ABC Newcastle's Phil Dando previews Round 16 of the A-League, including the Jets' game against Brisbane Roar.
Round 16 kicks off on Friday night with Adelaide United, who are clinging onto the coat-tails of the Mariners in second spot, entertaining an inconsistent Perth Glory. For the Reds Barbiero replaces injured playmaker Carrusca as Vidosic's partner in an attacking midfield and they are also without Fabio Ferreira who has a groin injury and Nigel Boogaard (hamstring). Glory striker Shane Smeltz returned to something like his normal form with a brace against Sydney last week and will need watching and centre back Bas van den Brink returns from suspension for them. Reds coach John Kosmina describes Glory as being tough physically and mentally and although Glory are undefeated against Adelaide United in their last five clashes, including four wins, they've only picked up two points from their last three games. The Reds have lost at home only once in their last twelve games and it will be difficult for Glory to get anything here. I'm tipping the Reds.
Launceston gets it's second helping of A-League football when Melbourne Victory take their home game against the table-topping Central Coast Mariners there on Saturday. They should be treated to what shapes as the match of the round with the two highest scorers in the comp facing off. The Mariners just keep rolling on, beating all-comers and will have little respect for the league's most consistent team over the years. Mariners midfielder Michael McGlinchey plays his 100th game, but central defender Trent Sainsbury misses the trip through suspension, not what coach Graham Arnold will have wanted seeing as they have to face the Victory's potent attacking force of Rojas, Thompson and Flores. However, he does have the experienced Zwaanswijk to replace Sainsbury. This one promises to be a cracker for the Apple Island's football followers and I can't separate them, so I'm sitting on the fence and tipping a draw!
Newcastle Jets and Brisbane Roar will be glad that their game kicks off at 7.45 p.m. on Saturday as temperatures are predicted to be in the 40s during the day. I keep saying that I expect the Roar's guns to start firing soon but they haven't done as yet and there is now talk of a player overhaul at the club. These two teams, who were both expected to challenge hard for the title, are in seventh and eighth position locked on 17 points and a loss here could be almost terminal for their hopes. The Jets could be missing marquee striker Emile Heskey who came off at half time last week with a hip flexor strain as well as stand-in captain, Ruben Zadkovich, who injured a knee at training. Jobe Wheelhouse may return off the bench after several weeks out with a knee injury, but the Jets are still without the services of Josh Mitchell, Ben Kantarovski and Domink Ritter, all injured. Their young defence did well to keep Adelaide scoreless last week (the first time that's happened this season) and they may be called upon again to deal with the menace of Berisha, Broich and Nichols in the Roar attack. The two-time champion Roar can beat anyone on their day but they don't seem to have the appetite for it these days and a high-tempo Jets should make it difficult for them. This could well be a score draw!
Sunday's first game sees Wellington Phoenix host Western Sydney Wanderers. The Wanderers have lived up to their name and been good on the road losing only one of their last five away games. That loss was here at the Cake Tin though, and although the Phoenix have been a bit inconsistent this season as they change their style the trip across the Tasman can beat the best. Phoenix will be looking to get some good service to striker Jeremy Brockie, who is in his best ever goal-scoring form now he's back on his native soil! The Wanderers welcome back Beauchamp and Hersi from suspension plus D'Apuzzo and Poljak from injury after they all missed the home loss to the Mariners, but strikers Kresinger and Minniecon are both now on the injured list. The competition's new-boys have proved they are a match for anyone but I think home advantage will prove the difference here and I'm going for the Phoenix.
Sydney FC welcome Melbourne Heart to Allianz Stadium after displaying some new-found character in a come-from-behind draw at Perth last week. Defender Fabio and striker Yairo Yau are likely to strengthen the team after missing that game, while big central defender Aaron Calver is tipped to celebrate his 17th birthday by being named in the starting line-up again for his home debut. Heart defender Michael Marrone won't be available as he is on his way to China with a view to signing with one of their Super League clubs, but striker David Williams is out suspended after a contentious red card last week. The Heart are missing striker Mate Dugandzic, out for the season with a broken foot, and they don't have the strength in depth of some of the others. Despite an awful first half of the season, I expect Frank Farina to improve the Sky Blues and I think they will be good enough to win this one.
Don't forget, you can listen to Phil Dando and Aaron Kearney call the Jets v Roar game live on 1233 ABC Radio Newcastle from 7 p.m. this Saturday night.