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With the not-so-small matter of the World Cup on our doorstep, Round 6 of the A-League Men will be the final one before a month-long hiatus. It stands to be a momentum builder or breaker for many, with a tough month ahead for those heading into the break with the taste of defeat fresh in their mouths.
Newcastle, Perth and Western United need a settling three points, and despite most believing in Macarthur FC, another weak performance in Round 6 will have them sitting precariously heading into the Christmas period when play resumes.
The Sydney derby headlines the action this week, with a sellout crowd expected, and Friday night’s grudge match between the Reds and Victory looks like a potential cracker.
Good luck with your tips for the round, and be sure to enter them in the sheet below to have a say as part of the ladder-leading roar of the crowd.
Mike Tuckerman
Adelaide, City, Sydney, United, Central Coast
Adelaide United landed a statement of intent with their comprehensive 4-2 win over Western United last weekend, and the Reds have more than a few players in form. Foremost among them is goalkeeper Joe Gauci, while Craig Goodwin is flying high on the back of his World Cup call-up. Melbourne Victory crushed the Newcastle Jets last time out, but they’re walking into an ambush at the revamped Coopers Stadium. The Reds will be well up for this and I’m backing them to take all three points.
Newcastle were diabolical in that 4-0 defeat to Melbourne Victory and Arthur Papas probably isn’t thrilled they face Melbourne City next up. The Jets have the chance to atone for their performance last weekend, but they’ve blown hot and cold so far this season and don’t necessarily look like they’ve got the quality to genuinely challenge the big guns. The question really is: which Melbourne City side turns up? If it’s the one that looks like they’ll win the premiership at a canter, they’ll bag the win here.
The derby everyone’s been waiting for. Sydney FC will win it – mark my words – but not because they’re a vastly superior side to Western Sydney Wanderers. There’s just too much emotion in this one for the Sky Blues not to grind out a win against their hated city rivals. Mind you, Marko Rudan will be desperate to get one over the club he once played for. There isn’t a player on the pitch who fails to understand the significance of this game, but I think Sydney FC’s partisan home crowd gets them over the line here.
I never know which Wellington Phoenix side is going to turn up. I changed my tip to a draw at the last second – again – last weekend only for the Phoenix to stomp all over the homesick Bulls from Macarthur. The Phoenix are a handy enough outfit, but surely Western United have to win a game at some point. I’m backing that’s what happens here, with absolutely no real confidence whatsoever, purely because I think if John Aloisi’s team win anywhere, it’ll probably be on the road when no-one is really watching.
It feels like the Central Coast Mariners contributed to around half the Socceroos squad for Qatar, and they’ll go into this clash with Macarthur brimming with confidence. Theirs was an impressive second-half display to see off Western Sydney in Parramatta last time out, and there’s no reason they won’t feel confident of doing the same to the Bulls. The only problem for Nick Montgomery is the fact that Macarthur are a more than handy side of their own. But it’s hard to tip against a side with so much momentum.
(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Stuart Thomas
Adelaide, City, Western Sydney, Wellington, Central Coast
Melbourne Victory bounced back to form with a thumping win against Newcastle last week and looked more like the team many feared heading into the season. Adelaide cleaned up Western United. This should be a ripping affair, with the Reds prevailing at home in a game likely to feature just one goal.
Newcastle will need to display some resilience this week against City. If they don’t, the floodgates could well open. Let’s hope they do, but City look almost certain winners.
Putting aside all the nonsense planned by Sydney FC fans upon the return of former player Milos Ninkovic to derby play, the Wanderers have a more rigid defence and have looked more stable across the opening month of the season. Western Sydney will win in a high-scoring classic.
Things are starting to get a little desperate for John Aloisi’s Western United, and they meet an in-form Wellington Phoenix needing to chalk up consecutive wins more often if they have serious ambitions of finishing towards the top of the A-League ladder. Does the pain continue for United? I think it does.
Central Coast continue their ‘don’t underestimate us’ approach to the A-League and just keep turning up. Macarthur will need to be up for this one, yet the Mariner momentum is real and Garang Kuol will head off to the World Cup with a sparkling second-half display.
Blayne Treadgold
(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Andrew Prentice
Adelaide, City, Sydney, Wellington, Central Coast
It’s the original rivalry, and let’s hope Hindmarsh is packed for it. This game usually delivers for the neutral as well as the fans of each team. Both are coming off high-scoring wins last week, with Victory really shaking off the scoring blues. It seems Bruno Fornaroli’s signing shook up the asleep-at-the-wheel Victory attack, with Jake Brimmer pulling the strings from midfield. However, Adelaide have been accumulating an impressive run which started with their short-handed draw against Sydney FC. They’ve found some attacking vibrancy and I just think there’ll be goals in this one.
