s part-man, part-beast, sending defenders and goalkeepers flying.
Me: Matt Simon is the chosen one?
X: No, he’ll be lucky to be chosen on the bench. I’m talking about Roy O’Donovan, back from his exile in Bananaland. A Roy hat-trick will see the Jets home.
Tips: City, Draw, Western Sydney, Adelaide, Draw
It’s the games that separate cities, families and friends, it’s derby week!
With three derbies this weekend, we’re set for a blockbuster week of A-League football.
City are in terrible form and Victory will be fancying their chances to make it two consecutive derby wins at AAMI Park this Friday night. Not all is doom and gloom in the City camp, with captain Scott Jamieson set to return this weekend. After their complete capitulation against Adelaide, leadership is something City sorely need.
Victory will be feeling like their draw with Perth was two points dropped rather than one point gained, with Nick D’Agostino’s equaliser in the 90th minute assuring both sides shared the points. City to win 3-1.
Next up is perhaps not only the biggest derby in Australia but perhaps the biggest derby in world football. It’s Perth, it’s Wellington, it’s the Distance Derby. Perth rescued a point against the Victory last week, keeping them within arms reach of Melbourne City with a game in hand. Meanwhile, Wellington will be well rested after the bye.
With both teams showing promise as the season rolls on, I can see a draw being played out here, 2-2 with a late equaliser.
Saturday opens with the match most akin to David and Goliath, it’s the Sydney derby. Sydney FC are well and truly in control of this title race and it would take a monumental slip to lose it from here.
Western Sydney are in that odd clump of teams where the perception is that they are out of finals contention, yet one win could easily change that. After their win over the Mariners last weekend, we could very well see a late-season surge and I’m tipping the Wanderers in a monumental upset.
On Saturday night, Brisbane host Adelaide with both teams in patchy form to say the least. Brisbane fell just short to the dominant Sydney FC last week, while Adelaide dismantled the woeful Melbourne City. This game could either be brilliant or very poor, and considering how these teams have been performing all season, it could honestly go either way. I’m predicting Adelaide to get the win on the road and continue their push for a home final.
Last but not least, Sunday plays host to the F3 derby. Being played in Newcastle, this game could very well determine who wins this season’s wooden spoon.
The Jets ground out a draw against Western United last week, however they were the far stronger team, and will certainly feel as if they would have taken the win.
The Mariners have entered free fall after a small period of decent results, and will be desperate to steady themselves, lest they take home a third consecutive wooden spoon.
It’s been a while since the Jets won an F3 derby, and that it’s high time they got a win in their most important game of the season. Jets to win 2-0.
|Round 18||Mike||Stuart||Paul||Tom||The Crowd|
|MCY vs MVC||MVC||MVC||MVC||MCY||MCY|
|PER vs WEL||PER||PER||PER||Draw||PER|
|SYD vs WSW||Draw||SYD||SYD||WSW||SYD|
|BRI vs ADL||BRI||ADL||Draw||ADL||BRI|
|NEW vs CCM||NEW||NEW||NEW||Draw||NEW|