Tuesday, December 19, 2006

 

The Home Stretch

With the Christmas break upon us, now is as good a time as any to preview the run-up to the A-League finals.

Last season, there was only one team clearly out of contention at this stage. This term, although Perth is still mathematically in the hunt, for all practical purposes their season is over. Glory fans have a right to be extremely dissatisfied with their team's limp showing against Sydney FC last Thursday, and to wonder why Ron Smith appeared to be approaching the game with such a defeatist attitude.

About New Zealand, the less said the better.

And so to the finals.

First of all: congratulations Melbourne Victory on securing the minor premiership. Ernie Merrick's side have played neat, smart football throughout, with abundant penetration in the final third and a well-organised defence. Worthy winners of the league stage of the competition.

How are the others shaping up?

Much will depend, of course, on whether Sydney FC are to be hit with a point(s) deduction for their salary cap breaches. As things stand, they are unlikely to miss out on the final four; should two or three points be deducted, it could make a considerable difference.

Of the five "contenders", the Mariners probably have the most favourable run-in. With three games at home, two of them against the wooden-spooners and the perhaps not-so-committed minor premiers, they should be able to add substantially to their tally. But will it be enough, with Newcastle running them neck-and-neck?

The Jets have three home games left as well, and are playing some superb football at the moment. The loss at Hindmarsh was a considerable setback, but they should still have enough wind in their sails to put together a good run home, especially with Nick Carle yet to return.

Both the Mariners and the Jets have been suffering from some uncertainty in defence lately; the Mariners are missing the experience of Tony Vidmar, while the Jets' use of Jade North in a central role is not without its problems, as Jason Spagnuolo ruthlessly demonstrated last Friday. Ante Covic, too, despite a couple of good saves late on, did not look remotely solid.

For the Mariners, Mile Jedinak's suspension may just be a blessing in disguise, if it allows Tom Pondeljak to return to the advanced central midfield role in which he is surely most effective. Andre Gumprecht has been slowly gathering steam in the engine room, and should be at his peak for the final few weeks of the competition.

It may just come down to goal difference between these two. I'll go with the Mariners, although it would be a great shame if Newcastle missed out on the finals, after providing such excellent entertainment this season.

Although Queensland did well to beat the Mariners last week, with Dario Vidosic at last producing a performance to rival his game-turning half-hour in Round 1, I can't quite see them making the final four. They still look somewhat disjointed, and they have a tougher finish to the competition, with three games out of four away.

Are Adelaide likely to suffer from a post-Romario slump, as Sydney FC did after the guest stint of Kazu last season?

In my opinion, it isn't likely. Although John Kosmina has altered the team to fit Romario in, he will surely restore Nathan Burns to a striking role for the final few rounds. With Burns, Jason Spagnuolo and Greg Owens in fine touch, Adelaide look a menacing unit at present. In my view, they are likely to overtake Sydney and finish in second.

Sydney's run home is the most hazardous. Three away trips to fellow "contenders" will have to be faced, and the likelihood is that they will lose at least one of them. In the interests of fairness, the FFA must surely resolve the matter of points deduction before the next round of games (as they have undertaken to do). If the FFA comes down hard on Sydney FC, they are, I feel, in serious danger of missing out on the final four.

Interesting times ahead!

Comments:
I think its important Victory don't slack off too much in the run-in to the finals. Lose some form, some momentum, get beaten by fellow contenders and it'd be much tougher in the finals series.
 
Sydney's key game is Newcastle away on New Years day. A point, or somehow the full three would be a blessing.

Provided the points deduction is two points or less we'll be fine for the Top Four. It's more a question of who gets second...
 
Adelaide had to change to an attacking format to feed Romario. This was their slump. I think they will return to the 'ground them out' football that Kossie thinks is great to watch.

Frank called for Sydney to loose 3 points. One point was held in abayance (sp?) in case they breached again.
 
I can't quite see (Queensland) making the final four.

Mike, I will, with the greatest of pleasure, be making you eat each of those words, one at a time.

Cheers.
 
Mikey said 'minor premiership'.

roflmao
 
...I can't quite see (Queensland) making the final four....

Mike, I will, with the greatest of pleasure, be making you eat each of those words, one at a time.

Cheers....

Yep, I may well live to regret them... ;-)
 
...Mikey said 'minor premiership'.

roflmao...

Damn, I thought I had the lock on pedantry 'round here.
 
It's not being pedantic. It is called the Premiership or Premiers Plate. Nothing minor about it.

It is not AFL or ARL. Get it right please.
 
Don't cry for me minor-premiers!

roflmao


welcome to Australia, the minor premiers will always be the minor premiers.
 
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