Sydney FC v Brisbane | Friday, December 30, 7.50pm (AEDT), Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Two of the A-League’s form teams square up in what is clearly the match of the round.
Sydney FC is coming off the back of their 4-0 demolition away at Adelaide and the Roar extended their unbeaten run to 10 games with a home draw against the Wanderers.
Sydney FC will want to finish the calendar year on a high with another solid performance in their final home game of 2016.
It's a short week for the Sky Blues, but they’re in great form and have plenty of depth so don't be surprised if Arnie rotates a player or two.
The Roar have played on the counter to good effect this season and I expect them to do the same in this match.
Good news for Brisbane has been the outstanding form of Thomas Broich (pictured below). With another sublime assist, this time for Brown against the Wanderers, the German is again the key man in helping Roar climb up the ladder.
KEY BATTLE: Milos Ninkovic v Thomas Broich
Both foreigners and both key to their respective team’s success this season.
Ninkovic has been outstanding and involved in almost everything going forward for Sydney while Broich is showing that age is no problem and can still provide the killer ball.
Sydney are just too strong at the moment and I find it hard to see Roar stopping their momentum.
Unibet Odds: Sydney FC 1.72 Draw 3.90 Brisbane 5.00
Correct score: Sydney FC 2-1
Central Coast v Melbourne City | Saturday, December 31, 7pm (AEDT), Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
The New Year’s Eve game has become somewhat of a tradition and it's great for fans to get out and celebrate with their team.
With the Mariners still struggling to score, they'll need plenty of support to help their side out of their current predicament and up the ladder.
Without a win in four games, coaches can sometimes look to make drastic changes but with the Mariners, they’re limited because of a squad mixed with youth and experience but lacking of depth.
City will look to exploit the Mariners’ defensive frailties and after their incredible 3-3 draw with Perth, they’ll want to make sure they take all three points in Gosford.
City have had no problem scoring this season, but on occasions, they’ve shown weaknesses in defence and against the Glory, this was clear to see.
With Sydney (30 points) extending their lead at the top of the table, and both Roar (21 points) and Victory (23 points) looking to push away, City (19 points) can’t afford any more slip ups.
KEY BATTLE: Roy O'Donovan v Bruno Fornaroli
Fornaroli (pictured above) will be delighted he scored a brace but also frustrated he missed two penalties against Perth.
Despite their lack of scoring, O’Donovan has looked dangerous and scored four goals so far this season but in this match-up, it’s hard to see Bruno being outdone and the Uruguayan should add to his tally.
City have always bounced back from a disappointing result and this game will be no different.
Unibet Odds: Central Coast 6.50 Draw Melbourne City 1.50
Tip: Melbourne City
Correct score: Melbourne City 3-1
Wellington Phoenix v Adelaide United | Sunday, January 1, 5.35pm (AEDT), Westpac Stadium
With this being the New Year’s Day game there won’t be any celebrating until after the match for these two sides.
Having played a few New Year’s day games myself, it’s a little distracting when there’s so much celebrating going on around you but a win for either side will fill the void.
Wellington’s transformation in recent games, since their coaching change, has been impressive.
They’re scoring goals and looking dangerous but still conceding too many, a problem quite a few teams have at the moment.
Defending champs Adelaide have hit rock bottom, in what is certainly one of the biggest falls from grace in the A-League.
With loss after loss, the players now look deflated and the situation is only getting worse. It’s now looking increasingly unlikely the coaching staff will be able to rectify things this season.
But if they can somehow manage an unlikely win in Wellington, then that may give the Reds a desperately needed boost.
KEY BATTLE: Kosta Barbarouses v Sergio Cirio
With a goal last week, Kosta could be the man to do the damage again. Blessed with pace and an eye for goal, I think he’ll be on the scoresheet again this week.
Cirio (pictured above) was injured early in the season and now the reds need him back to his best.
During a bad run, it takes key men stepping up and doing something special and Cirio has the ability to change the current situation.
With the Reds really struggling this is a great opportunity for Phoenix to capitalise and I think they will.
Unibet Odds: Wellington 2.35 Draw 3.50 Adelaide United 3.05
Correct score: Wellington 2-0
Western Sydney v Perth | Sunday, January 1, 7.50pm (AEDT), ANZ Stadium
The Wanderers’ home form hasn’t been great this season and it would seem they’re missing their spiritual Wanderland home at Parramatta.
With a couple of draws in recent times, the Wanderers need to continue to play their positive, attractive brand of football to achieve maximum points. It isn’t always easy to do when the results aren’t there, but Western Sydney earned a good point against Brisbane on Friday and that should give them confidence going into this match.
With Santalab out suspended and Bulut out altogether, options up front are limited so expect something creative from Tony Popovic.
Perth played out an epic 3-3 draw with City showcasing the teams good and bad points all in one match.
Like many other teams, they have the ability to score but also concede far too easily so it’s a constant struggle for balance.
Western Sydney will dominate possession with Perth looking to catch them on the counter so defensively, both teams need to be on their game.
KEY BATTLE: Nicolas Martinez v Diego Castro
Two foreigners with immense quality and both are a joy to watch. Martinez started on the bench against Roar and instantly changed the match when he came on.
Castro (pictured above) has the ability to score and set up play and is crucial if Perth are to win this match.
The Wanderers will finally get a win in front of their home support and start the New Year off in style.
Unibet Odds: Western Sydney 1.90 Draw 3.75 Perth 4.05
Tip: Western Sydney
Correct score: Western Sydney 2-1
Melbourne Victory v Newcastle Jets | Monday, January 2, 7.50pm (AEDT), Simonds Stadium, Geelong
A very short turnaround for Victory after Wednesday’s match against the Mariners.
With many teams having problems defensively, the Victory have been impressive in that department with Spaniard Alan Baro and James Donachie keeping things very tight in recent weeks.
Some very encouraging signs from the Jets over the past few rounds, especially in attack where they are beginning to create chances, and a lot of chances at that.
With all their players back on board, things have turned around for Newcastle and they are starting to climb up the ladder.
The Jets will have a tough time containing Victory’s deadly attack and with Melbourne at home, they’ll be too strong in this one.
KEY BATTLE: Besart Berisha v Andrew Nabbout
Up front, it’s all about confidence and both these men are in fine scoring form.
Berisha is both a workhorse and a cool finisher while Nabbout (pictured above) has impressed with his pace and goal scoring touch this season.
But at home, Besart will come out on top.
Victory are playing great football and are in top form. I expect that to continue in this match.
Unibet Odds: Melbourne Victory 1.40 Draw 4.75 Newcastle 8.50
Tip: Melbourne Victory
Correct score: Melbourne Victory 3-1
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