Breanna Holden's Week 8 HAL Preview

by Breanna Holden on Nov 28, 2014

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Round 8 of A-League action kicks-off with a bumber near-top-of-the-table battle between Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United. Can Brisbane come to life under a new gaffer, and just who will have bragging rights in the Harbour City or up and down the F3 come Sunday night? Breanna Holden gives us the total guide to all the weekend's action.

Melbourne Victory v Adelaide United
Friday 28 November, AAMI Park
Kick-Off: 7:40 PM (Local) (7:40 PM AEDT)
Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones

Round seven saw Melbourne Victory’s first questionable performance this season with Kevin Muscat’s side struggling to create chances against an unexciting Brisbane Side. Despite an underwhelming 90 minutes the Victory must be given credit as they finished the match with all three points; an attribute that could see them holding silverware at season’s end.

This weekend they face a much harder task in old rivals Adelaide United, with their first encounter this season seeing both sides pushed physically and tactically until the final whistle. Although the Victory were tested by the Reds earlier in the season they hold a clear advantage on home soil, winning an impressive 12 of their last 16 encounters against a travelling United side.

Interestingly for Melbourne they have twice before have they gone the first seven games of the season unbeaten (2006/07 and 2007/08) only to face Adelaide in round 8 and lose both times – a ‘tradition’ Muscat will surely look to break this Friday night. Pivotal to a Victory win will be the amount of influence Leigh Broxham is allowed to have on the game, with the midfielder not only holding his own in the side’s attack (notching as nearly as many shots as Besart Berisha) but also in defence where his ability to read play and shut down opposition has been a standout this term.

Similarly to Melbourne round 7 saw Adelaide face a struggling opposition in the Central Coast Mariners. However, unlike the Victorians, United dominated the match looking completely at ease using a different style of play to adapt to the sweltering temperatures on the NSW coast.

That said this weekend Josep Gombau’s men will certainly have a lot more to prove, and will have to work a lot harder to prove it. The last meeting between these two sides saw United take an arguably deserved lead in the 85th minute only to lose their nerve, and pay the price just four minutes later when the Victory equalised. Since then both sides have grown in confidence and quality but the Reds can certainly not afford any gifts for Melbourne, especially considering their history when travelling to Victoria.

In a boost for Gomabu’s men Bruce Djite will return to the fray, who, alongside the likes of Sergio Cirio and Pablo Sanchez (who scored both goals last round in an excellent performance), will undoubtedly trouble the home sides defence.

My Tip: Adelaide United
Although the Reds record away to Melbourne is nothing to be desired Josep Gomabu’s set up this season and ability to strengthen each week has been. If Adelaide United can continue to play fluid, confident football and bring to Friday night’s game the same ability to adapt that they displayed against the Mariners they should be able to edge out the Victory.

Brisbane Roar FC v Perth Glory
Saturday 29 November, Suncorp Stadium
Kick-Off: 4:00 PM (Local) (5:00 PM AEDT)
Referee: Strebre Delovski

What a week for Brisbane. In controversial circumstances a late own goal from Jade North saw the Roar go down to the Victory and their premiership winning coach Mike Mulvey sent out the door. Despite Mulvey winning the A-League’s top prize just six months ago Brisbane decided to part ways with their coach sighting ‘phliosphical differences’ and not recent results as the reason behind the shocking decision.

This weekend Brisbane fans and critics will get the first taste of their new coach Frans Thijssen who has an enormous task for his first match in charge, playing host to league leaders Perth Glory. Although often a new coach brings with him a new breath of life (at least for the first few matches) reports of player revolts and a serious lack of unity within the Roar camp certainly see Thijssen’s back against the wall.

Adding to the Dutchmen’s woes is the suspension of Shane Steffanuto whose absence will certainly provide the Glory with an easier route to goal. It isn’t all doom and gloom for the home side though, and with Brisbane holding the highest percentage of possession in the league they’ll certainly hold their own against Perth – with their chances of a win coming down almost entirely to their accuracy in front of goal.

