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|SoccerAnchor's A-League Preview: Round 26|
The final round of the home and away season has arrived, but nothing has been settled. Central Coast Mariners and Brisbane Roar are still fighting for the Premier's Plate, whilst Newcastle and Sydney will go face-to-face to determine who plays in the finals series starting next week. And to top it off, a New South Wales and M1 Derby await us..
Friday, 23 Mach 2012
Adelaide United - Melbourne Heart
Adelaide have re-signed coach John Kosmina on the back of the side's midweek 2-0 win over Gamba Osaka in the Asian Champions League. But Kossie has been doing some good things for the Reds, and he will have a chance to prove himself next season and beyond. As for the team itself, Sergio van Dijk could be playing his final match for the South Australians, as he could be set to leave. Adelaide will also remember their 3-1 win over the Heart in January at AAMI Park, knowing they can get a win against their opposition.
Melbourne Heart are undefeated in five outings, but have failed to register a win in three matches, unable to hold out for the victory against Sydney FC last weekend. Leading 2-0 after 36 minutes thanks to Eli Babalj and Mate Dugandzic, the side couldn't hang on. Having all but assured themselves a spot in the finals series (the Heart can exit if they lose and Sydney score eight goals and win), John van't Schip has got this side firing on all cylinders. The club are also starting to plan for next season, as they are linked with Ange Postecoglou taking over JvS' position.
The Heart aren't quite secure of their spot, so will want at least a point at Hindmarsh, likely they had obtained earlier in the season.
Prediction: Adelaide United 1-1 Melbourne Heart
Saturday, 24 March 2012
Perth Glory - Melbourne Victory
The Glory will be glad to returning to Perth, after receiving a 3-0 thumping at the hands of Gold Coast last week. But the scoreline didn't truly reflect how hard the Purple Army tried to equalise. But Dean Heffernan's sending off before half-time hurt the squad. Ian Ferguson, though, did unleash two National Youth league players in Brandon O'Neill and Ndumba Makeche, meaning the future is bright. Third place is on the line, and only a victory over the Victory can help to secure the spot. Jacob Burns could be rested as he missed last week with sore ribs, but he could also play due to the Glory's player availability.
Melbourne Victory achieved their best win of the season last week against Wellington, as they dismantled the Phoenix 3-0. Carlos Hernandez was the talking point prior to the match, and he delivered an almighty strike to give the home side the lead. It was only matched by Jimmy Jeggo to round off the scoring. Julius Davies also made his debut for the Victory, as Jim Magilton begins the clean-out process. Marco Rojas will miss due to receiving a severe knock to the head against his former side. Jean-Carlos Solorzano has revealed this will be his final match for the club, as he will return to Costa Rica.
The Western Australians tore MVFC apart when they met at nib Stadium earlier in the season, and a similar scoreline could occur, as the Glory gear up for finals.
Prediction: Perth Glory 3-1 Melbourne Victory
Sunday, 25 March 2012
Wellington Phoenix - Central Coast Mariners
"Super Sunday" commences with Wellington Phoenix looking to make up for their shocking 3-0 loss t Melbourne Victory last weekend. And they will play a crucial part in determining the standings. Not only is Ricki Herbert's side wanting third place, so they can host Perth Glory, but the Yellow and Black will want to stop CCM from being awarded the Premier's Plate.
The equations is simple: if Central Coast Mariners beat Wellington, they win the Premier's Plate. Having played against Nagoya Grampus in the Asian Champions League could have taken a toll on the players, physically, but Graham Arnold will not accept any excuses on Sunday, especially since the side played against the Japanese outfit in Gosford. Arnold also illustrated his ability to play the 'Christmas tree formation' - a 4-3-2-1 with Mustafa Amini and Tomas Rogic in the same line-up. The tactician opted for more speed with Troy Hearfield up front, but will almost certainly use Bernie Ibini on Sunday, as he was the difference on the scoreboard against Adelaide last weekend.
The title is on the line, and CCM will want the points, especially since the hosts haven't beaten them in four outings.
Prediction: Wellington Phoenix 1-2 Central Coast Mariners
Sydney FC - Newcastle Jets
The final New South Wales Derby for the regular season, but there is some extra added spice thrown in for good measure. Despite it being extremely unlikely, Sydney FC can mathematically still make the finals. Needing a victory by eight or more goals, Vitezslav Lavicka's men need to go on the attack early if they are to get a win. Everyone is aware of the side making comebacks in order to steal points, but the Sky Blues will need to score early. Shannon Cole stole to show off the bench last weekend against Melbourne Heart, scoring twice in the second half to gather a point. This will be Lavicka's final match in charge of the side.
Newcastle are in the finals, but only if they don't concede those eight goals. It looks highly unlikely the Jets will let them through, considering Gary van Egmond has prided himself on having a solid defence in order to attack. Not having the best record against Brisbane at Hunter Sports Stadium, the Roar were able to exploit this and grab a 2-1 win over the home side.
The Jets will be hoping they can score a 5-2 win over the Sky Blues, like they did last month at the Allianz Stadium.
Prediction: Sydney FC 1-2 Newcastle Jets
Gold Coast United - Brisbane Roar
Depsite there being pleading calls to save Gold Coast United, this will be the team's final hurrah in the Hyundai A-League. Bottom place is secure, but they have had a very big say in how the finals series will have panned out. Grabbing a point against Newcastle a fortnight ago, 'Glitter FC' then went on to dismantle Perth Glory last weekend, thanks to a brace from James Brown. And with GCU fans remembering their last win - before last week's - was against Brisbane Roar, they will have a spring in their step.
Brisbane have had to travel to China to face Beijing Guaon in the Asian Champions League, meaning they may not be as fresh for this encounter. Ange Postecoglou may opt to rest several key players ahead of the finals, but a 2-1 win over Newcastle on the weekend meant they have everything still to play for. Depending on the Wellington-Central Coast result, the M1 Derby could determine the Premier's Plate. Needing a win and only a win, the Roar will only have one result in mind.
This could be the last M1 Derby, but there is a lot riding on it.
Prediction: Gold Coast United 1-2 Brisbane Roar