Phil Dando from 1233 ABC Newcastle previews Round 19 of the A-League, including the Jets' showdown with Sydney FC.
Brisbane Roar bounced back to some sort of form with a win in Perth last week and as a "reward" this week they have to entertain the impressive, table-topping Mariners in the first game of the round on Friday night. The Roar have been active in the transfer window moving on midfielders Erik Paartalu and Nick Fitzgerald and bringing in Jade North, Julius Davies-Doe, Dutch youth international forward Stefan Nijland, and young Socceroo Steven Lustica on-loan from Croatia. The Roar are also missing captain Matt Smith with a hip injury though. The Mariners attacker Adam Kwasnik will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury and also out are Pedj Bojic, hip flexor injury, and Nick Montgomery suspended. They will be sorely missed by the Mariners against a Roar team that is just one point outside the top six. However, I think that the Mariners have enough strength in depth to hold on for a draw here.
On Saturday Wellington Phoenix have a home game against Perth Glory at Eden Park, Auckland. A huge crowd attended the last Phoenix game there and although bottom of the table the odds are on another big attendance this week. Phoenix can leap-frog Perth with a win and push last season's Grand Finalists into bottom spot and that could put some pressure on Glory coach Ian Ferguson. Despite recent results, the men in purple are still only two points outside the top six and Ferguson remains confident that his charges will be playing finals football come April. Josh Risdon and Liam Miller will both return to the squad having served their respective one-match bans, but Shane Smeltz (hip) and Jacob Burns (back) will again miss out through injury. Dean Heffernan will also come back into the squad, while defender Bas van den Brink has been released. The Glory have lost nine matches in total and every one of them has been by a one-goal margin, so they are not that far away. Phoenix have looked a bit better with Paul Ifill back in the starting eleven and I think that the world's longest away trip will be too much for the Glory and so I'm tipping a "home" win.
The second game on Saturday sees former favourite son Joel Griffiths return to his old stomping ground with Sydney FC to take on the Newcastle Jets. The 33 year old has proved he is still a force to be reckoned with, having scored in both of his first two games. He is likely to be joined on the field by his two brothers Adam (his Sky Blues team-mate) and Ryan, the Jets attacker. One player who will be missing though is Jets 27 year old captain, Jobe Wheelhouse who, after a career blighted by injuries, has announced his intention to stand down immediately from the game stating that his heart currently wasn't in playing professional football. Ruben Zadkovich and Josh Mitchell return to the Jets squad after the pair were suspended for 1-1 draw with Phoenix last week but defender Sam Gallaway is suspended after impressing in the left-back position this season. Sydney FC has been forced to make a raft of changes following last weekend-s 3-1 loss to Melbourne Victory as injury, suspension and international duty hit hard. Brett Emerton has been ruled out with a back injury, Yairo Yau is in Panama on international duty and defenders Fabio and Tiago Calvano are both serving one-match suspensions and goalkeeper Ivan Necevski returns from an ankle injury to take Matthew Nash-s place on the bench. The Jets will be looking to defeat Sydney three times in succession for the first time in club history, consolidating their top six spot and I think they are cpable of doing so.
The Melbourne derby is Saturday's last game. Going into this one the Victory have won one and the Heart one this season. Victory are now up into second position and getting better every week as they put coach Ange Postecoglou's philosophies in place. They have lost only once in the last eight games. The Heart are a bit of a yo-yo team, win one, lose one! Defender Diogo Ferreira is out suspended for the Victory, as is the Heart's Jason Hoffman, but the really sad news is that Socceroo Vince Grella has called quits on his career after just 22 minutes in a Heart jersey through injury. Also unavailable for the Heart are Simon Colosimo (calf - two weeks), Fred (quad strain - two weeks), Dylan Macallister (adductor - two weeks) and Mate Dugandzic (broken foot - season). These losses are too much for the Heart to bear in my opinion and I'm tipping victory for the Victory!!
Round 19 wraps up on Sunday with Adelaide United hosting Western Sydney Wanderers. Of course the big news around this one is the resignation of Reds coach John Kosmina. The reasons for his leaving when his team has been second in the comp for much of the season can only be imagined. Former assistant coach Michael Valkanis takes the reigns in the interim. Records tumbled last time these two teams met when the Western Sydney Wanderers claimed their biggest ever win with a 6-1 thumping of Adelaide but the Reds triumphed the last time they met at Hindmarsh. Valkanis must get his team back up after two successive losses while the Wanderers have won their last three, conceding only one goal in the process, and have lost just once in their last nine and are full of confidence. Wanderers fullback Jerome Polenz is suspended for the match after being sent off against Melbourne Heart last week while striker Tahj Minniecon had an operation on his injured foot last week and will not play again this season. I think the Reds players will have to perform for their new coach but will find it hard against a rapidly improving and well-organised Wanderers and I'm tipping a draw for this one.
Don't forget, you can listen to Phil Dando and Aaron Kearney call the Jets v Sydney FC game live on 1233 ABC Radio Newcastle from 5.00 p.m. this Saturday evening.