Perth continue to ride the highs this season, with teen sensation Danny da Silva getting his goal tally off the mark against Wellington last round while Andy Keogh grabbed his fifth of the season to finish off the match. Despite going a man down thanks to Ruben Zadkovic’s second half red card the Glory never really looked troubled by the Nix, seeming at ease even before Keogh’s winner.

Travelling to Queensland Kenny Lowe faces an entirely new challenge though, and with Frans Thijssen an unknown in the A-League the Glory will have to learn on their feet and hope the new coaches impact isn’t instantaneous.

Although goals are hardly an issue for the West Australian side it will be important as the season continues that Perth’s midfielders, in particular Youssouf Hersi, improve their accuracy. If the likes of Keogh and McLaren were to be ruled out for an extended period of time the Glory’s depth would be tested and proven scorers from across the pitch will have to step up.

My Tip: Perth Glory
It is true that all too often a new coach brings with them a rush of decent results for their first few matches in charge, and in theory the Roar should be in with a chance this weekend. However, facing a Perth side with confidence a-plenty and no real solution to their increasingly concerning issues in front of goals it is hard to Brisbane and their interim coach leaving Suncorp Stadium with any points.

Western Sydney Wanderers FC v Sydney FC
Saturday 29 November, Pirtek Stadium
Kick-Off: 7:30 PM (Local) (7:30 PM AEDT)
Referee: Peter Green

Bottom of the table Western Sydney Wanderers run of losses finally came to an end last week as a mid-week nil-all draw with the Mariners and a round 7 one-all draw with Newcastle saw them pick up vital points. Adding to the small positives for Tony Popovic’s men is the partnership between goal scorer Tomi Juric and new signing Nikita Rukavystya seems to be taking shape; despite Rukavystya failing to get on the score board the two were certainly the Red and Black’s most threatening forward pairing so far this year.

Facing their local rivals this Saturday night the Wanderers won’t find much better inspiration to get their season out of first gear, particularly in front a sold out crowd at Pirtek Stadium. In fact in front of their home fans Western Sydney haven’t lost a match since March, and with reasonable success against Sydney at Wanderland the cellar dwellers will be feeling somewhat confident of picking up maximum points.

That said if Popovic’s men are to grab their first win of the season on Saturday night they will need to see players taking a lot more responsibility in attack. So far from six matches the Wanderers have played nine different forwards with only three producing goals, while across the midfield they have looked too clinical and lacked any real creativity. If Western Sydney are to see a genuine turn around in their season it will come from the midfielders and attack creating more chances, holding more long term possession and relieving relentless pressure from the backline.

Meanwhile across town round 7 saw Sydney FC go from strength to strength. With mid-week news top goal scorer Corey Gameiro would be out with a season ending knee injury the Sky Blues look untroubled up front as Austrian international Mark Janko bagged a double to seal the win over Melbourne City.

Heading into Saturday night’s derby Graham Arnold and his men will undoubtedly be cautious of their slightly revitalised neighbours. Although the Sky Blues sit 13 points ahead of the Wanderers on the table their last encounter proved how form often goes out the window in derbies as FC were given a real scare with Western Sydney going up two goals early on.

With last weekend’s performance exhibiting Sydney’s full potential with an eased approach to counter-attacking football it will be important for the Sky Blues to bring the same air of confidence and strength on Saturday. Also crucial to the match will be Bernie Ibini’s outing. Last round saw the young loanee come into his own and trouble Iain Ramsey for a full 90 minutes. If he can continue to play off of Alex Brosque, Janko and Terry Antonis with the same fluidity it will go a long way in seeing the match end in Sydney’s favour.

My Tip: Sydney FC
The Wanderers may have dominated this fixture in this derby’s early years but this season the Sky Blues have flourished under Arnold and their well drilled, controlled and creative style saw them come from behind to see off Western Sydney in round 2. Despite the threat of Juric and Rukavystya up from for the red and black this weekend the away side’s defence will be a lot more aware six rounds on and their own attacking options have only grown in confidence.

Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne City FC
Sunday 30 November, Westpac Stadium
Kick-Off: 5:00 PM (Local) (3:00 PM AEDT)
Referee: Jarred Gillett

Wellington Phoenix enter Sunday afternoon’s encounter having fallen dangerously close to ‘the rest of the pack’ after their fourth loss of the season. The Nix travelled to Perth in round 7 and without their midfield maestro Michael McGlinchey the team looked flat and unable to get any real hold on the game.

