This is hardly a mouth-watering way to start Round 21 of the A-League, as the competition’s bottom two teams go head-to-head in a match that may ultimately decide who finishes the season with the wooden spoon. Central Coast are in a rotten run of form. The Mariners have failed to win in each of their last 11 matches, picking up just five points from draws along the way. But the most recent result was the worst of the lot after Paul Okon’s men coughed up a two-goal lead away to Adelaide while enjoying a man advantage. The pressure is starting to pile on to the Gosford-based club after a bright start to the season and failure to win here will see that pressure ratchet up even further again. Wellington has been a disappointment for much of the season, but there have been a few random signs of improvement after the club’s mid-season list restructure. Last weekend’s dramatic late win against Perth has pulled the Phoenix level on points with the Mariners on the table and a win here would see them climb off the bottom of the table for the first time since Round 6. You wouldn’t be feeling safe trusting either of these sides with your money, but, because it’s at Central Coast Stadium, we may be inclined to give the Mariners one last chance.
Key stat: This is the third meeting between these sides this season. Central Coast won 4-1 at Westpac Stadium in Round 8 and the pair played out a 0-0 draw in Gosford on New Year’s Eve.
Tip: CENTRAL COAST
Sarpeet Singh is the latest young gun to burst on to the scene in the second half of the A-League season. The Kiwi teen made his first starting appearance last week and rewarded his coach’s faith within three minutes, blasting home an absolute rocket to open the scoring against Perth. Young players are typically confidence players, so there’s no reason why Singh can’t back up his exploits here.
Key stat: Despite their lowly standing on the ladder, Central Coast have scored the first goal of the game 11 times this season and conceded first just seven times.
Tip: SARPEET SINGH (Central Coast)
The split-round treated Newcastle well in its quest to secure a top-two finish and a home semi-final. The Jets snatched a point on the road in an engrossing affair against Western Sydney last weekend and watched on as their closes rivals for second, Melbourne City (loss), Adelaide (draw) and Melbourne Victory (loss) all dropped points at home. It depends on whether you’re a glass half full or a glass half empty person as to how you view Newcastle’s recent run of form. The Jets have only won one of their last four games, but in the same breath they have also only lost one of those four games and that run of matches included that tough trip to Spotless Stadium and also an away draw against City. With Roy O’Donovan back fit and Ronny Vargas only a few weeks away from returning, things are looking bright for Ernie Merrick’s men. And the Jets always fancy their chances at Suncorp Stadium. Brisbane will be hoping the week off hasn’t stalled its momentum after it came away from AAMI Park with a shock 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory a fortnight ago. The Roar hadn’t won at AAMI in years, but broke its retched run in a game in which it fielded the oldest starting line-up the A-League has ever seen. With seven games to play, the Roar are four points off the sixth-placed Wanderers, so winning home games is a must. But this is a tall order against a Jets side that has already tasted success in Queensland this season.
Key stat: Newcastle has a staggering record at Suncorp Stadium. The Jets have won 11 of their 18 matches in Queensland against the Roar, only losing on four occasions.
Andrew Nabbout is on fire. His goal of the year contender against Western Sydney last week took his 2017-18 tally to nine, which is a career-high, one more than the eight he scored last season. And with talk that he is going to be included in the Socceroos squad for friendlies against Norway and Colombia next month, there is no better time than now to get on the Nabbout bandwagon.
Key stat: Even though it sits second on the A-League ladder, Newcastle has been prone to conceding first – as was the case last week. The Jets have scored first in 10 of their games and conceded first in the other 10.
Tip: ANDREW NABBOUT
Perth’s finals chances are now terminal and we are tipping that they will be all but gone as a top six proposition after Saturday night’s encounter with Melbourne City. The Glory have won just once in their past eight games with that stretch going back to late December. They come into this with a poor 2-1 defeat at the hands of Wellington in New Zealand last week, which was a game they could have easily won had Diego Castro not missed a crucial second half penalty. City, meanwhile, have had nearly two weeks to think about their hiding at the hands of Sydney FC in which they suffered their worst ever defeat at home when going down 4-nil.
Key stat: Perth has traditionally had the better of City, however, Melbourne did take the three points in their last encounter which happened to be at nib Stadium. On that occasion it was gun import Ross McCormack which did the damage with a brace.
Tip: MELBOURNE CITY
For some strange reason it seems as though the Glory enjoy fast starts against City. In their past six matches, Perth has opened the scoring on four occasions which could offer us some nice value in the half-full double market. The problem for City is that they will need to find goals from somewhere because the majority of players that have registered against Perth in recent times are no longer with the club (McCormack, Tim Cahill, Colazo).
Key stat: Perth are the worst attacking team in the competition when playing home games with Kenny Lowe’s side averaging a goal a game. That stat is terrible and highlighted even further when you consider they scored three (3) in one game against the Wanderers a few weeks back.
Tip: ANDY KEOGH
The Sky Blues have dominated the Sydney Derby in recent years and go into Sunday’s encounter as hot favourites against the Wanderers. In the last Sydney Derby at Allianz Stadium before it is torn down, Sydney FC head into the game having drawn 2-2 with Shanghai Shenhua in China during the week. Prior to that, they suffered a 2-nil defeat at home to Suwon after they had handled Melbourne City 4-nil at AAMI Park. Western Sydney were the only team to beat Sydney FC last season and have already drawn with them once in 2017/18, however, they will want some payback from their last encounter which ended in a horrible 5-nil drubbing at ANZ Stadium. Gombau’s side will be full of confidence having stretched the second-placed Newcastle Jets to a 2-all draw last week.
Key stat: Sydney FC hasn’t lost at home in A-league competition since April 2016 (20W, 6D) with their only defeat at ‘Fortress Allianz’ since then being against Suwon Bluewings in the Asian Champions League last week.
Sydney can be known for its slow starts so on that basis we are tipping the Wanderers to open the scoring on Sunday. The obvious choice is Oriol Riera, however, we are going to go a little wider and select Chris Ikonomidis. The Socceroo has been a good addition to Josep Gombau’s side since arriving on loan from Lazio a few weeks back.
Key stat: Chris Ikonomidis has linked up well with Riera and Josh Sotirio, scoring in his full debut a fortnight ago before having a goal disallowed against Newcastle last week.
Tip: CHRIS IKONOMIDIS
The signs aren’t good for Melbourne Victory as they prepare to host Adelaide this Saturday at AAMI Park. Kevin Muscat’s side is winless in a month while there will be a question mark over their fitness considering their midweek Asian Champions League match in Shanghai on Tuesday night. Backing up just five days later against an in-form side definitely doesn’t make them an ideal betting proposition. Melbourne head into the game off a 4-1 loss to Shanghai East Asia but their previous game in the A-league was a 2-nil loss to Newcastle. Adelaide is unbeaten in their past three and fought back from two goals down against Central Coast last week to take a share of the spoils – and that was with 10 men! And if you thought home ground advantage would play in the Victory’s favour, think again. Muscat’s men are ranked eighth of 10 teams in the competition for points earned at home (nine) which has been yielded from two wins and three draws from 10 matches.
Key stat: Adelaide has won two of the past three clashes against Melbourne Victory while the other result was a draw.
Talented youngster George Blackwood is finding form again at the right time. He netted the equalizer last week against the Mariners while two games earlier, his strike was the lone and deciding goal against Wellington. He is worth having a few dollars on in this market.
Key stat: George Blackwood has scored in two of his past three games against Melbourne Victory but neither of those goals was the opener.
Tip: GEORGE BLACKWOOD