Tom Williamson and I led the panel on a merry dance in Round 21; potentially the most exciting and interesting round we have witnessed in the A-League this season.
If you thought last week was good, hold your breath. Four of the five match-ups this weekend have serious finals’ ramifications. Brisbane and Western Sydney will fight for sixth place on Friday night, while Adelaide and Western United might be doing the exact same thing in the Saturday twilight.
Victory have a chance to stay alive for one more win in what could be an interesting Big Blue and Perth will look to draw level with Melbourne City on points late Sunday. The Jets will be annoyed they have the bye and Wellington face the Mariners on the road.
Be sure to enter your tips into the sheet below to have a say as the interactive voice of the crowd for Round 22. Here are the thoughts of the panel in regards to all the upcoming action.
Brisbane, United, Draw, Wellington, Perth
After a couple of contrasting performances last week, it’s hard to predict how this game will go at Suncorp Stadium. The Roar have proved an exceptionally tough team to break down in recent weeks, while the Wanderers will be buoyed by their derby win over Sydney FC. But with finals football on the line, I expect the hosts to bounce back in this one.
Adelaide have looked like cactus in recent weeks, while Western United apparently remembered how to play football in their 6-2 win over the Mariners.
The Reds are a handy team under Gertjan Verbeek but I reckon they’ve got a bit of a soft underbelly. This is a must-win game if Mark Rudan’s side is to reach the finals, and I reckon they’ll nick it.
Why do Melbourne Victory persist with playing at Marvel Stadium? Everyone hates it, and playing in front of huge swathes of empty seats instead of a hostile atmosphere at AAMI Park is costing the team points. Anyway, Sydney FC have the added distraction of AFC Champions League action in midweek, so expect this one to finish all square.
Wellington Phoenix saw their clash with Sydney FC bumped from the schedule for the Sydney derby, but no one cared because they’re just some expendable Kiwis anyway.
You’d have to think the 16-day break won’t have done them any favours, but while the Mariners could potentially spring an upset, the visitors should have too much class.
Perth Glory huffed and puffed and left Newcastle with nothing last weekend, and there’s a sense they almost always play their best football at home.
For a team coming second, Melbourne City remain one of the more boring sides in the league. Something will have to give here, but Glory could heap the pressure on City by claiming all three points.
Western Sydney, Adelaide, Sydney, Wellington, Perth
Friday night’s fixture between the Wanderers and Roar looks tougher to pick than a broken nose. Jean-Paul de Marigny has toughened up the Sydney-siders and Brisbane have only suffered defeat once in 2020.
I’m confounded by this match and with Brisbane involved have little hope of finding the answer (Throws dart at board). Wanderers to back up their Sydney derby win with three points on the road.
Adelaide will be kicking themselves that the points slipped away in the original rivalry last weekend, yet face a rejuvenated and confident Western United after their thrashing of the Mariners in Geelong. Another frightfully difficult game to pick.
Adelaide for me, a team desperate to win or potentially at risk of slipping from the top six in the short term.
As Sydney FC’s busy schedule continues and after a hard slog in ACL mid-week play, they are ripe for the picking. If Victory can manage it, the ladder will look as congested as Beijing peak-hour traffic. This is the moment for Steve Corica to manage, settle and galvanise his squad.
Despite the threat of a lone piece of magic from Ola Toivonen being a major concern, Sydney will get the win they need on the road.
Wellington will beat the Central Coast Mariners in Gosford in front one of the smallest attendances of the season. 4-0.
Sunday night will see the round end with a bang as Perth host Melbourne City and the race for second place heats up. Again, this match looks on a knife edge.
Perth’s run is over, but it had to end at some point and City were professional against Brisbane last week and are picking up consistent points. The Glory for me thanks mostly to home court advantage and a Diego Castro masterclass.
Western Sydney, Adelaide, Sydney, Wellington, Perth
I’ve always thought my mate Bob was a bit thick. I bumped into him at the hardware store where he was buying a bidet of all things. I was still shaking my head when I got to the supermarket only to find there was no toilet paper left.
Bob is actually a very smart man. That’s why I’ve roped him in to do my tips this week, since mine are crap. Over to you, big fella.