Dorothy’s clicking her heels as the Jets agree there’s no place like home. Their early-season form has screeched to a halt in the last two games, but they are at least back at McDonald Jones this weekend. However, the visitors don’t come much tougher than the table-topping City, and if Newcastle are to get something out of this, they must create chances. Beka Mikeltadze will be good for the hit-out last week and he’s surely going to have to get back on the scoresheet if the Jets are going to match Jamie Maclaren, Marco Tilio, Mat Leckie and co. It’s a big home ask.
Well, here we go. Milos Ninkovic shirt trade-ins for charity, pig’s heads and rats and back at the Sydney Football Stadium, where some of the most rocking atmospheres of the A-League have been found. The Wanderers were lucky they didn’t get done by six against the Mariners last week, while the Sky Blues were ambushed early by the hitherto shot-shy Roar. The Wanderers have scored only five times in the first five rounds – even I can work that average out – while SFC have conceded a whopping 11 goals, although they’ve matched that at the other end. The way Central Coast opened up the previously rock-solid Wanderers defence must be a concern for Marko Rudan. I’m not sure they’ll get it much easier at Allianz.
The Phoenix joined the goal rush last week with an irresistible display against Macarthur, with the two Bens – Old and Waine – contributing half the bounty. The latter is making scoring off the bench a good habit; both times he’s started on the pine, he’s come on to good effect. Bozhidar Kraev has taken to NZ life well and scored again last week. On the other hand, the champions look as disorganised as their stadium construction, especially at the back, where they built their title run last season. Eight goals against in their last two games is a stat John Aloisi will be desperate to arrest, but with injuries and form turning against United, perhaps the World Cup break can’t come soon enough.
The Mariners provided the most eye-opening display of Round 5, one not many could confidently say they saw coming. Their attacking prowess coincides with the Bulls defence seemingly having accepted an Expedia group booking to a remote island in the last two weeks. While Jason Cummings and Garang Kuol have deservedly been in the headlines this week, Beni Nkololo and Marco Tulio have been every bit as potent. The Bulls have their own attacking wildcards in Daniel Arzani and Craig Noone, so hopefully the last A-League game before the World Cup break gives us a Gosford goal-fest.
(Photo by Masanori Udagawa/Getty Images)
Texi Smith
Victory, Jets, Wanderers, Phoenix, Mariners
How good were Adelaide on Sunday? And it’s a relatively quick turnaround to take on old enemy Victory at Coopers Stadium. Beaming from a Socceroos call-up, Craig Goodwin will be ready to show just why he has made Arnie’s 26, but he might have his pants pulled down by the visitors’ own international stars who missed out on selection. The vision of Jake Brimmer and the embarrassment of riches up front will be too much for United, and the gulf in class between the Melbourne teams and the rest of the league will be in full view.
The Jets at McDonald Jones again, defending a 100 per cent home record against reigning premiers Melbourne City. After the Jets’ collapse last week and City’s second-half stroll, this one has away win written all over it. But this is the A-League, and we know not to go with our gut instinct in games like this. Arnie’s striker Jamie Maclaren will get his obligatory goal in the first half and all will be going to script until Reno Piscopo scores twice as a bouncing home crowd roar the Jets to victory.
In the Sydney derby the home team are the most concerning. Their pretty midfield passing routine that achieves nothing will be all they have, as the Wanderers sit in waiting with patience and a mean streak that comes to the fore when the pressure is on. Joe Lolley’s trim new shape after his bout of gastro will give him an extra yard, but the tame crossing will be eaten up by the visitors’ defence. All it needs is someone to be direct, and we’ll finally see that from West Sydney as the game starts to boil when Cove boy Calem Nieuwenhof splits open the defence for former EPL midfielder Romain Amalfitano to romp clear and finish for the only goal of the game.
Entertainment is guaranteed at the Cake Tin on Sunday arvo when a smarting Western United come looking for their first win of the season at the sixth attempt. A nosedive against Adelaide on the weekend was at the opposite end of the spectrum to the high-flying Phoenix, who crushed a spirited Macarthur FC team with a blistering spell in the second half. John Aloisi’s men will react accordingly, fighting for every ball in an uplifting first half. Some astute second-half substitutions will change the complexion though, as Ufuk Talay’s magic formula is mixed just right, Yan Sasse setting up Kosta Barbarouses for the winner late in the game.
A home banker at Central Coast Stadium, yet this battle of the Sydney satellite teams will not be as one-sided as many have predicted. With a shored-up defensive line-up, Macarthur will soak up a lot of pressure, slowly coming out of their shell in the second half. That’s where the Mariners will pounce, and a superb Sam Silvera strike will prise open the visitors’ defence to let the goals flood in. A late cameo by Qatar-bound Garang Kuol will be enough to whet the appetite, his appearance leading to two more goals and a tough day at the office for Filip Kurto.