Just four teams are left standing in the A-League as the ones left standing fight it out for a spot in the Grand Final! Brad Hutchings previews the Semi final action.
Melbourne Victory v Melbourne City
Friday May 8, 7.30pm
It’s a promoters dream for the first Semi Final with a Melbourne Derby set to determine who will be the first entrant into the Grand Final.
A sell-out crowd is expected at Etihad Stadium on Friday night when Victory and City play out the biggest Melbourne Derby ever.
The Premiers Victory enjoyed the break for the first week of the finals while City jumped across the ditch to defeat Wellington Phoenix in a shock 2-0 result to continue their finals charge.
Last week’s triumph over the Nix was City’s first finals series win in just the second attempt in the clubs five year history.
City were by far the better side last Sunday in Wellington as they progressed thanks to second half goals to Josh Kennedy and Harry Novillo. The match was the first time in six matches City managed to score more than one goal and their first win since March.
While last week was a dramatic improvement on recent weeks from City, they will still need a lot more if they are any hope of defeating their fancied neighbours.
After a week off Victory will be primed for this one while City will not only have to deal with a short turn-around of just five days between games but also the effects of a heavy travel road.
Just in the past three weeks City have travelled to Perth, Adelaide and Wellington for games and will surely feel the effect against a fresh Victory.
The one advantage City will have over Victory is they will be without the added pressure of expectation that Victory will have.
Not many folk gave City any chance of progressing past Wellington last week and will be keen as anything to ruin the championship hopes of their neighbours.
City do pride themselves on lifting for derby games, something which was evident back in December when they defeated Victory courtesy of a Erik Paartalu goal in stoppage time, but their form this season at the Etihad has been abominable.
Victory comfortably defeated City in both Etihad derbies this season 5-2 and 3-0, with the first taking place during David Villa’s brief spell with the club. The 3-0 loss was arguably one of City’s worst performances of the season.
The only way City are going to win this game is if they manage to keep Victory’s potent attack quiet, which is an easier task said than done.
Victory managed a league-record 56 goals this campaign and put eight past City at the same venue twice this season.
Whilst actually managing to redeem themselves in recent games the City back four has had questions marks on it all season and have conceded the most goals out of any remaining side.
The big thing in favour of Victory is that have a squad that just oozes big game players. Besart Berisha is an animal in finals football and cherishes a big stage while the midfield duo of Carl Valeri and Mark Milligan is one of the best in the league.
With an attack consisting of Berisha, Kosta Barbarouses, Fahid Ben Kalhfallah and Gui Finkler it’s just too hard to go against Victory not only in this game but also the Championship.
City have managed to get themselves in prime form in the right time of year. While they will no doubt push Victory all the way, the Premiers just have that bit more talent where it matters most.
Back under 2.5 goals @ 2.2
Sydney FC v Adelaide United
Saturday May 9, 7.30pm
If there is one side Sydney FC fans did not want their side to face in the Finals Series it is Adelaide United.
Including a match in the FFA Cup these sides have met four times this season with United winning three of those. The best Sydney could manage against Adelaide was a 0-0 draw in the early rounds of the season.
This looks like a rare occasion when home ground advantage isn’t an advantage at all. Sydney have only lost five game all season, all five of course coming in their own stadium. Adelaide have already won three times at Allianz Stadium this season, including a 1-0 triumph just last month.
Adelaide’s style of football is made for the finals. Their patient build-up from the back couple with their ability on the counter make them a serious threat for the title.
This will be a contest between two varying styles of play. Sydney with their free-flowing, high risk high reward approach versus the structured and controlled style of Adelaide.
The first goal in this contest is crucial. Adelaide will no doubt sit back and let Sydney come at them but if the Sky Blues snag an early one that will force United to steer from their usual style to chase the game. The longer the game goes without a goal the more frustrated Sydney will become leaving them vulnerable for a typical United smash-and-grab job.
Adelaide keeper Eugene Galekovic was the difference the last time these two played with his glove work proving the difference in a match Sydney dominated.
The result screams 1-0 but which way remains the big question.
Usually a big home crowd would swing Sydney ahead but with their poor home record that can’t be the case this time.
In-play bettors might want to hang tight in this one and see which team finds the back of the net first. Whoever does score first will most likely go on with the job and book themselves a spot in the big dance.
The clash of the midfields will be vital with both sides owning claim to having the best midfielders in the league. The match-up between Milos Dimitrijevic and Marcelo Carrusca may prove the difference, whoever out of these two men has the better game may have enough to guide their side into the decider.
Given Adelaide’s record in Sydney and their play seeming to have a serious effect on FC, I’m tipping United to progress to the Grand Final
Correct score 0-1 @ 12
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