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|SoccerAnchor's A-League Preview: Round 22|
If you thought Gold Coast United dominated the headlines last week, then you had another thing coming this week, as 'Glitter FC' remained firmly entrenched on everyone's lips. But it was the action that did some talking, as only Sydney managed to win on the road on the weekend. League-leaders Central Coast Mariners failed to beat bottom-placed Gold Coast midweek, but have a chance to rectify this as they taken on Melbourne Heart.
Friday, 24 February 2012
Newcastle Jets - Adelaide United
The loser in this match can all but kiss their chances of making the Finals goodbye, if results go against them. Newcastle and Adelaide may have met only met 30 days ago in Bathurst, but haven't things changed since. The Jets went on a three-game winning streak, toppling Brisbane at Suncorp, and Sydney quite impressively at the SFS. But the Novocastrians came crashing to Earth last week against Perth, losing 2-0. Ben Kantorovski could make a return from Olyroo duty -depending how well he recovers from jet lag - and Labinot Haliti is ready to go.
Adelaide shot themselves in the foot last weekend by failing to get a win at home to Sydney FC. Despite having one of the best attacking combinations in the league, coach John Kosmina opted to use Sergio van Dijk alone up front. The Reds may have suffered somewhat from having to play Persipura in an Asian Champions League qualifier last Thursday, but there can be no excuse this time around.
Newcastle at home have been quite good this term, so look for them to keep their Finals chances alive.
Prediction: Newcastle Jets 2-1 Adelaide United
Saturday, 25 February 2012
Sydney FC – Wellington Phoenix
Sydney are looking to win three matches in a row since January 2009, which is staggering considering the quality of players at the Sky Blues. With two 2-1 results in the past fortnight, the harbourside outfit have put behind them the Newcastle trouncing. Moving into the top six, a win against the Phoenix would leave them level with their opposition.
Wellington will be keen to end their two-game losing run, having been beaten by Central Coast and Brisbane in their last two fixtures. The Phoenix sat in second position before meeting the two beforementioned sides, but have now slid down the table, and could be sucked into the battle for the final two Finals spots. The New Zealanders will be hoping they can replicate their 4-2 win from December over the opposition, but will be missing playmaker Daniel Sanchez. Captain Andrew Durante and vice-captain Tim Brown will return for Ricki Herbert, as they have served their suspensions.
The Sky Blues have the imperious record of not having lost to Wellington at the SFS since November 2008, and will be aiming to extend it.
Prediction: Sydney FC 2–2 Wellington Phoenix
Gold Coast United – Melbourne Victory
Gold Coast United have failed to stay out of the headlines over the past week, and former coach Miron Bleiberg was shown the door. Mike Mulvey may have taken over for their midweek clash against Central Coast, but GCU could not get a win nontheless. Despite having a 3-1 lead thanks to Chris Harold, Ben Halloran and Mitch Cooper, 'Glitter FC' conceded twice to earn a 3-3 draw. The side will also have some confidence going into this match, as it was only at the start of the month they claimed a last-minute draw against the Victory in Launceston.
Melbourne Victory battled valiantly, but could not get the points against Brisbane Roar last weekend. A brace from Harry Kewell illustrated that he is starting to show some of the brilliant form he has displayed in the past for Leeds, Liverpool and Galatasaray. But the star player has been the only avenue to goal for the Victory, as Archie Thompson has not hit the back of the net in six outings.
This will be GCU's third match in a week, and fatigue could start to kick in, especially as the team is very young. The Victory could pounce and get a positive result.
Prediction: Gold Coast United 1–2 Melbourne Victory
Perth Glory – Brisbane Roar
Perth have been quite solid at home recently, having claimed three wins and a draw in their last four outings. The Glory corrected a 2-1 loss to Sydney FC from a fortnight ago by defeating Newcastle Jets 2-0, with Billy Mehmet and Adam Hughes scoring. Perth seem to be the only side that can realistically overtake the Roar on the table, but will be requiring more victories - and Brisbane to slip up - in order for this to occur.
Brisbane are back - and in a big way. Three wins in a row showed they are still the team to beat. A brace from Besart Berisha and a penalty converted by Henrique helped the Queenslanders to beat a spirited Melbourne Victory outfit last weekend. Rocky Visconte and Matt Jurman are also in line to return to the first XI, meaning coach Ange Postecoglou has options in all parts of the field.
The Glory at home are strong, and a 3-3 draw last time the two teams met at nib Stadium is a point in case.
Prediction: Perth Glory 1–1 Brisbane Roar
Sunday, 26 February 2012
Melbourne Heart - Central Coast Mariners
FINALLY...Melbourne heart fans can finally breathe a sigh of relief after the side claimed their first win of 2012, ending an eight-game winless streak against Gold Coast with a 1-0 win. It certainly wasn't pretty, but an ugly win is still a win. Captain Fred returned to the Heart midfield, and his influence was immediate, as he was the one who instigated Eli Babalj putting the ball into the back of the net. The big question for coach John van't Schip revolves around whether Craig Goodwin will keep his spot in the line-up, or will Aziz Behinch replace him, as he and Mate Dugandzic and Jason Hoffman are back from Olyroo duty.
The league leaders may have gotten four points from their last two games, but they have looked far from convincing. The 2-0 win over Wellington last weekend was followed up by a 3-3 come-from-behind draw against bottom-placed Gold Coast. Tomas Rogic has been instrumental in Mustafa Amini's absence, and he has worked well alongside Matthew McGlinchey and Daniel McBreen in midfield. Also back is Mat Ryan, as the defence has not been the same since his absence. Also slotting into the back four will be Oliver Bozanic.
The Heart are yet to beat Central Coast, and many will feel they had their best chance to do so last time the sides met, but lost 1-0 in the 89th minute.
Prediction: Melbourne Heart 0-1 Central Coast Mariners