TattsBet Brekky Show soccer expert James Clark takes a comprehensive look at Round Week 1 of the A-League Finals Series.
TattsBet A-League Elimination Finals Preview
The A-League regular season came to a close last Sunday night and the final six wasn’t decided until well into the final minutes in the final match of the final round. Sydney FC managed to sneak home and earn fifth spot on the ladder in a game that struggled to reach any great heights.
The result was a blessing in disguise for many coaches, none more so than Mike Mulvey. He would be relieved knowing there will be no chance of his Brisbane Roar side meeting their “bogey side” Newcastle Jets next Sunday at Suncorp. Brisbane ended the round with a surprising 2-0 loss at home to the Mariners and now has the weekend off to refocus and await their semi-final opponents. With only one match separating them from the Grand Final, they have just one chance to get it right with Mulvey firmly believing they wont lose two on the trot. For now though the bottom four sides do battle to decide who will meet either the Western Sydney Wanderers or Brisbane Roar for a chance at Grand Final glory.
Melbourne Victory (4th) v Sydney FC (5th)
Etihad Stadium, Friday 18 April, 7:30pm (AEST)
The Melbourne Victory are a club in great spirits after recording their best away win this season with a 4-1 demolition of the Wellington Phoenix. They are the team to fear in the finals in my opinion. Winning form is good form and their result against AFC Champions League titleholders Guangzhou Evergrande will boost an already high level of confidence. The timely return of first choice goalkeeper Nathan Coe’s into the 18-yard box has sharpened the defence and Sydney FC’s attack will need to be on song if they have any thoughts of progressing past the first week.
In what could be the last game for coach Frank Farina and Italian superstar Alessandro Del Perio for the club, Sydney FC will take plenty of heart knowing they are yet to be defeated by the Victory in three starts this season. They were responsible in delivering Victory’s equal heaviest defeat with a 5-0 rout back on Australia Day. Only the Wellington Phoenix can claim the same bragging rights after what was a tough January period for new coach Kevin Muscat. I’m sticking with current form and think the attacking combinations of James Troisi, Kosta Barbarouses and Gui Finkler as well as Archie Thompson will be too much for the “Sky Blues”, but finals have a habit of throwing up an upset on any given night!
My tip: Melbourne Victory
Central Coast Stadium, Saturday 19 April, 4:30pm (AEST)
Adelaide’s lacklustre performance against the Newcastle Jets last Friday night at Hunter Stadium was rather out of character and will be a big concern for Spanish coach Josep Gombau. He will be hoping his chargers can turn up the intensity in this Sunday’s do or die battle with the Mariners at Bluetongue. Adelaide has beaten them twice this season but only in front of their home fans. Their last road trip to Gosford resulted in a dull 1-0 loss, but with a chance of playing in a Grand Final, the stakes will be much higher. The Mariners play a mid-week AFC Champions League encounter with FC Seoul and will no doubt adopt a similar spoiling tactic that was so effective at shutting down the Roar last weekend.
I’m tipping a draw in this one at the end of 90 minutes and feel it could be closer than many predict. This game has the potential to extend well beyond the two extra periods of time and could ultimately be decided on penalties. If that is the case, the vast experience of captain Eugene Galekovic could prove the difference in turning up the pressure on the Mariners shooting gallery and give his side a shot at a Grand Final birth.
My tip: Draw
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