Thanks Paul. Brisbane Roar put in a two-ply performance last week that must have disappointed coach Robbie Fowler. The revved up Wanderers haven’t lost since Round 15 and with Mitch Duke on a roll, and Daniel Lopar fresh from a clean sheet, they should pick up three more points.
After two straight losses, Adelaide will be hoping to turn things around against Western United. The Reds’ recent home form is good, winning their last three. Western United were smooth against the Mariners but their stockpile of goals won’t help them this week. The Reds by two.
The Victory played some good football against Adelaide and they will be out for a repeat in the Big Blue. Could Sydney fold twice in a row? Or will they scrunch? They weren’t too far off the pace against the Wanderers and should win by the odd goal.
Central Coast put in a bummer of a performance against Western United and I can’t see them papering over the cracks against a Wellington team desperate to stay in the race for second. Alen Stajcic will be crying into his tissues this week, if they haven’t sold out that is.
Perth’s loss to Newcastle was an aberration and with three wins and a draw form their last four home games, Glory should flush the boys in City blue.
Cheers Bob, I hope you don’t mind me bringing the family over to use your bidet.
Brisbane, Adelaide, Draw, Phoenix, City
Round 22 opens with a genuine coin flip of a game. Western Sydney and Brisbane are duke-ing it out (if you’ll pardon the pun) for the last spot in the top six and both make compelling cases for why they should be present in the finals.
Brisbane are coming off a close loss to Melbourne City which could well have been a lot uglier if not for the heroics of Jamie Young keeping his side in the game. The Wanderers, however, are in dreamland after a brave win over their cross town rivals sealed their second derby win this season.
It’s a tough one to pick, and both sides are so inconsistent, so I’ll go with Brisbane in a tight affair.
Saturday opens with both ‘United’ teams doing battle in Adelaide. And honestly, it’s anyone’s guess what happens here as well, Western United have been woeful in previous weeks, yet were played into incredible form by the pathetic Mariners.
Adelaide have just been ‘meh’ all season long, which is disappointing considering the high expectations they set by winning the FFA Cup.
I don’t see Western United dominating play with the ease they did against Central Coast, Adelaide will make it a lot tougher and I think the home side will grind out the win, 2-1.
The weekend’s highlight game comes in the form of a Big Blue, and after last weekend’s results, this fixture holds a monumental amount of significance.
Victory are still in the hunt for a spot in the finals, and last week’s Andrew Nabbout winner gives them a sniff. If they want it to grow any bigger than that, they need to take some points away from this fixture, and until last weekend, Sydney were faultless.
Now after their loss, coaches are asking the question “if the Wanderers did it, why can’t we?”
I think Sydney’s midweek fixture in the Asian Champions could be detrimental to the sky blues in a game that won’t be the end of the world if they drop points.
Sunday’s fixtures have an enormous say in the makeup of this season’s finals series, with both determining whether this season was successful for three clubs all vying for the coveted toilet seat.
First up we have the Mariners hosting Wellington, with Central Coast seemingly being resigned to the wooden spoon for a third consecutive season. Wellington must come off their bye firing, and dispatch of this lacklustre Mariners team without any injuries.
I can’t see anything other than a Phoenix win coming from this game, 3-0, 4-0 job.
Then we’re on to the game that could very well decide who hosts a semi-final, as Melbourne City travel to Perth in a bid to break their hoodoo across the Nullarbor.
City are fresh off a 1-0 win over the Roar which saw them regain second place after Perth slipped up last week against the Jets. If City can control the play like they did against Brisbane, they are definitely in with a shout against Popovic’s men.
My brain is saying Perth will consolidate their impressive home record against City, but my heart is saying Melbourne will eek out the win and play Asian football for the first time next season.
I’m going with my heart, City to win 2-0.
|Round 22||Mike||Stuart||Paul||Tom||The Crowd|
|BRI vs WSW||BRI||WSW||WSW||BRI||BRI|
|ADL vs WUN||WUN||ADL||ADL||ADL||ADL|
|MVC vs SYD||Draw||SYD||SYD||Draw||SYD|
|CCM vs WEL||WEL||WEL||WEL||WEL||?|
|PER vs MCY||PER||PER||PER||PER||?|