After holding what appeared an unassailable tipping leader a few months back, Texi Smith has been caught.
The voice of the people continues to prove the most consistent performer year on year, now level with the Newcastle United fan, whilst another member of the panel is sniffing about hoping to scoop the pool and pass them both as we enter the final throes of the season.
The final match week has everything.
Melbourne City, Victory and Western United all have opportunities to secure the Premiership Plate, Wellington has a chance to shut Sydney FC out of the finals and the Mariners will have an eye on fourth place should they win and the Reds drop points against Western United on Sunday.
It stands to be a gripping end to the home and away season. Good luck with your tips and be sure to enter them in the sheet below to have a say as the now joint leader, voice of the crowd. Here is the way the panel sees all the action unfolding over the next six days.
Draw, Central Coast, Victory, Western Sydney, Draw, City, Sydney
It’s been a campaign to forget for the Western Sydney Wanderers, but strangely enough they’ve been hard to beat at Commbank Stadium. Wellington haven’t quite mathematically confirmed their finals place as yet, which means Ufuk Talay’s team will dig in for at least a point in Parramatta.
The Central Coast Mariners have been the surprise package of the season and they easily accounted for Brisbane Roar in midweek. These two sides met only recently in Newcastle, and while that was a fiery affair, the home side should collect all three points in front of a big crowd in Gosford.
The end of the season can’t come quickly enough for Sydney FC, who have endured one of their worst campaigns in years. Steve Corica is under serious pressure to retain his job, with Ufuk Talay the man many believe will replace him. The Sky Blues will want to send off the retiring Bobo on a high but it’s hard to see how Victory don’t win this one.
You’d think Macarthur should have what it takes to down their neighbours in the battle for Sydney’s west, but I wonder what sort of effect Ante Milicic’s decision to step down at the end of the season will have on his club. The Bulls have looked decidedly unmotivated at times, so I reckon the Wanderers might snatch this.
Adelaide United come up against one of their favourite sons in John Aloisi, with both sides enjoying a realistic shot at silverware. The Reds are always tough to beat at home but have lost some genuine experience throughout the season, while the visitors boast one of the tightest defences in the league. Expect it to finish all square.
Melbourne City’s AFC Champions League ended in the most deflating of circumstances and they’ll want to reassert their dominance back home. They’ve played plenty of football of late, but they really should have too much firepower for a Wellington side that will hope to have their spot in the finals sewn up already.
Look away now, Brisbane Roar fans, because it’s hard to see how results improve if Warren Moon plays the kids in this one. The Roar’s foreign signings have been a total bust this season and when you’re coming up against the likes of the retiring Bobo, Milos Ninkovic and Adam Le Fondre, this is only going to end one way.
Western Sydney, Central Coast, Draw, Macarthur, Draw, City, Sydney
Wellington, Central Coast, Victory, Macarthur, Adelaide, City, Sydney
It is all on the line for the Phoenix this weekend and by Monday night they will have secured a spot in the A-League finals. Western Sydney will be dealt with accordingly tonight, with three goals sending the Wanderers’ fans home with their tails between their legs. I’ll continue to tip the Mariners for as long as they continue to play in the manner they are. A brilliant season from the ‘little engine that could’ and a dispirited Jets might be ripe for the picking in this one.
Sydney FC did little of note in the Asian Champions League and return with the tough task of winning two matches in four days and hoping for a miracle elsewhere. It ain’t going to happen as the hot Victory towel them up at AAMI Park. Macarthur and Western Sydney looks like being a meaningless clash on Sunday afternoon and I really care little who wins. Hopefully the Bulls do and send their exiting coach out in the right way.
Whilst Western United may well have it all to play for on Sunday afternoon against the Reds, I’m siding with the home team in an upset, based on the home field advantage and a sense of loyalty to a team that have kept me in the tipping race for much of the season.
Melbourne City should beat a then qualified Wellington on Monday night, although that prediction could be problematic should the Phoenix require the points to secure a spot in the finals and the final match of the home and away season sees the Roar host a probably disheartened Sydney FC. The Sky Blues could care very little about this match, pending other results, but can the youngsters do the business for the Roar? Probably not.
Western Sydney, Central Coast, Sydney, Macarthur, United, City, Sydney
The Western Sydney Wanderers can still push on to overtake their Sydney rivals and knowing just how frustrating they can be to tip, they might just do it at CommBank Stadium when they take on Wellington Phoenix.
The Nix should be fired up for this one – playing reigning Premiers and Champions Melbourne City on Monday – they know that a finals place is in their hands. The one thing we know about the travelling Phoenix is that they are totally unpredictable, and this Jekyll and Hyde team could fall victim of a five-star Wanderers performance in their final home game of a shoddy season.
