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The Roar's A-League Men tips and predictions: Elimination finals

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5 days ago
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Phew! We made it.

A season that began far later than usual has finally reached its arrowhead, with six teams still in the race to raise the A-League Men championship trophy aloft.

An argument could be made for each and every side remaining in the hunt for the famous toilet seat, yet the powerhouses of Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City surely have the best claims on a title that will undoubtedly be lined with resilience and fortitude, no matter who eventually celebrates on May 28.

This weekend, the third-placed Western United take on the sixth-placed Wellington Phoenix on Saturday night, before the Reds and the Mariners do battle on Sunday afternoon. Both stand to be compelling and tough-to-predict affairs.

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Good luck with your tips as we head into the final throes of a season that will never be forgotten, and be sure to enter your selections in the sheet below to have a say as the now-top-of-the-pops voice of the crowd.

Here is the way the panel sees all the elimination action unfolding.

Mike Tuckerman
United, Adelaide

A solitary point from the final three games of the season saw Western United blow any chance they had of winning the premiership and their punishment for that loss of form is an elimination final against a tricky Wellington Phoenix.

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Add to that the fact that Wellington recently smashed John Aloisi’s side in Ballarat and this game is difficult to predict.

The hosts are missing the inspirational Alessandro Diamanti for the rest of the season, but they still have plenty of match-winners – including veteran goalkeeper Jamie Young.

I can’t look past the home team, although they might not get it done inside 90 minutes.

The two most in-form teams in the finals go head to head, with Adelaide United and the Central Coast Mariners both going into this elimination final on the back of five straight victories.

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Nick Montgomery

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Carl Veart has transformed the Reds into one of the most quietly effective sides in the A-League Men and he won’t necessarily fear the visit of Nick Montgomery’s unpredictable Mariners.

The visitors have scored goals for fun in recent weeks, but they’re never the best of travellers and they went down 2-1 the last time they met the Reds in Adelaide.

I think home-town advantage will play a role here, so I can’t tip against the Reds.

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Simon Hill
Wellington, Adelaide

Stuart Thomas
Wellington, Central Coast

It took me 26 weeks, but I finally clawed back the lead of Texi Smith, a man known to be closely connected with the powerhouse that is soon to be Newcastle United, after their owner goes bonkers in the summer transfer window.

He was a sitting duck, but now I need to finish him off.

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Foolishly, he has hitched his wagon on a Western United side that is floundering and conceding far more often than they did early in the season.

Wellington deserve everything they get and a top-four position could well be fitting for the most resilient team in the league.

There was no shame in the loss to City mid-week and with the returns of Reno Piscopo and Nicholas Pennington to the starting line-up, expect to see the best of a team that we have all come to admire. Oliver Sail to star and the Phoenix to advance.

Reno Piscopo of the Phoenix runs with the ball

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

I called the Central Coast as title contenders as they climbed from 11th on the ladder at the midway point of the season and I am proud to say that I was 100 per cent correct, based on what I had seen in Nick Montgomery’s men across the opening weeks.

Now, the Mariners are just a game away from a shot at one of the big two and after tipping them far more often than not, I shan’t be jumping ship at this stage.

Mind you, Adelaide United have also been very kind to me this season and I really would prefer to see both these teams in the final four.

However, the Mariners’ weapons in the final third should be too much for the Reds, despite what stands to be a ripping turn-out in Adelaide.

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Texi Smith
United, Adelaide

The end of the season was perfectly played out in A-League Men fashion on Monday, as City limped to the premiership with a slender win against the Phoenix in front of a healthy Victory following.

Now that we’ve got rid of the chaff, it’s time for the good stuff.

Western United threw their premiership in the bin last week. Had they beaten Newcastle and done better when handling Nikolai Topor-Stanley’s early departure in Adelaide, they would be sitting proudly on top of the A-League Men, they would have qualified for Asia and they would have really marked their territory, wherever that may be.

Contrast that to the Phoenix, who ran the eventual premiers Melbourne City close on Monday after dominating against the Western Sydney Wanderers earlier in the week, and it’s easy to see who the form team is.

But with Connor Pain and Dylan Wenzel-Halls fizzing around the park, it will be the Melburnians who take the game to their nomadic visitors and a telling first half hour will decide the game.

Walter Sandoval will cancel out Aleksandar Prijovic’s opener, but the home team will power ahead, leading 3-1 at the break.

Ben Waine and Ben Old will both go close in the second half and a late goal by David Ball will make it nervy, but Western United will ultimately triumph, returning to form after a dicey two weeks.

Western United fans cheer their team on.

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

The Mariners are everyone’s darlings this season: the fairy-tale story, the small-town team rising to the top after years in the doldrums.

They’ve played some excellent stuff too and are unbeaten in six, while Adelaide United are the hosts, themselves with five wins on the spin.

This is a clash of two teams in form, both expecting to go all the way.

Bernardo Oliveira will be the difference today. Craig Goodwin will make the most of the space created, while Oliveira will turn the defence inside out down the right.

Central Coast will score. Beni N’Kololo will smash a shot inside the post, but a Goodwin free kick and a Javi Lopez pile driver will have Adelaide in the box seat.

A dramatic final 15 minutes will be heart-stopping for the home fans as the Mariners lay siege, but Joe Gauci will wipe away memories of his red card earlier in the season with a string of blinding saves.

Elimination finalsMikeSimonStuartTexiThe Crowd
WUN vs WELWUNWELWELWUN?
ADL vs CCMADLADLCCMADL?
Previous total6565707171
Last week32525
New total6867757376

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