The A-League Men’s swings back into action after the international break with perhaps the best round of fixtures we have been presented with thus far in 2023/24.
A Sydney Derby highlights the weekend on Saturday, yet the clash between the Bulls and Victory is a top four one and there is also plenty of interest in the traditional F3 Derby match-up between the Mariners and the Jets.
Perth and Brisbane sit mid-table and seeking consolidation on commendable starts to their campaigns, whilst Adelaide will look to rebound after a bad loss to Sydney against Western United on the road.
Good luck with your tips for the round and be sure to enter them in the sheet below to help the roar of the crowd continue its ascension up the ladder.
Here is the way the panel sees all the action unfolding, with Andrew Prentice the hot hand after a solid four from six last time out.
Victory, Wellington, Newcastle, Sydney, Brisbane, United
Taking the events of last week into account, the Friday night game at Campbelltown should be a sell-out. Of course, it will be nothing of the sort, but in some far-flung future A-League, perhaps one with promotion and relegation to make every game important, it could well be.
Victory should have beaten Wellington last time out, and referee Shaun Evans had given up awarding penalties, the shot-less and chance-less Phoenix somehow holding on for a point. Macarthur somehow spurned a 3-1 lead with minutes remaining, but they showed class to get themselves into that position.
Tonight is the Daniel Arzani show. He’s got nothing to prove to anyone but himself and his performances of late have been outstanding. A 3-1 win for Victory against the Bulls.
Ever since their Covid relocation to Wollongong, Wellington Phoenix don’t seem to covet home-ground advantage, and this weekend they up sticks once more and head to the seat of a future A-League team in Auckland. Will Chiefy employ the same tactics as he did in the incredible draw at Victory last week, or will he be forced into considering this a home game and loosen the reins a little?
City possess a striker who is in a rich vein of goal-scoring form, and Jamie Maclaren might add to his tally here. However, with the craft of Bozhidar Kraev and Kosta Barbarouses, combined with the outstanding talent of Alex Paulsen in goal, the home team are in for a glorious afternoon.
Many things are described as ‘Peak A-League’, but the F3 derby must be at the top of the list. On one hand, the scandalous scheduling of a dirt-bike competition on the McDonald-Jones stadium turf is as ‘Peak A-League’ as they come, but on the other hand, the ease of swapping the venue with another F3 derby fixture later in the season shows just how easily the suits can and do adopt common sense to solve tricky situations.
Game on then, and what a time for the Jets to meet the Mariners, wherever the game is played. The Jets are looking good, especially with a smash-and-grab win in Ballarat last time out, a tasty Western United team beaten by the better mob. The Mariners have been a shadow of last-season’s swashbucklers, and were embarrassed by the Roar last weekend.
This Saturday evening’s classic is going to fire up everyone, including the home fans when they see their team picked apart. Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and an own goal, coupled with Mark Natta having Alou Kuol firmly sewn up in his pocket, will see the one goal be enough to send the buoyant Newcastle fans back up the motorway with the F3 trophy.
What a difference a week makes. Western Sydney Wanderers continued their good start by dispatching Perth Glory easily last weekend, while Sydney FC ripped Adelaide United apart with the most unexpectedly ruthless away performance. A coming-together of these two huge clubs at the impressive Allianz Stadium is quite rightly the pick of the weekend, and the Sydney Derby tradition will see a massive crowd; the home team’s fans starved of football for a few weeks now ahead of an absolute glut of home games.
An early Brandon Borrello goal will have the Sky Blue fans fearing another ignominious home defeat against their bitter rivals. Socceroos reject Andrew Redmayne will keep his team in it at the break, and within seconds of the restart Marcelo will have turned a Joe Lolley cross into his own net and Sydney will be firing on all cylinders.
The entertainment will continue to a nail-biting end, when sub Robert Mak, fresh from helping his country qualify for Euro 2024, weaves a path through the Wanderers’ defence to steer home the winner in the dying seconds. By now, we’re almost certain that this is the best weekend of A-League football ever.
Incredible scenes at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday afternoon as Perth Glory romp into a two-goal lead in the first ten minutes. David Beckham’s body double Giordano Colli and livewire Daniel Bennie score two superb goals and Glory look like world-beaters in a slick first half.
In fact, by half time, there is nothing to suggest that Brisbane Roar will get anything out of the game. That’s when Jez Lofthouse appears for the second half and provides the oil to the seized-up midfield machine; suddenly the crowd are back on board and the home team respond.
Henry Hore scores a dazzling first, then two minutes later Nikola Mileusnic is flattened and Jay O’Shea slots home from the spot. There’s no time to draw breath and Mileusnic has scored again, and the goals keep coming, a massive win for Brisbane after looking completely out of contention on 45 minutes.
