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The Roar's A-League Men tips and predictions: Round 24 - Sydney Derby takes centre stage and urgency for finals hopefuls

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10th April, 2024
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Just three rounds remain in the 2023/24 regular season of the A-League and it is walk the walk time for those battling for places in the top six.

The round begins with two certain finalists facing off when the Phoenix host the Victory on Friday, before Macarthur put plenty on the line whilst on the road in Adelaide.

Western United have pride to play for when they face the Mariners on Saturday afternoon and the Jets will do the same against the Roar that evening, with Brisbane still hoping for a late miracle and a spot in the top six.

The loser of the Sydney Derby will be under immense pressure entering the final three matches of the season, Melbourne City simply must beat Perth to ensure they remain in touch and Tuesday night’s fixture in Tarneit between Western United and Adelaide could mean a lot to the visitors if they do manage to beat Macarthur on Friday.

Good luck with your tips for the round, there is still no clear leader or winner in the tipping, with things changing on a week to week basis.

With seven matches this week, no doubt it will happen again. Be sure to enter your selections in the sheet below and have a say as the third-placed roar of the crowd.

Here is the way the panel sees all the action unfolding in Round 24.

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Texi Smith

Wellington, Adelaide, Central Coast, Brisbane, Sydney, City, Adelaide

Victory turned it around against local foes Melbourne City last weekend and can still smell the premiership despite the points difference between first and third. This one belongs to Phoenix though, and Victory are second-best from the start.

Going a goal down early on through the recalled David Ball, the visitors fail to react as they did against City and slip further behind when Ben Old gallops on to a Kosta Barbarouses through ball to smash home past a bemused Paul Izzo. Victory cling to their hopes with a stunning strike from Daniel Arzani, who has done absolutely nothing up until that point, but as Victory pour forward to find the equaliser, they are picked apart by the hard-running Wellington.

Adelaide United are in the midst of an incredible Houdini act to make the finals after sitting on the bottom of the pile only a month ago. Who would bet against them? They return home after giving Perth Glory a hiding last week, and despite having a defence susceptible to a slip-up here and there, it’s at the other end of the park where they repair the damage.

The Bulls have style and verve in their midfield, when Clayton Lewis is on song, the whole team sings along, but they were murdered in Tarneit on the weekend, coughing up their own two-goal lead in a mirror-image of Adelaide’s win. Macarthur should be nowhere near the finals, but here we are, they have a glorious opportunity to make the top-six.

As the game enters added time in the first period, United click and Ryan Kitto finds Stefan Mauk in acres of space to fire home a brilliant goal. The floodgates open in the second half as Ulises Davila ploughs a lone furrow through the middle of the park for Macarthur, and Zach Clough helps himself to the second and tees up Hiroshi Ibusuki for another.

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Western United’s new home is getting a work out. A second consecutive game in Tarneit sees the Central Coast Mariners arrive as league leaders, and Australia’s best hope at retaining the premiership crown this year. James Donachie heads against the bar from a corner, Daniel Penha has a fabulous duel with Jacob Farrell and Mikael Doka looks to add to his growing stock with a first-class performance on the right.

(Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

The game is poised coming into the second half when Christian Theoharous, against his old club and looking to prove a point, jinks into the box to win a stonewall penalty. Jing Reec steps up to score the spot-kick and the game comes to the boil, both teams reduced to ten as tempers flare. Western pile on the pressure for the equaliser, but are ultimately caught with Tom Heward-Belle upfield for a late corner and Brian Kaltack races on to Josh Nisbet’s clearance to run the ball into the empty net to seal the win.

Brisbane Roar are back at Suncorp, and it’s debatable whether that’s a good thing or not. Roar v Jets sounds like a noisy game but it will be pin-drop quiet in this huge chasm of a stadium and the fans will enjoy listening to the players and coaches swearing at the officials as the game ascends to a mini-classic.

Roar were deserved winners in the Commbank monsoon last week and Jets basked in the sun two days later, up-ending Sydney FC in a shock result. Two teams remembering what it’s like to win, and when Reno Piscopo adds to Mark Natta’s opener to make it 2-0 after only half and hour, the home fans will be finally sparked to life in disgust.

