A-League Round 22 Preview

TattsBet Brekky Show soccer expert James Clark
TattsBet Brekky Show soccer expert James Clark takes a look at Round 22 of the A-League.
TattsBet A-League Round 22 Preview

Melbourne Victory V Central Coast Mariners
AAMI Park Friday 6:30pm AEST

The Victory will be licking their wounds from a disappointing showing against cross-town rival Melbourne Heart at the weekend. Coach Kevin Muscat will need to strengthen the midfield that was poor against the Heart. A home win is vital if they are to secure a top six spot on a ladder resembling a peak hour traffic jam.

Only six points separate the teams sitting in third to ninth place. Victory will be without Mark Milligan and Tommy Rogic, who are on Socceroos duties for the friendly against Ecuador. Central Coast performed well to break their four game losing streak against Sydney FC, but face a tough draw in coming weeks if they are to replicate last year’s stellar finish.

My tip: Draw

Newcastle Jets v Melbourne Heart 
Hunter Stadium Saturday 4:30pm AEST

The Jets are the team higher-placed sides should fear as the finals draw closer. The win on the weekend against the Wanderers proved they can get up for the big games, despite their inconsistent form line. They return home this week, but with only three victories at Hunter Stadium all season, will be looking to put an end to Heart’s unbeaten run from their past seven outings.

The upward trend continues to bubble along at the Heart and their recent drought breaking goal-run has netted 19 goals since turning around their season. Giant Dutch import Orlando Engelaar continues to turn opposition defensive lines inside out after notching three goals in as many games and will be the popular choice in the 1st goal-scorer market. Both teams cannot be split in the betting, but I’m tipping the Heart in a close one.

My tip: Heart 

Sydney FC v Western Sydney Wanderers 
Sydney Football Stadium Saturday 6:30pm AEST

A second Derby game in as many weeks will ensure a big crowd is on hand at the Sydney Football stadium on Saturday night. Both teams are coming off disappointing losses, but in these games form means little when the players cross that white line and take to the pitch. The Wanderers have the wood on their inner-city rivals this season, winning the two previous meetings, but history will count for nothing between these two teams. It must be said Sydney probably have more to play for with their top-six place at risk, so I’m swaying towards them to get home in a nail-biter. Perhaps an Asian handicap Syd FC (0.00/+0.05) could make it a bit more interesting and give Sydney that little bit more breathing space.

Wellington Phoenix v Perth Glory
Westpac Stadium 2:00pm AEST

Wellington will be hoping their poor defensive effort against Adelaide United won't be repeated this weekend as they return home to the familiar “Cake Tin” at Westpac Stadium. Last time at home they were found wanting in defence by a damaging Heart, but given Perth’s attacking frailties, I’m not expecting an upset in this game.

The Glory’s goalkeeping stalwart Danny Vukovic is set to take-up a loan deal to Graham Arnold’s J-League club Vegalta Sendai, effective immediately. Vukovic, the A-League’s second-most capped player (201), will be missed and further challenge a team already staring down the barrel of its first wooden-spoon. Very hard to tip against the Phoenix despite their inconsistency of late, but with the firepower they possess, it could be a long 90 minutes for the Glory.

Brisbane Roar v Adelaide United
Suncorp Stadium Sunday 4:00pm AEST

This game is shaping as the match of the round and a potential Grand Final dress-rehearsal. Adelaide is at the peak of its powers under coach Josep Gombau and the display last Thursday night against the Phoenix will have many coaches, including Roar’s Mike Mulvey, looking at shutting down the likes of Jeronimo Neumann, Sergio Cirio and Brice Djite.

The Reds return to Suncorp confident in the fact that they know how to win there. Last time the clubs met was in early January, when the Reds prevailed over a Roar who went into the clash as clear-cut favourites. It is a huge test for the Roar, but the big games often get the big names performing. Besart Berisha as first goal- scorer will be hard to go past. Adelaide appears over the odds in my opinion on current form and is great value.

My tip: Adelaide United 

James Clark
TattsBet Brekky Show

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