Fans were treated to some free-flowing and entertaining action in Week 2 of the EPL.
Well, well, well, the Phoenix and Roar are done and the momentum-building run of Western United continues.
The A-League elimination finals threw up something of a shock when the sixth-placed Glory advanced to the final four, threatening to raid the grand final party to which most people felt other clubs held the invitations.
As a tipping week it was a disaster other than the brilliant two from two Paul Nicholls somehow managed to conjure (obviously a direct line with Tony Popovic).
Now the supposed big guns come out to play.
Melbourne City will require Superman-like strength to stop a United side that appears to think little about losing, and Sydney face Perth in a match the former will hope will bring an improvement in their form.
Good luck if your team is involved in the action tonight and be sure to enter your tips into the sheet below to have a say as the important voice of The Crowd.
I went zero for two last weekend, so I’m assuming my tips will be the kiss of death here.
Western United did just enough without being particularly convincing against Brisbane, and they’ll do just enough in this game. But will they have the legs? City might just edge them.
Can Perth suffocate the life out of another opponent here? The problem for Tony Popovic is that Sydney FC look like they’ve got another gear to step into should they need it. The Sky Blues have looked off the pace since the restart, but Steve Corica is canny enough to know that all they need is to win.
Logic misled me last week after an impressive season of tipping but I’m sticking with it for the semi-finals.
City look the team to beat and could be playing the equal or second favourites in the shape of Western United in the twilight match. The winner will likely claim the toilet seat on Sunday night. Jamie Maclaren will score, United must surely run out of gas, and City will play in the grand final.
Perth’s effort against Wellington was typical Tony Popovic and he is likely to pull the same rein against the Sky Blues. Sydney have shown little or anything since the resumption of play and if the Glory find a similar discipline in defence to that which they produced on Sunday, Sydney may well become frustrated.
Should Perth score first, they will win. However, surely the plate winners will lift in their most important game of the season thus far? Sydney in extra-time.
Western United, Sydney FC
The Europeans are having their playoffs and it’s great that we can enjoy our own unique variant. It makes the nerves jangle, the blood run quicker, and passions sometimes boil over.
Western United played like heroes on Sunday. Their defensive effort against Wellington, led superbly by Andrew Durante, was full of desperation and they’ll need a repeat performance against stronger opponents. We all know how dangerous Alessandro Diamanti and Besart Berisha can be, but Max Burgess and Steven Lustica have proven vital foils for the veterans – they’ll need to be at their best.
On paper, City should win this game in a canter. They have been the pick of the post lockdown teams and any side with Jamie Maclaren up front takes some beating. Perhaps big-match temperament is their biggest test.
But fairy tales sometimes come true. The collective football wisdom of Durante, Diamanti, Berisha and coach Mark Rudan might be enough to keep the dream alive.
Sydney FC’s training rewards regimen of meat pies, cream buns and buckets of champagne hasn’t been ideal but it’s been difficult for Steve Corica to keep his men focused for the past few weeks.
Things will change now that the knockout matches are on. A couple of players need to step up, including Milos Ninkovic, Rhyan Grant and Alexander Baumjohann.
The malaise has even extended to normally reliable defender Ryan McGowan who has made some uncharacteristic errors of late. Perhaps the best performer in Glory’s win against Wellington was coach Tony Popovic. He had an answer for every move Ufuk Talay made and despite constant Wellington pressure, Perth dealt with it all too well. Joel Chianese was the x-factor in Poppa’s game plan that worked out a treat.
Can Popovic come up with more tricks on Wednesday? How he wishes he could coax Diego Castro down from the Western Australian hinterland. Sydney should play themselves back into form and win.
Semi-finals, a heart-in-throat scenario for fans of these four great sides.
City have been the best side since the restart, but they are notoriously bad in finals. When the pressure gets too much for them they manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory time and time again.
My heart says City, my brain says we’ll probably choke again, so in honour of the club I love so much, I’m going with the heart.
Immediately afterwards we have a grand final replay, and isn’t it such a contrast to a grand final scenario. On current form, these two sides have looked bang average! Sydney fans should be worried about an upset.
Perth got up over Wellington last weekend, but they withstood a barrage of undermanned attacks, with Liam Reddy at his 39-year-old best.
Although I can see this being snatched by Perth, Sydney will put a stop to their season, booking an all sky-blue grand final.
The hype is huge, I cannot wait.
|MCY vs WUN||MCY||MCY||WUN||MCY||MCY|
|SYD vs PER||SYD||SYD||SYD||SYD||?|