A-League Round 20 will see Perth Glory bid to continue their charge towards the minor premiership.
Glory visit Western Sydney Wanderers in the final game of the weekend, looking to maintain their advantage of the top of the ladder.
Second-placed Melbourne Victory face a derby with cross-town rivals Melbourne City on Saturday night.
We preview each of the games below:
Central Coast Mariners vs Brisbane Roar
Friday, February 22
The Mariners can close the gap on Brisbane to just two points if they can emerge triumphant – and they will be confident after coming off a great showing against Sydney FC last week in Leichardt. Once again, Central Coast got off to a brilliant start and took the lead courtesy of a strike from Aiden O’Neill, but they couldn’t hold on as Adam Le Fondre equalised with 15 minutes remaining. The Roar also had recent success against Sydney, stunning the reigning minor premiers by a 2-1 scoreline two weeks ago in one of the biggest upsets of the season. However, Brisbane couldn’t back up that performance – instead, they slumped back into old habits as they were demolished 4-0 by competition leaders Perth last week. Currently five points ahead of the Mariners, Brisbane can break away from the wooden spoon spot if they can win. It’s hard to confidently back either of these teams – a share of the spoils might be on the cards as a result.
Prediction: Draw ($3.60 TopBetta)
Wellington Phoenix vs Sydney FC
Saturday, February 23
Wellington were forced to take a home game to Campbelltown Stadium for this A-League Round 20 fixture due to venue constraints in New Zealand this weekend – but they won’t be too fazed from crossing the ditch to meet Sydney if their last meeting in the Harbour City is any indication. Phoenix produced arguably their greatest performance of the season when they beat Sydney 3-1 at Jubilee Oval in the closing stages of 2018. Sydney meanwhile are aiming to recapture their best form after a couple of poor showings over the last month or so. Steve Corica’s side have only won one of their last four matches and have failed to beat Brisbane and Central Coast over the last fortnight. Apart from Wellington’s 3-1 win in December, Sydney have won four of their last five games against the Kiwi club, scoring at least three goals in three of those victories. Phoenix are flowing along nicely and scraped a point against Victory last week, so they appear to be in better form at the moment. However, Sydney are due for a win.
Prediction: Sydney FC win ($2.00 MadBookie)
Melbourne Victory vs Melbourne City
Saturday, February 23
Victory go in search of their first win of the season over City after losing their first clash and drawing the second courtesy. Victory have slipped behind in the race for the minor premiership in recent weeks – mostly due to their 2-1 loss against Glory a couple of weeks ago, with Kevin Muscat’s side now nine points off the pace. That gap drifted even further last week when Perth thumped Brisbane 4-0 and Victory were held to a 1-1 draw across the ditch against Wellington. City are in extremely poor form, losing three of their last four matches, including a 3-1 defeat to a second-string Newcastle Jets side last week. Victory have won four of the last seven meetings between these teams, but they haven’t won in the last two meetings. City took home the chocolates at the start of the season, but are nowhere near that level at the moment. Victory aren’t at their best either, but I think they are a class above City right now.
Prediction: Victory win ($2.04 TopBetta)
Newcastle Jets vs Adelaide United
Sunday, February 24
The Jets flew back from Japan on Wednesday after being outclassed 4-1 by reigning Asian champions Kashima Antlers in their final round qualifying tie, but they can ill-afford any tired legs on Sunday as they attempt to keep their finals chances alive. A slow start to the season has left the Jets languishing in the wrong half of the ladder, but they have lost just one of their last seven A-League games, while they come into this clash on the back of a 3-1 win over City last week. The Reds will be determined to get back on track after a lacklustre 3-1 defeat to the lowly Wanderers last week. Newcastle should have won their last clash at McDonald Jones Stadium towards the end of 2018, but despite having 27 shots on goal, they conceded a late penalty to lose 2-1. They won’t make the same mistakes this time around.
Prediction: Newcastle win ($2.74 MadBookie)
Western Sydney Wanderers vs Perth Glory
Sunday, February 24
Tony Popovic returns to Western Sydney for the first time since departing the Wanderers as head coach. His Perth side have lost just one game across the first 19 rounds and are currently on a 10-game unbeaten run – and if they can avoid defeat against the Wanderers, it will be their longest stretch in history without a loss, while if they win, it will set a new club record for most wins in a single season with 15. The Wanderers have taken their game to another level over the last fortnight registering back-to-back wins for the first time this season with triumphs over the Mariners and Adelaide. If the Wanderers can cause the upset on Sunday, it will be the first time they would have won three times in a row in almost two years. But with the way Perth are playing at the moment, I can’t back against the competition leaders.
Prediction: Glory win ($1.89 TopBetta)