TattsBet Brekky Show soccer expert James Clark takes a comprehensive look at the A-League Semi-Finals.
Only four teams remain and not surprisingly it is the four most consistent sides of the competition that remain. The Wanderers host last year’s Champions Central Coast Mariners in what is a Grand Final replay. There has been much debate on the scheduling of Asian Champions League (ACL) fixtures clashing with the A-League finals series but unfortunately it is what it is. Hopefully next season a little more respect and courtesy can be shown towards A-League teams by the organisers. The Mariners are often referred to as the “little club that could” but they will need all their positive powers of recovery to progress to a second consecutive Grand Final. The Wanderers are looking to go one better this season, but also have to contend with ACL duties as they host Guizhou Renhe from China. The other match- off will see Premiers Brisbane Roar take on the Melbourne Victory in what will showcase two classy sides littered with attacking talent.
Western Sydney Wanderers (2nd) v Central Coast Mariners (3rd)
Pirtek Stadium Saturday 6:30pm AEST
The Wanderers and Mariners have met on three occasions this season with the ledger all square at one apiece paired with a hard fought stalemate back in round one. It promises to be another close one and despite a heavy mid-week travel turnaround facing the Mariners, they are a team that always “turns” up in big games. The fate of this semi-final could ultimately be decided by the two form goalkeepers of the competition in Ante Covic (Wanderers) and Liam Reddy (Mariners). No doubt Phil Moss and Tony Popovoic will be setting aside plenty of time at the end of each training session to practice spot kicks as teams often shift their focus from attack in preference to “parking the bus”.
I’m tipping a draw in this one but the longer the game ticks on will surely favour the fresher legs of the Wanderers. One thing is certain there will be a sea of “Red and Black” home supporters on hand to add another layer to a very anticipated clash at Pirtek. Be sure to check out the value market for both teams to win in a penalty shoot out. It is the semi-finals after all with a Grand Final spot the ultimate prize on offer. Mile Sterjovski (Mariners) in what could well be his last game is always there abouts and lifts in big games and is always worth a wager to score a goal late in a game.
My tip: Draw
Brisbane Roar (1st) v Melbourne Victory (4th)
Suncorp Stadium Sunday 5:00pm AEST
This game will be a massive test for both sides. Last time they met at Suncorp in March it was Luke Brattan’s wonder strike in the 92nd minute that delivered the Premier’s Plate to the Roar. The Victory goes into this game high in confidence and has not been beaten since that Roar game and will be looking for redemption. Victory coach Kevin Muscat will be hoping his side can eliminate a few defensive lapses that crept into his side last week against Sydney FC. Departing striker Besart Berisha will be showcasing his talent to his new boss but will be setting his sights on getting on the score sheet early and giving his Brisbane team the upper hand.
All interest will focus on whether the week-off will sharpen or hinder a Roar side that lost their previous home encounter to the Mariners. There should be a healthy crowd on hand and if the Roar gets over the line they will return a week later to the scene of their dramatic last gasp Grand Final wins of the past. On paper it is hard to go past the Roar at home but the early Melbourne Victory price is extremely attractive in a two horse race.
My tip: Brisbane Roar
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