The two best teams all season are set to fight it out in Sunday’s A-league Grand Final.
Sydney FC are just one win away from completing their near perfect season but standing in their way is their nemesis from two Grand Finals ago – Melbourne Victory.
Melbourne has looked the only real side capable of bringing Sydney undone in the A-league this season even though it was the Wanderers that eventually brought Sydney FC’s unbeaten run to an end.
This is the second time the teams face off in a Grand Final in three seasons and third time in A-league history with the ledger currently at 1-all.
Sydney heads into this game coming off the back of a devastating 3-nil semi-final win over Perth at Allianz Stadium while Melbourne Victory only needed the one goal to get the better of Brisbane at AAMI Park.
THE BEST OF ALL TIME?
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Sydney FC has been the benchmark all season.
A grand total of 20 Wins, six Draws and just one loss in 27 regular season games saw them set the record for most points in a single season (66), established the best For/Against record of any team in A-league history (+48) and have the best start to a season of any team in the 12-year history of the competition when they went unbeaten through the first 19 games.
Sydney FC were runaway winners of the Premier’s Plate by a whopping 17 points over the Victory.
Much of their success came down to the iron-clad defence of the Sky Blues which leaked just 12 goals in 27 regular season games. Just one team scored more than one goal against them in a match the entire year and that was Central Coast who still lost 3-2 in early January.
Veteran keeper Danny Vukovic kept a mind-boggling 17 clean sheets all season and that doesn’t includes last week’s semi against Perth.
All those stats have had many good judges rating this Sydney FC outfit one of the best teams of all-time in the A-league, however, if they don’t come home with the Grand Final then it will all count for nothing.
They head into the big one with their confidence clearly on a high as they’ve kept six clean sheets in their past seven games.
SECOND FIDDLE BUT CLEARLY BEST OF THE REST
By most metrics MELBOURNE VICTORY had a successful season.
Accumulating 49 points during the regular season, they were five points clear of the third-placed Brisbane Roar and 10 points in front of Melbourne City and Perth Glory. They also accumulated 15 wins and the least amount of Draws during the season (four).
Interestingly, their 49 points would have been enough to put them equal first at the end of last season’s comp.
Even though they have impressed for a greater part of 2016/17, their efforts have been largely overshadowed by Sydney FC’s dominance so although the Sydneysiders were the best all season, there is no doubt that Melbourne Victory were clear second picks.
Melbourne go into this having not played their most attractive or devastating football, however, have kept their opposition scoreless in the past three games after suffering back-to-back losses.
Sydney FC has beaten Melbourne Victory in all three clashes this season.
In their first encounter at this venue (Allianz), Melbourne scored first and had Sydney on the ropes but a costly penalty miss from Victory hitman Besart Berisha turned the game. David Carney came on as a second half substitute and scored two quick fire goals to steal the win for Sydney 2-1.
The return bout at AAMI Park ended in the exact same scoreline once again despite Melbourne registering the first strike through James Troisi.
The trilogy was then complete here at Allianz as Bobo settled the result 1-nil.
Prior to this season it was all Melbourne Victory who had gone 10 games unbeaten against the Sky Blues which included the 2015 Grand Final, played in Melbourne, which was won 3-nil by the home side.
We are going for a Sydney win here.
Graham Arnold’s side has been the best team in the competition all season and a big part of that has been their home record. Last season, when they missed out on finals football, Sydney had won as many games as they lost in front of The Cove. This year they won 10 and drew three from 13 and scored 25 goals but conceded just four – four for the entire year!
Clearly they were comfortable playing on the Allianz pitch and that is going to be a huge advantage for them heading into the big one.
Last week’s win over Perth was on a surface that was less than ideal for football as it had seen rugby league action twice in the space of a week leading up to the match. This time around there will be a Super Rugby match with the Waratahs on the ground the night before.
The fact the pitch won’t be 100 percent plays in their favour as they are familiar with the surface and it will prevent Victory from playing a smooth and swift brand of football, which is how they have attacked Sydney in their two previous encounters at the ground this season.
Alarmingly for Victory, even though they accumulated the second most away points (18) in the league they only managed 15 goals in 13 games on the road and ended up with a +2 differential. That indicates to us that their high-powered attack definitely didn’t fire when traveling and when you match that against the Sky Blues home record, it tells us that Kevin Muscat’s side will find this a tough ask.
All in all anything can happen in a Grand Final and Melbourne has several big game players including Besart Berisha, James Troisi and Marco Rojas just to name a few. If any side is capable of knocking Sydney off it is definitely them. They will definitely need a bit of luck to go their way and the fact Bernie Ibini is in doubt has definitely played into their hands while Johnny Warren Medal winner Milos Ninkovic probably isn’t 100 percent fit but will be there when the referee blows the whistle.
So, down to our suggested bets for the game and we think a Sydney FC Win in Regular Time ($1.80 @ Sportsbet) is the way to go.
Next up and you would be mad not to have a few dollars on Bobo to be Anytime Goalscorer ($2.40 @ Sportsbet) considering he was Sydney’s leading marksman for the term with 15 goals. When it comes to Total Goals options, Under 2.5 Goals is tempting as we don’t think this is going to be a high-scoring affair. Take the $2.10 @ Unibet.
Now, taking into account Melbourne’s troubles all year with scoring on the road and Sydney’s outstanding record of clean sheets, we think Sydney 1-0 Correct Score looks a good choice. Unibet is offering $8.50 about that option and we think that’s juicy!
Using the above as a reference, Total Away Goals to be 0 is returning $2.63 @ bet365.
Finally, we fancy Bobo and Alex Brosque to be First Goalscorers and they are returning $6 and $7.50 respectively with Sportsbet to register the first strike.
SYDNEY 1-0 CORRECT SCORE
TOTAL AWAY GOALS - 0
UNDER 2.5 TOTAL GOALS
BOBO FIRST GOALSCORER