Week 4 of the A-League saw Brisbane show its title credentials, diving rear its ugly head and Victory finally get into the win column. This week sees Melbourne Victory trying to look for consecutive wins against the Mariners, Wellington attempt to overcome its travel problems, Sydney trying to gain a home win against the Reds and Melbourne Heart attempting to finally break the duck against the North Queensland Fury.
Five Burning Questions from Week 4:
1. When will Wellington Phoenix end its bout of travel sickness?
2. How much of a concern is the decreasing crowd numbers?
3. Will Sydney FC make the finals?
4. Has Melbourne Victory turned the corner?
5. Is the FFA’s decision to get tough and suspend divers correct?
Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory
Friday 3 September 2010, 8pm AEST at Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford (Fox Sports 1)
Central Coast has had a tumultuous week having to defend star midfielder Patricio Pérez amid accusations of diving and is very aggrieved with his subsequent suspension. But now the Mariners’ focus needs to turn to football as they take on a Melbourne Victory team coming off its first win of the season. Coach Graham Arnold will be happy to have taken five points from the opening four rounds, which has included three road trips. However, now that they are back on home soil he will be expecting nothing less than a win. To achieve this, the Mariners need to cut out simple errors like the howler from young keeper Matthew Ryan on the weekend and the defensive woes against Wellington. Victory seems to have turned the corner following its win last week and no doubt will be looking to notch back-to-back away successes. Carlos Hernandez was in superlative form against the Gold Coast and it is no surprise he has been nominated for the PFA Player of the Year award alongside the likes of Tim Cahill and Mark Schwarzer. The way he controlled the match was a joy to watch and if he continues that form this week the Mariners will struggle to win. With key players returning from injury the Victory should be too strong and cruise to the three points.
Team News: Central Coast has problems ahead of this game with Pérez suspended for two games for simulation, while Jess Vanstrattan tore his ACL in training and will be sidelined for the rest of the season, Youngster Matthew Ryan will continue to deputise. Melbourne has lost Nick Ward to Wellington and Evan Berger is in doubt with a corked hamstring. However, Billy Celeski and Tom Pondeljak are fit again and if his international transfer clearance comes through Brazilian striker Ricardinho could be a surprise inclusion.
Prediction: Central Coast Mariners 0-2 Melbourne Victory
Melbourne Heart v North Queensland Fury
Saturday 4 September, 5:15pm AEST at AAMI Park, Melbourne (Fox Sports 1)
The Heart was heartbreakingly close to its first ever victory last Sunday until some rather unfortunate dramatics spoiled the party. But this week they have another chance to chalk up that first win against a North Queensland Fury side that will be desperate not to pick up two consecutive losses. The Heart’s attacking display was outstanding, with Alex Terra and Gerald Sibon leading the way up front with their deft touches which bought other players into the match. However, every time they make a mistake the boys seem to be punished which is a harsh lesson but one that needs to be learnt quickly. The Fury suffered its first loss last weekend and it was very obvious the team was missing the big presence of Eric Akoto in the centre of defence. Two of the goals came from poor marking, either from a corner or a cross, so they will need to tighten up down back. Despite the loss, the Fury was still able to show its attacking prowess and never say die attitude, something which the Heart will have to be extremely wary of. It will be interesting whether the Fury try and counter the Heart’s beautiful football with an attacking performance of its own, or just decide to sit back and soak up the pressure. The long-awaited return of ex-Socceroo hero John Aloisi should help fire the Heart boys to their first victory.
Team News: Aloisi will likely start on the Heart bench in his return , while Michael Beauchamp is a chance to return from his ankle injury, meaning Kliment Taseski and Eli Babalj could be the unlucky ones to make way. The Fury will welcome back defenders Eric Akoto and Chris Grossman from suspension with Brett Studman and Jack Hingert likely to make way.
Prediction: Melbourne Heart 2-1 North Queensland Fury
Sydney FC v Adelaide United
Saturday 4 September, 7:30pm AEST at Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney (Fox Sports 1)
Sydney FC has really struggled so far this campaign. Only two points from four games can only mean one thing: ‘Premiership hangover.’ Admittedly, they have had some injuries to key players; however their strength last season was their depth. In the finals series they were missing their two most experienced players John Aloisi and Steve Corica due to injury, but the players who stepped in to fill the breach certainly did the job. This season though it has not been the case. The one thing in their favour this week is that Adelaide’s record at the SFS is far from impressive, having lost seven from nine at the venue. The Reds have been in good recent form and their win last week in the Townsville heat was fantastic. Coach Rini Coolen has the team playing structured football but is allowing his key players to show some flair and express themselves. Marcos Flores scored a world-class goal last week and his combinations with Mathew Leckie and Sergio van Dijk bamboozled the Fury defence at times and it will be key in this encounter. For me it has a draw written all over it as both teams will be desperate to get the points and could cancel each other out.