At Central Coast Stadium we have an absolute blockbuster. The two teams served up a classic only two weeks ago, when the Mariners threatened to throw away a three-goal lead, but with the help of VAR, sealed the win in a marvellous encounter in Newcastle.
Having already assured their finals berth, the Mariners know that this game is a matter of local pride. The Jets have shown much potential in the second half of the season and the returning Daniel Penha will be at his petulant best. Valentino Yuel will have the Jets ahead against the run of play, but the parps and toots of the oompah band and the bumper crowd will spur the Mariners on to a fabulous second half. Moresche, Jason Cummings and Marco Urena will all get on the scoresheet as the derby bragging rights remain in Gosford on a magnificent night on the Central Coast.
There have been only two games this season where Sydney FC have looked anything like the quality team they once were and neither of them have been at Kogarah Oval. With an unusually big home crowd eager to say goodbye to this much-maligned hell-hole, the atmosphere could go one of two ways – a glorious and triumphant send-off or an ignominious, shameful display both on and off the park. After seeing the team goal of the season at AAMI Park last time out and watched as Victory purred like wildcats in their win against the Nix, it’s hard to back against a Victory win. But that’s what I’ll do and the future of Sydney FC will deliver.
Macarthur FC’s slide down the A-League has been dramatic, and missing out on the finals has been a bitter pill to swallow for the outgoing Ante Milicic; his team hitting top spot too early and fading badly. The game on Sunday afternoon at Campbelltown will see a good number of Wanderers fans making their way down the Cumberland Highway to see if their team can beat Macarthur at the fifth time of asking. Anything could happen here, and it will be an absorbing encounter, Ulises Davila rifling the home team into the lead early in the game. Daniel De Silva will dance into the area only to be felled by Johnny Koutroumbis to allow Davila to get his second and the Bulls will dominate.
Adelaide United come up against Western United on Sunday evening and they are on a roll. Their form has been second to none and despite beating everyone before them, it could be said that the teams they played were well below par. This is the stern test that they need coming into the finals. Aleksandar Prijovic will be a constant target up front for the visitors, who will play the waiting game while the home team press to no avail. Rene Khrin will shoot low, pouncing on a loose ball in the box, to give Western United a deserved lead, before a thrilling second half sees the sides trade four goals; Nestory Irankunda with another to enhance his growing reputation, but ultimately Dylan Wenzel-Halls wrapping up an important three points in the title race to take it to the wire.
The A-League Men’s season will reach its crescendo in a Monday night spectacular at AAMI Park. Phoenix need the win to be safe of a finals spot after their reverse earlier in the week and City will know exactly what they need to do to clinch the Premiership. Defeat for City would be unthinkable, but knowing this league, the unpredictability of the Phoenix and the tough run of games that City have had, anything is possible.
Marco Tilio will start in this one and look every bit the complete player that we know he is and it will be his delicate through ball that sends Andrew Nabbout away to score the opener. David Ball will fire in a cross that takes a wicked deflection for a freak equaliser, and the second half will be nothing short of breath-taking. Eventually, Mathew Leckie will cut in from the left and send a shot curling into the top right-hand corner of the net, a goal worthy of winning the Premiership. A nail-biting end will see Ollie Sail in the City area looking for some heroics, but City will win to take home the crown again to the relief and joy of the home fans; Wellington nervously awaiting the result from the following evening.
That leaves Roar and Sydney FC to complete the season and the Sky Blues will have put themselves somehow into contention for the finals thanks to Wellington’s zero-point travels.
Roar will be fired up and wanting to show their home fans a good time in their final home game, and former Sydney striker Luke Ivanovic will start, with the instruction to terrorise the cumbersome Sydney back-line. Jay O’Shea’s pile-driver will set the scene, the bar coming to Sydney’s rescue and Rahmat Akbari will have an inspired game for the hosts. Just as Roar are looking to turn the screws, a moment of Milos Ninkovic magic will unlock the defence; Kosta Barbarouses speeding onto the ball and finding that missing composure to lash the shot home for the only goal of the game. Sydney FC’s substandard season will somehow be considered a success as the sixth and final spot in the finals is wrestled from Wellington’s grasp.
What a turnaround!
|Match week 26||Mike||Simon||Stuart||Texi||The Crowd|
|WSW vs WEL||DRAW||WSW||WEL||WSW||?|
|CCM vs NEW||CCM||CCM||CCM||CCM||?|
|SYD vs MVC||MVC||DRAW||MVC||SYD||?|
|MAC vs WSW||WSW||MAC||MAC||MAC||?|
|ADL vs WUN||DRAW||DRAW||ADL||WUN||?|
|MCY vs WEL||MCY||MCY||MCY||MCY||?|
|BRI vs SYD||SYD||SYD||SYD||SYD||?|