Sunday evening’s clash in Ballarat is the untippable match-up of Western United, beaten here last time out by the Jets, and Adelaide United, mauled at home by Sydney FC in their last fixture. The home team are in a death spiral, the visitors may write off last weekend’s horror show as a glitch in reality, but the recipe is here for another brilliant game of A-League football.
Daniel Penha has been threatening to tear apart an unlucky opponent, and this could be the occasion. Nikita Rukavystya might get the nod for this one too, and if so, Western United look potent. Adelaide though, were expected to go top last weekend but their form deserted them, and they can’t be discounted from making this very uncomfortable for John Aloisi.
A terrific display from Adelaide United in the first half will yield no goals, and when Ben Garruccio springs the offside trap, he will ignore those more adept goal scorers around him and slam home the only goal of the game.
Macarthur, Wellington, Western Sydney, Newcastle, Perth, Adelaide
Who knows what the break does for the A-League clubs? The season is far too young to spot any serious patterns, with the next month to be crucial. Yet, I’ve seen enough already to think the Bulls are a finals-bound team and the Victory will do it tough in Sydney.
Melbourne City have not looked right early on, with just one win from four matches. They won’t add to that tally against the Phoenix in front of a bumper Auckland crowd. The Wanderers will win a spiteful Sydney Derby with the best atmosphere of the season on show at Allianz. Join me for a live blog of the game on Saturday night at 7.45pm (AEDT).
Surely the Mariners find a higher gear sooner rather than later? The Jets with a chance to move into the sixth and potentially the best bet of the round. Perth let me down last time out and I’m expecting better on the road against the Roar. Brisbane still searching for their best football and goals to rain in on Sunday afternoon.
Adelaide have looked solid in 2023/24, outside the 5-1 flogging at the hands of Sydney FC at Coopers. A bounce back is required and it should arrive against a second from bottom and struggling Western United.
Victory, Wellington, Draw, Western Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide
A top-of-the-table clash to kick us off after the international break, and who would’ve predicted Macarthur would be in that heady company after four rounds? Such are the fine margins in the ALM competition. Victory come into this on the back of successive draws, although their result against the Phoenix last start could have been anything based on stats alone.
They need Bruno Fornaroli to find his early scoring touch – when he scores, they win. Macarthur had struggled for goals up to the last round when they suddenly put three past City in a 26-minute burst of attacking ferocity, yet still managed to throw a win away in injury time. Victory seem more hardened than their crosstown rivals so the Bulls might find the early season successes don’t add up.
Wellington achieved the unique feat of eking out a 1-1 draw with Victory last round without having a single shot on goal. At home though, they are an entirely different issue. Melbourne City have the leakiest defence in the league and coach Aurelio Vidmar might be struggling to plug the gaps in time for a visit to Oskar Zawada’s happy place.
After McDonald Jones Stadium was torn up by a Motocross show, the Jets home game against F3 rivals Central Coast has been moved south to Gosford. The reigning champs will need all the advantages they can get because they are pointless after four games and the magic pixie dust of their fairy tale run last season is floating away with the pelicans on a Brisbane Water tide.
Newcastle made amends for letting a two-goal lead slip late against Western Sydney in Round 3 with a solid win at the other Western. The Mariners may not be at ground zero for their title defence just yet, but they need something out of the derby to tamp down the growing disquiet on the coast.
Regardless of the result, let’s hope the SFS is packed to the rafters for what used to be the hottest ticket in town. Sydney FC stunned Adelaide in Round 4 on the back of a coaching upheaval, going 4-0 up within 45 minutes of Ufuk Talay holding the clipboard.
The Wanderers will be alert to the ambush and have looked like the best team in the competition thus far, deserving of their first place. They’ve only conceded in one game this season and have managed to go top without Brandon Borrello getting on the scoresheet. I think, given Borello’s passion for the derby, that might change on Saturday night.
Brisbane added to the champ’s misery last start and are back at steamy Lang Park for the visit of Perth. The Glory’s five goals in four games is a worry, and they’ll be expecting more from Adam Taggart as the season unfolds.
It might take a little longer for Alen Stajcic to get the formation just right. Tom Waddingham got his first A-League goal last week to correspond with me taking him out of my fantasy team. You’re welcome, Tom! I think he might be up for a few more over the coming weeks.
Western’s problem is not hard to figure out as they head into Sunday’s match with a bruised and probably feisty Adelaide. They can’t score. This match pitches the top and bottom scorers in the league and if stats don’t lie, then this has to point to a Reds win.
They’ll have Nestory Irankunda, freshly minted new recruit of Bayern Munich available again, which means they’ll be hard to keep out. It’s figuring to be a hard afternoon for John Aloisi’s team on Mars.
|MAC vs MVC
|WEL vs MCY
|SYD vs WSW
|CCM vs NEW
|BRI vs PER
|WUN vs ADL
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