And thus Western United enter the finals in their first year of existence. The top six appears set, bar positional changes, heading into the final matches of the home-and-away season.
Just three games remain, with Mark Rudan’s team a distinct chance to move further up the table – potentially into third spot should Wellington stumble in their final match of the season.
Get ready for the finals, folks. It stands to be uniquely competitive version of them, and each and every team in the top six appears to have something of a chance heading into the tail end of the 2019-20 season.
Good luck with your tips, and be sure to enter them into the sheet below to have your say as the ever important voice of the crowd. Here is the way the panel sees the final three matches unfolding.
Wellington, draw, Western United
It’s been more than a week since Wellington Phoenix drew 1-1 with Brisbane Roar in a game they probably should have won, and the finals can’t come quickly enough for Ufuk Talay’s side. The Jets have made a nuisance of themselves under Carl Robinson but the Phoenix should make a statement here.
Sydney FC will hope the switch to Leichhardt will benefit them, but in truth they’ve looked like anything but world-beaters in recent weeks. They’ll still fancy themselves of winning the championship, but with Western United having so much more to play for, the Sky Blues might have to settle for a point.
It could all come down to this for Western United. There’s no doubt Melbourne City have the firepower to challenge any team in the comp, but they’ve got a soft underbelly. With Mark Rudan’s side desperate to book a place in the finals, expect Alessandro Diamanti and co to claim all three points in Kogarah.
Wellington, Sydney, City
I was hoping tipping glory would feel tremendous, yet right now I find myself more concerned for my friends and enemies south of the border. Stay safe, Victoria. We are with you.
Thursday night sees Wellington with a chance to move into second spot with City and, pending the result of City’s match against Western United next Wednesday, could see them grab second spot on the ladder and move just a game short of a historic grand final. Wellington will win. Whether the other components occur and they do finish in second spot, I’m not so sure.
Sydney FC did all bar get the points against a brave Roar on Monday night and the men from the north have Jamie Young to thank. I’ve been thinking the Sky Blues are just a goal or two away from top form, yet it remains in waiting. With Western United in the midst of a busy schedule, Steve Corica should have his men in prime shape for this one. Sydney at a canter.
Irrespective of the situation entering into the clash between Melbourne City and Western United, City will win. If United are by then confirmed semi-finalists, the City win could be somewhat emphatic. If not, things will still go City’s way with a top two spot on the line.
Wellington, draw, United
The action has been coming thick and fast and we’ve seen some of the best domestic football in years. Positions in the top six are still up for grabs and the last three games of this most bizarre of A-League seasons will be great viewing.
Newcastle have been unbeaten since the lockdown with a win and two draws. Coach Carl Robinson has been a good fit for the squad, and Jets fans should be excited about the future. Wellington have had only one win from four since the season restart but have played an attacking style. The Phoenix will be out to finish as high as they can on the ladder and should do enough to grab the win.
Sydney FC have struggled to hit their pre-COVID peak but showed some positive signs in the second half against Brisbane. Luke Brattan was starting to find some rhythm and Milos Ninkovic’s one half of football showed how valuable he is. Western United have proven themselves to be the entertainers of the A-League. Alessandro Diamanti’s been in exquisite touch and when he gets the ball on his left foot you have no idea what he’s going to do. I think this game will be a draw.
Craig Noone’s reckless challenge will leave Melbourne City with an uphill task in the last game of the season against Western United. It’s a shame, since he has been in top form along with Jamie Maclaren, who has been as sharp as a dagger. Western United will be set for a big effort and I expect them to get the three points.
Draw, draw, City
Here we are, the last three games of the regular season. It’s been a long, hard slog, but through all the adversity our game has persevered.
I haven’t had a particularly good debut season on The Roar, but that doesn’t mean I’m not aiming to finish strongly here.
Wellington’s top-two chances are slim. They’ll need a big win against the Jets and for City to slip up big time in the final match of the season. Will it happen for them? No, it won’t. Since the restart Wellington have lacked that drive we saw prior to the league’s suspension. I don’t see them winning against a Newy side who have been defending their pride well after an abysmal early season.
Jets and Nix to cancel each other out, cementing Wellington in third place.
Next up we have an anomaly on our hands. Sydney are looking very not-Sydney-like, suffering consecutive poor results, and people are beginning to question whether they’ve got it in them to go back to back this finals series. Rather contrastingly we’ve got Western United desperate to make themselves noticed on the big stage with finals looking likely.
They’ll want to start putting in some consistently good shifts, and taking Sydney as a scalp heading right into finals would be a huge boost to morale in the green and black camp.
I think we’ll see a ground-out 1-1 draw, not unlike Sydney’s game against Brisbane.
City went and did exactly what I said they would last time out, getting into a prime position and bottling it in typical City fashion. Despite yet another questionable refereeing performance by Alex King, Melbourne’s worst enemies turned out to be themselves, as poor defending led to yet another Ben Halloran goal in stoppage time.
They take on Western United in a derby to wrap up this tumultuous season, and I think the compacted schedule will see Western United resting players as they prepare for a first finals game against the Wellington Phoenix.
City to win in a form booster going into their first ever ‘home’ semi-final.
|27 in 34 (Part 5)||Mike||Stuart||Paul||Tom||The Crowd|
|NEW vs WEL||WEL||WEL||WEL||Draw||?|
|SYD vs WUN||Draw||SYD||Draw||Draw||?|
|WUN vs MCY||WUN||MCY||WUN||MCY||?|