ABC's Phil Dando previews Round 6 for the A-League; including the Jets clash with Western Sydney at Parramatta Stadium.
After spending many hours this week studying the Melbourne Cup form for no reward, it's now time to turn my attention to the form guide for Round 6 of the A-League!
A wise old man once said to me, "The more I see, the less I know," and I am starting to feel that way about the A-League! The all-conquering Brisbane Roar have lost two on the bounce, at home and without scoring a goal no less, while the bling-boys of Sydney FC got smashed for seven at the "working man's club" the Mariners! Who saw those results coming?
Round 6 is another nightmare to predict! Let's start with the Jets who are away at Western Sydney Wanderers for the first time in an official capacity. I think everyone will agree that the Jets played some excellent football, particularly in the second half and were unfortunate to come away with no points in Perth last week. But, you don't win championships conceding an average of nearly two goals a game, or three as they did last week. However, the good thing is that the Jets always look like they've got goals in them and Emile Heskey didn't have any good luck last week and that will change for sure.
With five players away with the Young Socceroos and the two Bens, Kantarovski and Kennedy out injured, the depth of Gary van Egmond's squad could be tested, but they will be buoyed by the return to fitness of the dangerous James Brown. It will be a difficult choice for the coach to pick his most effective attacking line-up as there are a number of permutations available to him, and over the years I have learnt not to second guess his selections! Whichever way he goes, I think they'll have a bit too much for the new-boys who, despite winning their last two, are struggling to score goals. I reckon the mistakes at the back will be eradicated from the Jets 'repertoire' and Heskey will be the X-factor that will swing this one the Jets way.
The round kicks off on Friday evening with the game between the two bottom teams, Melbourne Heart and Brisbane Roar. After winning one and drawing one of their first two games the Heart have lost three on the trot and rookie coach, John Aloisi, must find a way to turn his team's fortunes around. It's very difficult for a new coach when his team hits the skids like this and you start questioning yourself and your methods. He has to stay strong in his beliefs and philosophies, but it's now time to start picking your starting XI to win games as ultimately, it's all about results! Brisbane coach, Rado Vidosic, is also new to the job and will be under similar pressure having lost the last two as previously mentioned. Things have gone from bad to worse for him as he's probably not talking to his son Dario now either, after he scored the only goal for Adelaide in last week's win over his father's team! It's hard to believe that Brisbane will go another week without any of Berisha, Broich or Nichols finding the back of the net. I think this could be a long, hard season for the Heart, and I don't think it's going to get any easier for them this week. I'm tipping Brisbane to bounce back to form and take the points in this one.
It's a huge weekend of football in Sydney, as Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory fight out the "Big Blue" at Allianz Stadium straight after the Wanderers and Jets game at Parramatta. Sydney were horrible at the Mariners last week and Victory were really impressive (well, for 70 minutes they were) at home to the Phoenix. Are Sydney totally reliant on Del Piero? Probably not, they did have another six players unavailable for selection last week too, but the way they capitulated will be a worry to coach, Ian Crook. There's a chance that Pascal Bosschaart may return to the back-line to give it some much-needed solidity against a front three of Thompson, Rojas and Flores which the Phoenix found incapable of dealing with last Monday night. Mind you, I thought the Phoenix could have set themselves up a bit smarter knowing what they had to deal with and I think Ian Crook won't be so foolish as to have his team defend as high up the pitch as Ricki Herbert's did, leaving space in behind for the speedy Thompson and Rojas to run into at will. I'm expecting Sydney to improve markedly, and although Ange Postecoglou has started to get his team playing close to the way he wants, they won't have it all their own way this week, as they did last. I can't pick a winner in this one - draw!
On Sunday, Central Coast Mariners travel to the fortress that is the "Cake Tin" to take on Wellington Phoenix. We all know how impressive the Mariners were in their demolition of Sydney last week, but on the flip-side, it was probably the worst performance I've seen from a Phoenix team in their short history. However, the travel, the time difference and the partisan crowd can have an major effect on teams travelling to the NZ capital. Without a win since round one, this will be a real test of the Phoenix's resolve, and they have lost their last five against the Mariners who will fear no-one now! But the Mariners defence will need to ensure they-re tracking Belgian striker Stein Huysegems, as the former Lierse and Feyenoord striker already has three Hyundai A-League goals to his name this season. The Mariners young "number 10" Tomas Rogic notched a double last week in front of Holger Osiek and as a result earned himself a call-up to the Socceroos squad for next week's friendly in South Korea - he'll need man-marking in my opinion as he can create goals and space for the others around him. Despite all that, I can't see the Phoenix getting any worse than they were last week, and I'm tipping them for an upset win!
The round finishes with the table-topping Adelaide United hosting third-place Perth Glory. John Kosmina has really turned the Reds around defensively. At this stage last season they'd conceded eleven goals. So far they've conceded just three. Traditionally, the teams with the best defensive records win the honours in the A-League and the Reds proved their new-found resilience in a backs-to-the-wall win in Brisbane after taking an early lead. The Roar also helped prove that Eugene Galekovic was the best 'keeper in the competition as he pulled off a string of fantastic saves - the reflex tip over the bar from Paartalu's header late on was just sensational. Glory also proved their resilience with a hard fought 3-2 win over the Jets, the winner coming in the 84th minute and will be difficult to beat again. However, I do think the Reds are on a roll, battle-hardened after their Asian Champions League run, and with Kosmina permanently in their ears they have the players to go on with it and for those reasons I'm tipping Adelaide to win this in a tight one.
You can listen to the Western Sydney Wanderers v Newcastle Jets game live on 1233 ABC Radio Newcastle with Silas Moss and Paul Wade from 6 pm (after the finish of the cricket coverage).