The current A-League Men season is bordering on the comical. The ladder is a quagmire, last placed Melbourne Victory can still play finals with three rounds remaining and tipping is nothing more than a crap shoot right now.
The only thing that appears almost certain is the top four, with Wellington the only team capable of squeezing in across the next few weeks. We will know plenty more by Sunday night however, with the Bulls, Jets, Victory, Brisbane, Perth and Western United all potentially having their futures decided, depending upon Round 24 results.
A few draws will keep us all in further suspense. Good luck with your tips for the round, you will need it and be sure to enter them in the sheet below to have a say in the ladder leading voice of the people. Here is the way the panel sees all the action unfolding this weekend.
Macarthur, Draw, Western Sydney, Wellington, Sydney, Adelaide.
Newcastle are cactus. They were put to the sword by Brisbane Roar last weekend, despite having a finals spot still to play for, and they go into this game on the back of a six-game winless run. Macarthur threw away two points in that last-gasp 2-2 draw with Western Sydney last weekend, but they won’t make the same mistake again here.
The Central Coast Mariners are flying high and with no real reason to fear Melbourne City. They went down narrowly when these two sides met at AAMI Park earlier in the campaign, but they’re a tough nut to crack at home and haven’t actually tasted defeat in Gosford in 2023.
Melbourne City, however, are back in form and positively smashed Wellington Phoenix last time out. But I still can’t separate the two sides, particularly with the Mariners still harbouring hopes of a top two finish.
Western Sydney snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat last weekend, and Marko Rudan won’t be in the mood to do his former Sydney United team-mate Tony Popovic any favours. The Wanderers aren’t always the most free-flowing of sides, but they should have the firepower to see off the visiting Victory in this Saturday night showdown.
Wellington Phoenix copped a 4-1 hammering at the hands of Melbourne City last time out, but they’ve got a terrific record at Eden Park in Auckland and won’t be overly concerned by a visit from Brisbane Roar.
The Queenslanders turned in an impressive performance of their own in that 3-0 win over Newcastle, but they’re an ordinary travelling side on a good day… and this is unlikely to be one of those.
The clock is ticking on Sydney FC. They only loosened the shackles once they had fallen behind against Adelaide United last weekend, and they desperately need three points to put some distance between themselves and the Glory in the race for the top six.
The Sky Blues have been hugely unimpressive all season, but with Adam Le Fondre back and Max Burgess pulling the strings in midfield, they’ve got the quality to take all three points off a Glory side missing the inspirational Mark Beevers through suspension.
Adelaide United have made Coopers Stadium a veritable fortress this season. They’ll welcome back prodigal son John Aloisi and a Western United side that has disappointed all season, and while the visitors still have an outside chance of making the top six, it’s hard to see how they take anything off a Craig Goodwin-inspired Adelaide side gunning for a top-two finish.
Macarthur, Central Coast, Western Sydney, Wellington, Perth, Adelaide
Based on last week’s performances, the Bulls should be favourites against the Jets, yet both are hot and cold. Macarthur’s super-subs could make the difference in what looks a somewhat unpredictable match. Central Coast will have a pre semi-final tune up against the soon to be premiers.
Will both hold a few cards back or should the Mariners look for a psychological advantage late in the season? They will and could snatch a valuable win at home.
Melbourne Victory need three wins to make finals and the Wanderers will make the first part of that equation tough on Saturday night. It is hard to see an away win and Western Sydney should lock up a top four spot. Wellington need to beat Brisbane at home, or squeaky bum time will set in. They should get the job done, despite the dangerous Roar playing their best football late in the season.
Could Perth move into the top six with a win in Sydney? Let’s hope so, it could be a heck of a story and a terrific effort from a team many tipped to run last in 2022/23.
Sydney FC will be leaky at the back again and Perth will capitalise. Another sell-out at Coopers I’d suggest and the end of the road for John Aloisi’s team, as the Reds get back to winning ways after the draw last week against the Sky Blues.
Macarthur, City, Western Sydney, Wellington, Draw, Adelaide
The Jets season has come unstuck…again. they have flattered to deceive this campaign and face an unlikely resurgent Bulls, who may capitalise on Newcastle’s recent defensive frailties and grab three points that could take them to the brink of the top six.
What a game in prospect in Gosford. Deserving of prime-time but still expectant of a healthy holiday Coast crowd. This could go either way and I’m only tipping City due to their probable desire to wrap up top spot, which a win would do for them.
The two top marksmen in the league Jason Cummings and Jamie Maclaren should ensure goals and drama on Saturday afternoon.
The Wanderers almost came unstuck against their Western neighbours last week, saved only by Brandon Borello’s very late equaliser. They are not often tardy in successive weeks.
The signs of life in the Victory haven’t been enough to lift them out of the cellar even though they are still a mathematical chance of finishing in the play-offs. Let THAT sink in. This season is nuts. The Wanderers should extinguish that flickering flame of hope at Parramatta.
The Phoenix have lost three in a row – and two of those looked like thrashings on paper. They have tended to concede in quick succession of late. The Roar scored three last week which is the A League equivalent of an Easter miracle, so Wellington should not expect an easy time in the last third.
