Perth v Wellington | Thursday, January 5, 9pm (AEDT), NIB Stadium, Perth
The ‘Distance Derby’ will again be in Perth, so it’s the Phoenix players who will have to manage the long travel requirements once more.
From my own experience, the effects of long flights and travel can be hard to predict. Sometimes you do everything right but still feel flat or fatigued during the match while other times, the effects are minimal.
But there’s no doubt the advantage is with the home side in this particular derby.
Perth won 2-0 in the Round 2 encounter v Phoenix, but they’re playing a different side this time round.
Diego Castro and Nebojsa Marinkovic got the goals that day but the stats were fairly even with Glory having 16 shots on goal to Wellington's 12 and just shading possession 54 per cent to 46 per cent.
Phoenix drew 0-0 with Adelaide on Sunday, their third draw in a row but they’re unbeaten in four games so will feel confident of getting something out of the match.
KEY BATTLE: Adam Taggart v Roy Krishna
Taggart (pictured above) scored against Wanderers last week and will want to add to his tally while Krishna has been a standout for Phoenix this season.
Playing at home, Taggart will shine and keep building his relationship with Andy Keogh up front.
Both teams have been drawing quite a lot of games of late, the last two weekends included. I don’t see a change to that pattern here.
Unibet Odds: Perth 2.20 Draw 3.70 Wellington 3.15
Correct score: 2-2
Melbourne City v Western Sydney | Friday, January 6, 7.50pm (AEDT), AAMI Park, Melbourne
The big news before this match is the shock resignation of Melbourne City coach John van't Schip (pictured above), who will return to Holland to care for his ill Father.
This adds a whole new dimension to the match with the City players wanting to send their boss out with a win.
In the round 7 clash between the two, it ended 1-1 with Fernando Brandan and Tim Cahill combining in the first half.
Cahill again showed that he can score when you least expect it so it will be important for the Wanderers to keep a close eye on him.
Clean sheets have been hard to come by in recent weeks for both teams so the team that keeps things tight defensively, will come out on top.
Four of the five shots on goal from the Wanderers came from outside of the box so Tony Popovic will want to get more penetration inside the box and create better chances.
But, with no Brendon Santalab and Kerem Bulut, the goal scoring department continues to be a big problem.
Add to that the FFA knocking back the Wanderers' request to sign Croatian international Eduardo last week and I feel there will be more pain for Wanderers fans
KEY BATTLE: Tim Cahill v Nicolas Martinez
Cahill (pictured above) has scored in each of the last three rounds so will be the biggest threat for Western Sydney alongside Bruno Fornaroli.
Martinez is a pleasure to watch with his quick feet and ability to beat players one on one.
This will be an emotional day for City and that will give them extra motivation but Wanderers are the draw specialists and this will be another one.
Unibet Odds: Melbourne City 1.80 Draw 3.85 Western Sydney 4.40
Correct score: 1-1
Brisbane v Newcastle | Saturday, January 7, 5.35pm (AEDT), Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Jets silenced the Roar with a hefty 4-0 defeat in their last clash in round 2 but Brisbane went unbeaten until losing to Sydney FC last week.
This will give the Roar players extra motivation to avenge that defeat. Players don’t forget heavy defeats and whenever I was on the receiving end of a big loss, I couldn’t wait to play that side again to do the same.
Roar actually dominated possession and had more shots during that round 2 match but still lost 4-0.
All four of the Jets shots on target were goals so their shot conversion was excellent. But there has been a big improvement in the Roar both at the front and from the back so it will be a different story this time.
The Jets have also improved, but more so in recent weeks, with two wins and a draw in their last four games.
However, Victory put four past the Jets on Monday so defensively they were badly exposed. But they also managed to score two goals in that match so creating chances isn’t a problem.
KEY BATTLE: Thomas Broich v Morten Nordstrand
The German and the Dane is a great match-up with Broich coming back into top form in recent weeks.
His assist for Corey Brown against the Wanderers in round 12 was sublime and he has led the Roar with some outstanding performances.
Nordstand’s (pictured above) experience has helped the Jets climb back into contention for a top 6 spot but it’ll be hard to stop the German in this one.
With Jamie Maclaren, Broich and Dimitri Petratos all looking dangerous for the Roar and despite their loss to Sydney, Brisbane will make home advantage count.
Unibet Odds: Brisbane 1.60 Draw 4.25 Newcastle 5.50
Correct score: Brisbane 3-1
Adelaide v Melbourne Victory | Saturday, January 7, 7.50pm (AEDT), Coopers Stadium, Adelaide
Historically, one of the great rivalries in the A-League which has provided many great moments with the highlight being that incredible 6-0 win to the Victory in the 2007 Grand Final where Archie Thompson scored five goals.
The Reds were humiliated on that day and they’re now enduring a humiliating season but they managed to salvage a draw against the Phoenix on New Year’s Day in which they can draw some positives.
Despite conceding 13 chances to the Phoenix, eight of which were on target, they still kept a clean sheet and earned a valuable point.
Tactically, Adelaide need to limit supply to Victory’s front men who are in devastating form, scoring 11 goals in their last four games.
Besart Berisha has become the A-League’s greatest ever goal scorer. He’s not only deadly in front of goal but he works extremely hard for the team and he’s a winner.
Together with Marco Rojas (pictured below), Victory have one of the most potent strike forces in the league.
KEY BATTLE: Sergio Cirio v Marco Rojas
Rojas is on fire and proving to be a headache for opposition defences.
Cirio has the quality to get Adelaide out of their slump but will find it tough against a strong Victory defence.
Kevin Muscat’s side are in top form and will continue that against the Reds
Unibet Odds: Adelaide 3.55 Draw 3.70 Melbourne Victory 2.05
Tip: Melbourne Victory
Correct score: Melbourne Victory 4-1
Central Coast v Sydney FC | Sunday, January 8, 5pm (AEDT), Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
The Mariners held their own against City, proving they are capable of mixing it with one of the leagues frontrunners.
Mariners youngster Trent Buhagiar, 18, (pictured above) has had people talking in recent weeks and his goal against City last week will give him and the team a great boost.
With limited options for Paul Okon, Trent could see plenty of game time and will be one to watch in the future.
Sydney FC have signed former Wanderers stopper Andrew Redmayne in the transfer window and he will prove to be good cover for first choice Danny Vukovic who has been in outstanding form.
Defender Matt Jurman is off to the K-League and he'll certainly be missed by the Sky Blues.
But Sydney have great depth in their squad this season so they have enough cover to fill the gap and they could go for another defender in the transfer window.
KEY BATTLE: Trent Buhagiar v Milos Ninkovic
With Buhagiar flying high after his goal, he would love to score against the league leader.
But Ninkovic (pictured above) has been absolutely superb and with Alex Brosque out suspended, Milos will assume even more responsibility which he’ll relish.
Sydney FC haven’t put a foot wrong this season and despite some certain changes for this match, they’ll still have too much for the Mariners.
Unibet Odds: Central Coast 7.25 Draw 5.25 Sydney FC 1.40
Tip: Sydney FC
Correct score: Sydney FC 4-1
Read More From David Zdrilic