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Adelaide United takes on Melbourne Victory with home finals on the line in Round 26 of the A-League at Coopers Stadium on Good Friday at 7:50pm (AEST). Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match.
With Sydney’s win on Thursday night against the already-crowned Perth Glory, Victory needs to win their final two games and hope for a Sydney loss to claim second spot.
They’re currently coasting in third, and if they can’t bridge the gap on Sydney then a home derby final against City looms.
Adelaide’s grip on fourth spot – and a home final – is a little more precarious. Sitting on 38 points, they have both the Phoenix and City breathing down their necks on 37.
A win at home tonight in the penultimate round would all but ensure fourth.
Victory is very gettable at the moment. They’ve had a poor 2019. Their recent league form is mixed (three wins and two losses in the last five), and their ACL run has been diabolical, losing their first three games.
Indeed, Kevin Muscat will have an eye on the home ACL tie on Tuesday against Guanghzou.
Muscat faces some compelling game theory challenges over the next five days. He’s in the awkward position of being unlikely – though mathematically possible – of finishing second in the league and progressing from their ACL group.
With no ACL points and all three opponents on six points, Victory realistically need to win all three remaining ACL games to progress.
Muscat may therefore decide to rest key players against Adelaide, and save them for Guangzhou. He’s named a strong squad – with Terry Antonis and Lawrence Thomas returning – but may choose to start Kenny Athiu and Elvis Kamsoba ahead of star imports Ola Toivonen and Keisuke Honda.
Adelaide have everything to play for, and have named their strongest possible line up. Centreback Jordan Elsey returns from injury, and 19-year-old striker Pacifique Niyongabire – who is Elvis Kamsoba’s younger brother – has been promoted into the first team.
It would be a fantastic story if the two brothers were able to share pitch time. Refugees from Burundi who are building professional careers in the A-League. It would be a nice secondary story to this game that will almost certainly shape the make-up of the finals.
Adelaide’s chances this season started so positively with the FFA Cup win and sparkling form of Craig Goodwin. But their form has fluctuated wildly since.
Ironically, their results have improved markedly since the announcement that manager Marco Kurz won’t continue with the team next season.
They promptly won their next two and got a point against final rivals City. They’ll be hoping this mini bounce can continue against Victory.
Victory hasn’t really found its groove in this calendar year. On paper they should have enough midfield talent to dominate possession.
But Victory’s weakness is at fullback, and if Adelaide’s creative wide players like Goodwin, Ben Halloran and Nikola Mileusnic can get a foothold then they have the talent and speed to trouble Victory.
The proposition for Adelaide is clear – win this game and all-but ensure a home final. With the ACL playing on Kevin Muscat’s mind, Adelaide could cause a mini-upset.
Adelaide United 2 – Melbourne Victory 1