Keegan Jelacic reduces the deficit right on half time and the alarm bells are ringing for the Jets as Tom Waddingham pokes home the equaliser five minutes into the second half. Henry Hore’s thumping strike on the hour sees the home side in complete control, and Jay O’Shea and Marco Rojas round off a fantastic second half to keep the pressure on the top six with only two games to play.

The Sydney derby takes centre stage on Saturday night and a tooled-up NSW Police will be ready and waiting for anyone who dares stand in the wrong area in a tinder-box atmosphere. The pattern of Robert Mak’s dismissal will see fan favourite Maxi Burgess thrust into the starting line-up and that’s what the Sky Blue supporters have been waiting for.

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A full-on assault is launched by Ufuk Talay’s men, much in the same way as the reverse fixture in Parramatta, and the only surprising thing is how meekly the Wanderers fold under pressure. For all the quality in the visiting team, they are lacking something this year, and Sydney FC put them to the sword, swarming around their sluggish midfield and forcing nervous errors.

Newcastle away is completely forgotten as Fabio Gomes starts and finishes a classy goal after fifteen minutes, Jack Rodwell rises to power home a corner to jog memories of a distant EPL career, Nathan Amanatidis continues the theme by racing through to clip in a lovely goal after the break, and Jorrit Hendrix earns a second yellow card to put the final nail in the Wanderers’ coffin.

If you want finals football, you have to win these games. Bottom club Perth Glory, fresh from letting a two-goal lead slip at home to Adelaide last week, have to rouse themselves to try and get away from that unwanted basement position. They have plenty of match-winners in the team, a world-class coach in Alen Stajcic, but they are still a few paces behind the level of the top teams.

The underwhelming City are hemmed into their own half for long stretches, Gio Colli and Mustafa Amini in control of the midfield, until Tolgay Arslan scores the only goal with 15 minutes left on the clock. Leckie and Alessandro Lopane go close, but Perth keep the pressure on until the end and are unlucky to leave with nothing.

Following the weekend’s exciting game, the stakes are even higher for Western United as Adelaide United come to Tarneit to keep their unlikely finals hopes alive. Adelaide have no other option but to go for the win. Western United will be looking to entertain and ease away from the bottom of the table, and Ben Garuccio’s rocket on ten minutes will blast the game wide open.

Adelaide pile forward but are kept scoreless by half-time, and the excitement builds as Hiroshi Ibusuki and Nestory Irankunda hit the woodwork. It seems a matter of time and Adelaide make changes, taking off defenders and throwing on extra fire-power in a frantic last half-hour.

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A world-class volley by Luka Jovanovic gives the visitors what they need, Harry Van Der Saag races the length of the field to score a brilliant second and instead of shutting up shop, Adelaide go for the jugular, Ibusuki with the third and Irankunda wraps up the scoring to notch yet another four-goal haul for the reds.

Stuart Thomas

Wellington, Adelaide, United, Newcastle, Sydney, City, United

A twilight fixture from New Zealand is a treat on Friday night, when the Phoenix firm up their top two credentials. Victory continue to hang about but lack that special something required to seriously threaten for the title.

Adelaide are building into some serious form far too late in the season. For the competition’s sake, a win here is enormous. The Bulls stun many but the Red wave might be too strong this time around.

I’m tipping Western United to topple the Mariners after siding with the home side last time out. Like Adelaide, John Aloisi’s men are playing well late in the year and this does look a banana skin game for the visitors. Is this the week where I actually tip Brisbane? NO, the Jets on the road in a stunning upset, although this selection is based more on a promise I made rather than who will most likely win the match.

Michael Ruhs Western United

Michael Ruhs of Western United celebrates scoring a goal. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

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The Sydney Derby will be a fight both on and off the pitch with the Sky Blues winning the most important of those and losing the other and Melbourne City should manage to beat a Perth team, that like those around them at the bottom of the ladder, is playing well as the season draws to a close.

Whilst an Adelaide United win on Tuesday night could do wonders for top six race, the magic of Tarneit will see the home side reign and move themselves away from the wooden spoon with just three weeks remaining in the schedule.