At Westpac Stadium the Phoenix have lost just once in their past six matches against Melbourne City (albeit a five nil result last season) and will bolstered by their clear home advantage. However Wellington cannot rest on their laurels and with Melbourne City providing the highest amount of shots on goal this season the Nix’s defence will likely be under threat for much of the match.

If Ernie Merrick is to see his side enlarge the gap above the bottom five in the A-League, and eventually make the finals, Wellington will need to work on keeping possession. With City’s Aaron Mooy in incredible form the midfield cannot afford to give the ball away cheaply as Mooy will relish the chance to make them pay for it.

Melbourne City once again played a sound 90 minutes last weekend only to see lazy defensive work give the opposition an easy win – in coach John van ‘t Schip’s words they continue to give the other team ‘presents’.

With a tough away trip to New Zealand facing a lethal attacking trio in McGlinchey, Nathan Burns and Jeremey Brockie there can be no room for their defence to continually exhibit mental lapses.

Although JVS’s defence has copped a lot of scrutiny in the past seven rounds, in particular Iain Ramsey, this weekend’s encounter will likely be won in the midfield. If Mooy is able to muster his teammates and ensure Damien Duff is provided with quality balls City will build substantial pressure on a Nix defence that has had its doubts this season and return to Victoria with a win.

My tip: Wellington Phoenix
With McGlinchey back in action this weekend (after returning from paternity leave) all should be well in the Phoenix midfield. Given his influence and ability to feed the ball through to Nathan Burns Wellington should be able to overpower City and grab a vital three points in their quest to make the finals at season’s end.

Newcastle Jets v Central Coast Mariners
Sunday 30 November, Hunter Stadium
Kick-Off: 5:00 PM (Local) (5:00 PM AEDT)
Referee: Shaun Evans

Newcastle picked up their third draw of the A-League season on Saturday afternoon, coming from behind with Marcos Flores playing the hero, scoring the equaliser to grab a point against the Wanderers. Although they still remain winless the result was in some ways an impressive show of character with the side seeming hardly affected by their 4-0 loss the previous week. That said the side will have to muster consistency, something they have seriously lacked so far this season, if they are to see off local rivals the Central Coast this Sunday.

Against the Mariners in round one the Jets were unlucky to get nothing from the contest, often dominating the blue and yellow home side, but in a theme that’s now constant for both sides the Jets failed to find the back of the net.

Sitting second last on the table, just one point above Western Sydney, Phil Stubbins’ side will need to get over their inconsistencies and lack of creativity in front of goal or they could see the Mariners grabbing another lucky win. Crucial to pulling off their first win of the season will be the performance of Joel Griffiths with the once prolific striker struggling to find himself involved thus far in the campaign. If Griffiths can link up successfully with Jeronimo Neumann and Marcos Flores the Jets could see themselves turning sound performances into points.

The Central Coast’s season seemed to take a slight nosedive in round seven with a tired, uncreative, and frustrating performance seeing them easily overrun by Adelaide United, and go yet another match without a win.

The Mariners will be feeling as if this Sunday is their chance to turn things around and re-gain the form that for the past nine seasons has seen them dominate their F3 neighbours. Against the Jets the away side has gone seven games unbeaten, and with their opposition having similar struggles Phil Moss will be hoping history continues to work in their favour this weekend.

However, if Central Coast are to expect a turn around in their form they must first see a significant change in their attacking play, with the travelling side heading to Hunter stadium with the worst scoring record in the league and just one goal in their last four matches. Crucial to that turn around will be Mitch Duke's performance, with the Mariners forward looking out of sorts in previous matches leaving Moss lacking serious quality up front.

My Tip: Newcastle Jets
Neither side have shown a lot of merit for wins this season, and with goals being the key issue for the both this match will likely be a matter of who can score from an off chance. With the Mariners looking timid up front travelling away to a hostile derby environment will only work in the Jets favour, and unless their defence put in a sound two halves Phil Stubbins will bag his first win of the season.