Team News: Sydney hopes to have new Brazilian striker Bruno Cazarine available; his inclusion likely to come at the expense of Terry Antonis. Liam Reddy is available after his red card was rescinded, but Alex Brosque and Terry McFlynn are still another week away. The Reds have made only one change with defender Robert Cornthwaite making a welcome return from injury to replace Korean midfielder Inseob Shin.
Prediction: Sydney FC 1-1 Adelaide United
Newcastle Jets v Brisbane Roar
Sunday 5 September, 3pm AEST at Energy Australia Stadium, Newcastle (Fox Sports 1)
The winless Newcastle Jets will look to put a week of off-field turmoil behind them as they take on a Brisbane Roar side which is purring along very nicely so far. The main problem for the Jets is their goal scoring; only one goal in three games reflects this. It appears that Chinese striker Zhang Shuo will make his debut this week and they will be relying on him along with Michael Bridges to strike up a good combination quickly and bang in the goals. The Roar is going along swimmingly with seven points from three games, without conceding a single goal in the process. Their attacking play has been great to watch and Coach Ange Postecoglou seems to finally have them working as a cohesive unit. It has been a little unfortunate that they have been unable to produce their dominance into bags of goals, but it is only a matter of time. One player I have enjoyed watching is German midfielder Thomas Broich. He has excellent technical ability and comes from a system where the mentality is to win; two things Australian players need to improve. Newcastle has a very good record at home but, after the week they have had, beating Brisbane on current form may be one bridge too far and it could finally be the day where the Roar finally manages a plethora of goals.
Team News: Newcastle has plenty to deal with ahead of this match. Not only have they had well-documented financial woes but they have an injury crisis as well. Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Ruben Zadkovich, Kaz Patafta and Jobe Wheelhouse have all been ruled out with hamstring injuries. To offset this, international imports Zhang Shuo and Marcello Fiorentini look set to make their debuts after achieving the required fitness levels. Brisbane looks set to unleash Costa Rican striker JC Solorzano but he may find it hard to break into a winning team.
Prediction: Newcastle Jets 0-3 Brisbane Roar
Perth Glory v Wellington Phoenix
Sunday 5 September, 5pm AEST at nib Stadium, Perth (Fox Sports 1)
The Glory returns to home soil having been mightily relieved to come away from its trip to Melbourne with a point. Last week’s extraordinary finish culminated in Robbie Fowler converting a penalty controversially won by fellow striker Michael Baird, who received a two-match suspension for his efforts. The Glory’s first half display against the Heart would be of concern to coach Dave Mitchell. They looked lethargic, disjoined and almost disinterested, but this improved markedly after the break. With the return of Andy Todd and Jamie Harnwell the Glory defence should be rock solid, while Mile Sterjovski should help the attack become more dangerous. Wellington embarks upon its second consecutive road trip, having been unable to break its travel hoodoo against Brisbane last weekend. The Phoenix struggled to break down a well-organised and disciplined Roar outfit with Paul Ifill and Chris Greenacre struggling to have any meaningful impact. The signing during the week of Melbourne Victory midfielder Nick Ward should help provide another attacking outlet but can they break down a sturdy Glory back line? Perth will be seeking revenge for its penalty shootout loss in last year’s finals series and with Wellington having to make one of the longest road trips in world football the Glory should win this one.
Team News: Perth is without Michael Baird, whose embarrassing dive helped earn a point last weekend but received similar treatment to Patricio Pérez. The Glory is strengthened, though, with the return of key pillars Andy Todd, Jamie Harnwell and Mile Sterjovski. Josh Risdon and Anthony Skorich are the unlucky players expected to make way. Wellington has Manny Muscat unavailable due to international duty with Malta, so Troy Hearfield should step in at right back. New signing Nick Ward is set to make his Wellington debut from the bench against one of his former clubs. Danny Vukovic may also replace Mark Paston in goal. The Kiwi international struggled with his groin injury last week, and it could be decided that two consecutive road trips is too big a task.
Prediction: Perth Glory 3-1 Wellington Phoenix
John Takemura is a second-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University.