Analyst: Alex Christodoulou
Feb 21, 2019 12:21 PM
Wayward Wanderers welcome Popa home
There's three absolute belters for A-League fans and punters to get excited about this week.
First up, the Nix host Sydney FC in Western Sydney, with both sides desperate to get back into the winner's circle.
Then the always gripping Melbourne Derby, where a big crowd and plenty of goals are expected.
The final fixture sees Tony Popovic return home, where he will coach against his former side, looking to make quick work of wrapping up the Premier's Plate.
Wellington Phoenix vs Sydney FC
A-League Odds: Nix $3.30 / Draw $3.75 / Sydney FC $2
The first of this round's three cracking A-League fixtures sees the Wellington Phoenix host Sydney FC- not across the ditch, but in South-West Sydney.
Campbelltown Stadium will be the venue as both teams attempt to end a winless streak and earn a valuable three points.
After bursting into the top six with a sustained purple patch of form, the Phoenix have started to slow, only picking up 2 points from their previous three matches.
Last time out they looked set to record a big scalp, leading the Victory inside the final third, before a Keisuke Honda penalty meant that the match ended in a draw.
Nevertheless, going toe-to-toe with Melbourne is a good form reference for this match.
Despite whispers that head coach Mark Rudan won't see out his contract, citing homesickness, there's no doubt he's done an incredible job with the Nix.
He's got the Wellington-based team playing exciting, free flowing football.
Against a Sydney FC side that's looking a bit laboured, Wellington's dynamism and speed up front my be too much to handle.
After suffering a shock loss to the roar two weeks ago, the Sky Blues weren't able to bounce back with a win last round, only managing a draw against the lowly Mariners.
This was despite dominating the possession and shots on goal stats.
In other words, Sydney FC should've won the game.
In fact, both sides are due for a win, after playing fairly good football without it being reflected in the result.
That makes this game hard to tip, and why a draw is presenting itself as the way to go.
These sides have already played twice this campaign, and in both games it was the away team that won.
Both teams are technically playing away from home here, in what is another factor that makes this a tricky result to predict.
Key A-League Stat
- The Sky Blues have won 5 of their last 6 A-League matches following a draw in the previous round: Sydney FC to win @ $2
A-League Tip: Match to end in a draw @ $3.75
Reasoning: This is great value for a game where both teams appear very evenly matched.
Melbourne Victory vs Melbourne City
A-League Odds: Victory $2 / Draw $3.50 / City $3.30
The Melbourne derby is typically a tight and competitive contest and this edition looks to be no exception.
In the previous three Melbourne derbies, there has been one draw, one win for City and one win for Victory.
Take the scope back even further to ten games, and the record is two draws, four wins for City and four wins for Victory.
Basically, there's nothing in this contest.
Melbourne Victory will still start as clear favourites though, these A-League odds perhaps reflecting Victory's classier personnel.
Keisuke Honda is now fully fit after an injury set-back, and it was he who scored from the penalty spot last week to earn Kevin Muscat's men a draw.
However, it's Victory's other marquee, Ola Toivonen, who is a big talking point in this game.
Toivonen has missed the last three weeks through injury, but is expected to start here.
His quality in front of goal has been available for all to see, having scored 10 goals and assisted 3 in his thirteen A-League starts this campaign.
Considering he is involved in one goal per game, Toivonen's confirmed presence on the field might sway the A-League odds further in Victory's favour.
Melbourne City meanwhile need to bounce back with a win, and what better game to do it in than the derby.
That's because last week they suffered a comprehensive 3-1 defeat to the Jets.
In fact, it has now been four rounds without Melbourne City recording a win.
In that time they have added Socceroo striker Jamie Maclaren to their squad.
He is more than capable of going goal-for-goal with Toivonen, and why City aren't without a chance.
Key A-League stat
- There have been over 2.5 total goals in each of Melbourne City's previous 8 matches at Marvel Stadium: Total match goals over 2.5 @ $1.83
A-League Tip: Melbourne Victory to win @ $2
Reasoning: With better recent form and Toivonen coming into the side, Victory are great value at $2.
Western Sydney Wanderers vs Perth Glory
A-League Odds: WSW $3.60 / Draw $3.60 / Glory $1.91
The most interesting game of the round sees Tony Popovic's all-conquering Perth side make the long trip east to take on the Wanderers.
Popovic managed the Wanderers to numerous grand finals as well as the Asian Champions League title in 2014.
But since departing the club, the team from Western Sydney have been a shadow of their former selves.
This season in particular has been probably their worst ever, currently 12 points adrift from a finals spot.
However, Markus Babbel's men have shown some fight after being humbled by the Jets three weeks ago, since winning two consecutive matches for the first time all season.
They easily played their best half of football all campaign last round against the Reds.
A two goal to nil second half saw WSW prevail in a shock 3-1 victory away from home.
Until they return to the redeveloped Western Sydney stadium, every game will feel like an away game for the Wanderers.
That's why, despite two consecutive wins, they still won't be able to match the ladder-leading Glory here.
Ironically, it has been Perth Glory's away form that has really spearheaded their stellar year.
The Glory had always been capable at home, but tended to struggle on the road.
Popa has turned that all around, with Perth undefeated from their eight away games this campaign, recording six wins and two draws.
The Glory are also on a four-game winning streak, having scored 11 goals and conceded just 1 in this period.
Fan favourites Diego Castro and Andy Keogh have been on fire.
Castro in particular has been showing that age is no barrier, still outwitting opponents at the age of 36.
You feel that his class will be too much for Western Sydney's defence to handle.
Key A-League stat
- Perth have won 4 A-League matches in a row: Glory to win @ $1.91
A-League Tip: Perth Glory to win @ $1.91
Reasoning: There's a reason Perth are nine points clear at the top of the ladder while WSW are struggling in eighth. A big gap in class.