Andrew Prentice

Wellington, Adelaide, Central Coast, Brisbane, Sydney, City, United

The A League lived up to its unpredictability last round, leaving teams and tipsters scratching their heads at what’s to come. Victory prevailed in the derby and the Phoenix lost out in the top of the table clash with the Mariners.

Here they are brought together with Tony Popovic’s team still within mathematical sniffing distance of the Premier’s Plate. However, Phoenix are not in the top two by default and they have the game to unsettle and frustrate Victory. A Friday night home game will be just the tonic to get them back on track and challenging for top spot.

Macarthur are the latest side to sound the air raid alert siren and come crashing down to earth. An inexplicable capitulation last week at Western United’s training ground has been compounded by the two match suspension handed to captain Ulises Davila for some injudicious neck-grabbing, though he did at least release the hold at the count of five (sorry, had to slip in a post-Wrestlemania joke).

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Adelaide went the other way – recovering from 2-0 down to put four past Perth and maintain an optimistic hope of sneaking into sixth place. Tony Vidmar may have done his old hometown a big favour declining to select Nestory Irankunda for the U23 Asian Championships as he is in crackling form. Macarthur may rue Vidmar’s largesse.

Western United cracked the champagne on their sort-of new home with a great come-from-behind win last week. However, the Mariners present a different prospect. Top of the table, and motoring along smoothly, albeit with a few clutch problems, they are a side that simply won’t lie down.

Their attacking options are well-known, but it is their resolute defence which has built their foundation. Mikael Doka is a threat at both ends (a bit like a dodgy prawn cocktail) and his winning goal against the Phoenix stamped his class. The Mariners should get the points here, but Western will be a banana peel for a few teams before the season’s out.

Brisbane surprised the Wanderers in appalling conditions last week. The big question is, can they replicate that form two weeks running? The Jets are fighting bravely in the face of depressingly familiar off-field dramas, and every football fan must be hoping they get their ownership saga sorted out. An A-League without Newcastle is a horrible thought. The Roar may have clicked now, and Reuben Zadkovich will delight in putting one over a former employer.

What was shaping as a mighty derby has been diluted a little by last-start losses to both Sydney’s. The Sky Blues possibly had more reasons to point at for their loss to Newcastle last week, having clocked up the frequent flyers on a midweek trip to Perth where they played with 10 from the 34th minute.

They then tried the same trick after Robert Mak’s frankly absurd dismissal in the 37th minute against the Jets. The Wanderers conceded a 77th minute winner to the Roar to slump to an unexpected defeat and burst the bubble that had been inflating on the back of strong performances in the past two games. This, despite last week, will be a humdinger, as both sides look to secure their play-off berths. I’m leaning towards the home side, just.

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Perth can be disruptors for the last two rounds, and entertaining ones at that. But City still have stuff to play for, and won’t want to be known as the first squad since City came under the CFG umbrella to miss the finals.

Tolgay Arslan continues his purple patch of form and it’s the abundance of attacking options around him that should see City get past the league’s third highest scorers (who amazingly, are sitting last!) Perth matches average almost four goals a game so a 3-2 win for City here would not be a surprise.

We’re back to Tarneit for the third time in two weeks for our bonus Tuesday night game. Western are likely to cause a surprise or two in the run home, and this one could be it. They’ll have worked out where the potholes and bumps are in the field by now and can plan accordingly (In honesty, the surface looked immaculate against Macarthur so good on the club for finally getting to that point).

It’s rare that Daniel Penha stays quiet for long and he might be ready to unleash and snuff out the Reds faint play-off hopes under the Tuesday Night Tarneit lights.

Matchday 24TexiStuartAndrewThe Crowd
WEL vs MVCWELWELWEL?
ADL vs MACADLADLADL?
WUN vs CCMCCMWUNCCM?
BRI vs NEWBRINEWBRI?
SYD vs WSWSYDSYDSYD?
MCY vs PERMCYMCYMCY?
WUN vs ADLADLWUNWUN?
Last week5323
Total63596261
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