Four teams play this weekend to kick off the A-League Finals Series but only two will survive. Brad Hutchings previews all the Week 1 action of the finals as home ground advantage looks to be the key.
Adelaide United v Brisbane Roar
Friday May 1, 7.30pm
Third-placed Adelaide United and defending champs Roar kick-off the 2015 final series at Adelaide Oval on Friday night. The move to the Oval away from Adelaide’s usual home ground of Hindmarsh Oval hasn’t gone down overly well with fans and the club who would rather have the game played at the more football-friendly surrounds of Hindmarsh.
Considering Brisbane have a very good record at Hindmarsh, including a 3-2 win just last month, I would have thought Adelaide should be happy with the FFA’s decision to move it to the Oval to jam in more fans. The Roar haven’t lost in Adelaide in their last eight travels to the City of Churches, including six straight wins.
It’s hard to deny Brisbane have had a very poor year, the inability to properly replace former spearhead Besart Berisha, combined with their poor start to the season which resulted in both their Championship winning coach and Captain Mike Mulvey and Matt Smith leaving the club. Even though they are only still alive in this year thanks to Perth Glory’s salary cap punishment, you just can’t rule out the Roar in the final series game. In their ten years of existence Roar have played 16 finals series games, winning ten of those. That is an impressive tally which may prove a big factor this finals.
Adelaide on the other hand are the A-Leagues perennial finals chokers. Just two wins from 15 finals games in their history, including two Grand Final defeats has ensured United of their chokers tag.
Brisbane have been operating under a huge fixture log-jam of late having to navigate through mid-week A-League and ACL matches during the past month. Interim manager Frans Thijssen has been carefully managing his squad with a finals assault in mind. The Dutchmen rested key men in their last game of the season last weekend against Newcastle Jets. Key players Matt McKay, Thomas Broich, Luke Brattan and Andrija Kaluderovic will be fresh for the Reds after sitting it out against the Jets.
United and their much fabled playing style under Josep Gombau will be put to the test against the Roar. While the Reds did a number against a disinterested Melbourne City last weekend to gear up for the finals last week, Brisbane no doubt will be a much tougher proposition.
Take out goalkeeper Micheal Theo, ex skipper Smith and Berisha, this is largely the same squad that lifted the trophy last year. While this season has been a different story you just can’t rule out a side that knows how to get the job done at this time of year.
If Adelaide play to their potential they will have enough quality to win this game. Any slip then the Roar will pounce. Expect this to be a very tight game.
Adelaide have kept just one clean sheet in their last 16 meetings with Brisbane. The 1.44 available for Adelaide Clean Sheet NO looks unlikely to be beaten.
United’s record in finals games and against Brisbane in Adelaide doesn’t bode well for the Reds but it is hard to deny they are the better side.
Adelaide in extra time.
Adelaide Clean Sheet NO @ 1.44
Both teams to score YES @ 1.71
Wellington v Melbourne City
Sunday May 3, 5pm
Two sides not used to finals football Wellington and Melbourne City play in the second elimination final on Sunday. Both sides haven’t played finals since 2012 with this game just City’s second finals appearance. City’s one and only finals outing was a limp 3-0 defeat away to Perth Glory in a match Shane Smeltz bagged a hat-trick.
City head into the finals with the worst form of all the sides left. Their past two games have been disappointing heavy away losses to Perth Glory and Adelaide United and haven’t won since a 1-0 victory over Brisbane Roar way back in March.
City have been exceptionally poor in the league since their finals place was secure with Perth’s dismissal. Rather than up their game in the remaining rounds to fine-tune for the finals, City took the opposite approach and have seemingly taken the foot off the pace with some very average performances.
The Nix themselves head into the play-offs in poor touch. A 2-1 loss at home to Sydney last weekend cooked their hopes to earn top spot while their last win coming thanks to a last minute goal against lowly Central Coast Mariners.
It wasn’t that long ago Wellington were the form side of the comp and looked destined to claim the Premiers Plate. While the form slide has seen them drop from first to fourth, they are still a legitimate chance to win the championship.
Both sides need a dramatic improvement on their recent form if they have any desire of continuing past week one of the finals.
City have been so poor in the past two weeks it is hard to see such a dramatic improvement that will see them upset the Phoenix. City’s major problem all year has been their transition from defence to attack and against such a solid midfield as the Nix possess it’s hard to see them winning.
Finding the back of the net has been extremely hard for City this season with the lowest tally of any side remaining in the finals series. Melbourne City haven’t scored more than once in any of their last six games and only managed one goal in their three meetings with Wellington this season.
The fact that midfielder Aaron Mooy is the clubs leading goalscorer with seven (three of which were from the penalty spot), says everything you need to know about their season. The $4 on offer for Wellington to win to nil is too good to pass up.
On song there is hardly a better front three in the league than that of Nathan Burns, Roy Krishna and Michael McGlinchy. If they are in the mood on Sunday than it will be a long afternoon for City.
Wellington to win to nil @ $4
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