A-League Round 18 features a huge game at the top as Perth Glory and Melbourne Victory clash in a blockbuster.
The two sides meet on Sunday in the final game of a weekend, which also includes a meeting between top-six rivals Melbourne City and Adelaide United as well as a potential wooden spoon contest between the struggling Central Coast Mariners and Western Sydney Wanderers.
We preview each of the games below:
Newcastle Jets v Wellington Phoenix
Thursday, February 7
With 10 rounds still to play of the regular season, it might be premature to call this a season-defining fixture, but the equation is simple. If Newcastle prevail, they will move to within five points of Wellington and pile the pressure on the Kiwi club as they chase a rare finals spot. However, if Phoenix win, they will establish an 11-point lead over the Jets, all but ending their finals hopes. It makes this a must-win game for last season’s grand finalists, who have struggled for the bulk of the season but might have turned a corner last week. Newcastle produced their most polished performance of the season to demolish the Wanderers 5-1 . Wellington came crashing back down to earth with a humbling 3-0 defeat away to competition leaders Perth. These sides have shared two wins each in their last four meetings, but the Jets can take this one.
Prediction: Jets win ($1.81 TopBetta)
Brisbane Roar v Sydney FC
Friday, February 8
Sydney FC have a golden opportunity to launch themselves back into the race for the minor premiership. With competition leaders Perth facing the second-placed Victory later in Round 18, Sydney can narrow the gap. After a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Victory on Australia Day, Sydney bounced back superbly last week to dispatch the other Melbourne team, beating City 2-0. Brisbane are still stranded on one win for the season after somehow blowing a 3-0 lead against Adelaide last week. Reduced to nine men in the second half, Brisbane conceded just on half-time before Adelaide fired home three unanswered goals in the second stanza to register an incredible 4-3 comeback win. It’s the sort of result and game that sums up Brisbane’s nightmare season and quality should propel Sydney to victory against this poor Roar team.
Prediction: Sydney FC win ($1.60 MadBookie)
Western Sydney Wanderers v Central Coast Mariners
Saturday, February 9
With just three wins between them across the first 17 rounds, who steps up and claims a rare three points as the Wanderers and Mariners clash? Central Coast are currently anchored to the bottom of the ladder after just one win, three points behind Brisbane and four behind the Wanderers. Lasting 90 minutes has been the issue for Central Coast all season and they are on a eight-match losing streak away from Gosford. The Wanderers come into this fixture on the back of an embarrassing 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Newcastle last week. It was a new low for Western Sydney this season and extended their winless run at ANZ Stadium to seven matches – so they will be happy this clash is at Spotless. Pride is on the line for these two teams, with the Wanderers winning their last three meetings. Markus Babbel will demand a response from his team, and with the Mariners struggling away from home, back the Wanderers in a scrappy encounter.
Prediction: Wanderers win ($1.67 TopBetta)
Melbourne City v Adelaide United
Saturday, February 9
Adelaide could further break away from City and cement their top four status if they can emerge triumphant with the three points on Saturday night. After last week’s astonishing comeback win over Brisbane, they now have their sights set on a top four finish. It appeared as if Adelaide could be dragged back into a battle for fifth and sixth after falling behind 3-0 to Brisbane last week, but the Reds somehow staged a miraculous comeback, becoming just the second team in A-League history to overturn a 3-0 deficit and win the game. With City losing to Sydney, that result meant Adelaide leapfrogged their rivals into fourth position on the ladder. City have now lost back-to-back games against Wellington and Sydney without scoring a goal, with the last time they went three games drawing a blank coming over four years ago. However, Jamie Maclaren is set to make his debut for City and should be able to help the club break their goal-scoring drought. City are undefeated in their last five A-League games against Adelaide and have kept four clean sheets in that period – and I think they can return to the winners circle on Saturday night.
Prediction: City win ($2.26 MadBookie)
Melbourne Victory v Perth Glory
Sunday, February 10
Glory have the chance to create a seven-point buffer at the top of the ladder when they come up against defending premiers Victory. Currently four points clear of Victory and on an eight-match unbeaten streak – along with a two-match winning run against Victory – Perth are the team to beat at the moment. Still with just one defeat across the first 17 rounds, Tony Popovic has worked his magic with Glory who eased past Wellington 3-0 last week. Victory have done a superb job locking down a top two spot for the bulk of the season after claiming the premiership last season. Kevin Muscat’s team are also showcasing tremendous fighting qualities, coming back from 2-0 down against the Mariners last week to win 3-2. Perth came from behind themselves to beat Victory 3-2 in October and this promises to be an outstanding game, full of entertainment and attacking flair. Victory can raise their level and make a statement.
Prediction: Wanderers win ($2.24 TopBetta)