Congrats to Paul Nicholls for a dominant tipping performance in what has been the most unpredictable season on record.
Managing to correctly select over 70 games leading into the final three weeks of action is been remarkable and the trophy will sit comfortably on his mantle during the off-season.
Before we head into the play-off phase, there is the small matter of an outstanding match between premiers Melbourne City and Newcastle Jets. Considering the uncertainty around it and the delay, we have decided to give everyone a free swing at the match and select it now with better knowledge of its location and the players likely to participate.
After all, there is a wooden spoon up for grabs.
Then, Central Coast Mariners dare to dream on Saturday night at home against the Bulls, while Brisbane host Adelaide in what will be a tough trip for the visitors.
Good luck with your tips and be sure to enter them in the sheet below to have a say in the ever-reliable voice of the crowd. Melbourne City and Sydney FC await the winners. Who will they be?
Here are the panel’s thoughts on all the action.
Draw, Central Coast, Brisbane
Sorry Melbourne Victory fans, but I can’t see Melbourne City doing you any favours in this rescheduled encounter. While the premiership winners will want to go into the finals with some momentum, they’re likely to field a second-string outfit here.
The Jets have shown occasional sparks throughout what has otherwise been a woeful campaign and with this game taking place in the neutral confines of Kogarah, I can’t split two sides who invariably don’t really want to be there on the night.
I reckon home ground advantage will count big time in these finals, which is why I believe the Mariners should have just enough firepower to see off Macarthur in Gosford. The home side were slightly fortunate to end up finishing third, but with a passionate home crowd set to descend on Central Coast Stadium and the likes of Matt Simon and Marco Urena boasting plenty of big-game experience, I can’t tip against the Mariners.
Macarthur have some match-winners of their own but I reckon their season ends here.
There have been a couple of games in Redcliffe this season – particularly the 5-2 win over Melbourne Victory – where the fans have really got the better of the away team. With a big turn-out expected at Moreton Daily Stadium for Brisbane Roar’s first home final since April 2017, it’s hard to tip against the hosts. During the week it was suggested the Roar lack a genuine big-game player, but I reckon Riku Danzaki might just step up here. It’s the home team for mine, even if the Reds put up their usual fight.
Newcastle, Central Coast Mariners, Brisbane
It is hard to see Melbourne City playing anywhere near a full squad for the postponed clash with Newcastle. They have zero for which to play and if the Jets are keen to avoid last place, they should be able to manage at least a point against a team whose minds will be elsewhere.
Central Coast Stadium will be rocking on Saturday night and it is likely the home side will continue to defy pre-season predictions with a win and advancement to the final four. Alen Stajcic is the coach of the season, considering the recent past and where the squad looked back in December. It will be a grind with the Mariners requiring just the one goal to conquer the new boys.
All of Queensland is probably hoping I’ll tip Adelaide to advance, yet Brisbane’s form has been mostly irresistible of late and I cannot see them getting beaten at home. In fact, I think they will win it well against a Reds team that has been floundering over the last few months.
City, Central Coast, Brisbane
There’s something about sudden-death football between top teams that gets the blood racing. I especially love when the camera pans to the player kneeling on the ground, tears rolling down his face, wondering why the gods have abandoned his team on the day. Great drama.
But first some unfinished business. Melbourne City’s postponed fixture with Newcastle will now be played on Thursday at Kogarah. Normally the top two clubs have a first-week bye in the finals but City could use this game to keep their players match-fit. It should be an entertaining fixture as the Jets need at least a point to avoid the wooden spoon. I’ll go for City.
It was a smart ploy by Macarthur coach Ante Milicic to leave striker Matt Derbyshire on the bench last week to avoid any yellow card dramas. The Bulls were ordinary against the Phoenix and they’ll need Derbyshire to fire against the Mariners.
The game features, to my mind, the two best goalkeepers in the league in Macarthur’s Adam Federici and Central Coast’s Mark Birighitti.
The x-factor in this contest should be provided by the Mariners’ Costa Rican import Marco Urena, who has been in silky touch of late. I can see the Mariners surfing a yellow wave of adoration all the way to the beach.
Adelaide played some pretty football against the Wanderers with Ryan Strain and Craig Goodwin featuring. The Brisbane Roar will prove a tough nut to crack having conceded only 28 goals all season compared to the Reds’ 41. The tight defence and home crowd should get the Roar home.
Newcastle, Macarthur, Adelaide
It really doesn’t matter what I tip this week, but I’d just love to see these two elimination final results. That would see Sydney FC and Adelaide do battle next week and after their epic 2-2 draw at Leichhardt earlier this season, it would be as mouth-watering as they come.
We start though with a bonus game that has massive interest for everyone concerned with A-League football. The whole league will be watching to see if Newcastle Jets can get the point that sends Victory to the bottom of the ladder. With City resting the majority of their team, this will be a betting-irregularity special, Newcastle winning 3-0.
The Central Coast Mariners have been fantastic this season, and only Wellington Phoenix have generated more love than the former wooden-spooners from Gosford. What a season for Alen Stajcic and his over-achieving team, but this semi-final is going to be one step too far.
Macarthur have been off the boil towards the end of the season, almost throwing away a commanding lead against Western United and then being dismantled by Phoenix at home, but this is going to be one of those games decided by a ridiculous sending-off and some VAR magic.
The Mariners will be ahead early, but a first-half dismissal will see the game swing the Bulls’ way and Matt Derbyshire will score a controversial winner in the final stages with the aid of the referees’ bunker to break the hearts of the home fans at a packed Estadio del Sauce.
Both Brisbane Roar and Adelaide United have shone this season at different stages.
Following Roar’s opening day defeat, they went on a run of wins that made everyone sit up and take notice. They smashed the Mariners and stuffed City late in the season, but their mid-season inconsistency was their undoing, meaning they had to finish strongly to make the six.
Adelaide were written off by some, but roared to life with a mid-season flourish. The addition of Craig Goodwin gave them the x-factor they needed to complement their exciting wing play. And it will be Goodwin who will set up the winner for local boy Louis d’Arrigo sliding in at the far post to win the game for the visitors. You heard it here first.
|Elimination final||Mike||Stuart||Paul||Texi||The Crowd|
|MCY vs NEW||Draw||NEW||MCY||NEW||DRAW|
|CCM vs MAC||CCM||CCM||CCM||MAC||?|
|BRI vs ADL||BRI||BRI||BRI||ADL||?|