Sydney FC v Wellington Phoenix
Thursday November 26, 8pm
Another Thursday Night kickoff for the A-League this weekend when Sydney FC host Wellington Phoenix to open Week 8. Both these teams have a short turnaround from Saturday to Thursday, interestingly though Wellington chose to remain in Sydney following their loss to Western Sydney Wanderers whilst the Sky Blues have travelled back from Perth after playing in ridiculously hot conditions in the West last week.
I noted in a preview a few weeks ago that Wellington perform poorly on the backend of two consecutive road trips however that normally involves flying back and forth.
Sydney again failed to score against the Glory last week, managing just 1 shot on target and a season conversion rate of 14% (7th ranked). They are still the soundest defensive team having kept 4 clean sheets in 7 matches and excluding the 4 goals conceded to the Victory have conceded just 2 goals from their 6 other matches.
Sydney have been very poor at home winning just 5 of their last 17 regular season matches. In that time they have won 2 derbies and last season beating the Mariners twice and the Roar, both of whom lowly ranked at the time.
Wellington have struggled defensively at times due in part to a lack of continuity in the back four and defensive midfield positions and partly due to a lack of possession on the road averaging 45%.
Attack wise they have been OK scoring 11 goals though they are still waiting for Jeffrey Sarpong to catch fire.
Melbourne City v Perth Glory
Friday November 27, 7:40pm
Melbourne City should be title contenders yet find themselves 7th with just the two wins to their name against Adelaide (currently 10th) and Central Coast (8th) who themselves have secured just the 1 win between them. Perth Glory find themselves equally as desperate. Despite a good run in the FFA Cup they have managed just 4 points from 6 matches.
City’s problems have been in defence after leaking 14 goals and conceding an average of 5.3 shots on target per match. The good news for City is that I don’t see too many structural issues, they have simply been unable to get their first choice defenders on the pitch. Right back Ivan Franjic returned last week and with Michael Zullo, Aaron Hughes and Patrick Kisnorbo all due back in coming weeks I wouldn’t be surprised if they get on a winning run soon. Certainly their attack is going well with league highs of 13 goals scored from an average 5.1 shots on target.
Perth on the other hand are struggling to create anything averaging only 40% possession and completing only 220 passes per match, both league lows. Last year their counter attacking methods were successful thanks to the pace and goals of Andy Keogh and Jamie Maclaren. This year however they lack pace in the front third and have managed just 3.3 shots on target per match.
They have managed to keep it tight defensively however they will be sorely tested having lost both Josh Risdon and Alex Grant to add to Dino Djulbic. Last week due to the heat Sydney were unable to pressure their inexperienced defenders but watch for a far different situation tomorrow night with Harry Novillo in particular to test the outside backs.
Newcastle Jets v Brisbane Roar
Saturday November 28, 5:15pm
Newcastle managed something that I thought impossible last week managing exactly zero shots at goal against Adelaide and yet still managed to secure a point thanks to a nil all draw. They have managed just 14 shots on goal (league low) from open play all season but amazingly have scored 7 goals (their 8th goal coming from the penalty spot) for a league high conversion of goals from shots on goal of 50%.
Brisbane are the second most effective team in this regard scoring 12/28 (43%). Not bad when you consider the other 8 teams average 28%
Defensively Newcastle have faced 40 shots only fractionally better than the Mariners at 41 shots, yet they have still managed 2 clean sheets and conceded just the 6 goals from open play. They have managed a win over the Victory at home this season so despite the stats they perhaps should not be underestimated. Captain Nigel Boogaard is in serious doubt for this match and surely Mark Birighitti can’t continue to save them forever.
Brisbane Roar have the equal best defence coming into this match having conceded 6 goals and kept 3 clean sheets (2nd only to Sydney FC). It took a combined Keeper/Defender howler to let City in last week and prior to that they had gone 3 matches without conceding.