The Roar haven’t won away from home since Round 11, which makes them poorer travellers than Perth! It’s time for the Phoenix to recapture their mid-season spark.
Speaking of those poor travellers, the Glory land at the SFS, which has been anything but a new shiny fortress for the home team. The Sky Blues home form has been horrible, and is a major reason why find themselves clinging precariously to 6th place.
Adam La Fondre came off the bench last week to grab an unlikely point at Hindmarsh, and should start this one. What do you get when gracious hosts welcome homesick road-trippers? A draw.
The Adelaide juggernaut was halted by Sydney last start but they still remain the most consistent side in the competition over the last 10 rounds. Western United were skewered by the Mariners on Mars in Round 22 and their title defence now hangs by the proverbial broken fingernail on the edge of the cliff.
They let a 2-0 lead slip last time these sides met, and the Reds, led by Johnny Warren Medal hot favourite Craig Goodwin, have been rampant ever since. Hindmarsh might just be Western’s Hamburger Hill this weekend.
Macarthur, Central Coast, Western Sydney, Wellington, Sydney, United
Newcastle Jets against Macarthur FC is a classic six-pointer. The loser is more or less condemned to a bottom six finish and the possibility of missing out on an Australia Cup spot too, the winner starts thinking of the permutations from the final two rounds.
All eyes will be on the Jets to see if they can turn around last weekend’s poor showing in Redcliffe, but they will be immediately swamped by the unfancied Macarthur, who are two goals ahead at the break.
A further goal from Al Hassan Toure and the Jets reduced to ten men, will see the Bulls surprise everyone with a strong showing to leap up the congested table.
The Mariners were oozing class as they disposed of a shaky Western United last weekend and consolidated their spot in the top four. Melbourne City scored four but were less than convincing in the first half and had nervous moments before they drew clear of the Phoenix.
This would be a worthy grand final, at least there would be some fans from Gosford able to make the journey. City will delay the inevitable and slip up, big move rumours perhaps getting to Jordy Bos as he slices into his own net as the first half draws to a close. The Mariners will put City’s defence to the sword in the second half, only a Marco Tulio header in injury time adding to the score line.
A Saturday night spectacular sees Western Sydney Wanderers host Melbourne Victory in what would normally be a huge game, but with the visitors sitting at the foot of the table, only the mad and the nailed-on die-hards will make the journey up from Victoria.
It is always a pleasure for any team to defeat Victory, and Wanderers will be up for it after their surprise misfiring in the Western Sydney derby last weekend. Josh Brillante will score a goal from distance to silence the home crowd, but from then on it will be one-way traffic.
An equaliser almost immediately from Amor Layouni will have scores level at half time. Brandon Borrello will bully the Victory defence into coughing up a tap-in for Layouni’s second, before the Dad’s Army, 102 years of experience in a trio of ageing midfielders, see the Wanderers cruise to a comfortable victory.
Wellington Phoenix’s fascination with Eden Park continues as they host Brisbane Roar in the first of Sunday’s games. The Roar eased past Newcastle Jets last week while Phoenix were in good form but undone by the reigning premiers.
I’m still convinced that we’ve got even more to see from Yan Sasse, and his guile and class will shine today as he feeds off Bozhidar Kraev’s craft and Oskar Zawada’s skill. The solitary goal though will come from Alex Rufer; a frustrating end for the visitors who remain outside the top six.
This is it for the Sky Blues, an afternoon showdown with Perth Glory at Allianz Stadium. What an occasion. Somehow the aristocrats of Sydney FC have clung onto sixth spot like a cork atop a vigorously shaken bottle of Moet, and the forces building below them are likely to burst through at any moment.
A character-building backs-against-the-wall draw in Adelaide last weekend could have even yielded a victory, but a point was more than they could have expected against the in-form team in Australia.
Perth Glory’s Mustafa Amini and Luke Ivanovic will be keen to show what the home fans are missing, and Glory will sense the unease from the Cove and take the game to Sydney FC. The home team will miss a host of chances, but a rasping drive from Anthony Caceres will take two deflections and wrong-foot Cameron Cook to break the deadlock.
A late burst from Sydney will then secure the points as the not-so-young young’uns come on to run riot in a 3-0 win, giving this ailing team a shot in the arm and belief that they might shore up the final spot in the six.
Western United were battered last week in Ballarat and there were no obvious reasons why they failed so badly. The last thing they need is a trip to red-hot Adelaide; the home side looking to cement second spot and a place in Asian club competition for next year.
The absolute randomness of the A-League though is constantly peering around the corner looking to make trouble, and with Dylan Pierias in imperious form, we’ll see a big shock here. Ben Halloran and Craig Goodwin will have left their shooting boots at home, failing to finish off a series of sparkling raids, and a scrappy goal from Tongo Doumbia will have Western ahead at the break with their only attempt.
A rip-roaring Adelaide offensive will be thwarted by Jamie Young and his very able defence, and a Pierias spectacular from the edge of the area will seal the points for the visitors in a shock win. You heard it here first, and you will probably only hear it here too!
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