Victory must get on track while City and Roar prepare to clash
Unlike many leagues across the world, the A-League rumbles on over the festive season, leaving plenty to watch out for in round 12 action this week:
1. Wanderers to test undermanned Jets
Newcastle Jets are set to have around AU$425,000 to spend on three signings in the January transfer window, with the sale of left-back Lee Ki-je to the K-League's Ulsan Hyundai now inevitable. These funds will prove crucial for new coach Scott Miller, who must reignite a side that has now gone 289 minutes without scoring.
First in line to spark the attack is Adam Taggart. The former Jets' striker has returned to Fulham after his loan deal with Dundee United was cut short. Miller, a former assistant coach at Craven Cottage, has spoken to Taggart in an effort to convince him to return to Hunter Stadium, though it appears unlikely he will want to come back to the A-League just 18 months after departing.
Cover in attacking midfield due to the ongoing injury woes of Leonardo, as well as some depth at the back, would also be welcomed. However, these acquisitions will not arrive in time to help the Jets as they travel to league leaders Western Sydney Wanderers on Christmas Eve.
Adding to Miller's conundrum, the visitors will be without right-back Jason Hoffman, who is suspended. Meanwhile, Western Sydney have an abundance of squad depth, as they welcome back versatile forward Mark Bridge and central midfielder Dimas this week.
January can't come soon enough for the Jets, and they will be severely tested by a fired-up Wanderers side this Thursday before they are able to regroup in the New Year.
2. Fifth straight loss unthinkable for Victory
Few would have predicted that reigning champions Melbourne Victory would suffer a midseason slump to this extent. Losing four games in a row is incomprehensible for a team with their capability. Make no mistake, though, Kevin Muscat's men still remain one of the teams to beat this season.
But for Thomas Sorensen making a series of world class saves in Melbourne City's 2-1 derby win last week, the Victory would have snapped their run of losses already. In truth, Melbourne created enough chances to win two or three matches and with a strike-force led by Besart Berisha, Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Kosta Barbarouses, it won't be long before they are back to winning ways.
Indeed, that time could come this Sunday when they take on an illness-struck Perth Glory. Coach Kenny Lowe and captain Richard Garcia have both missed training sessions this week due to a virus, which does not bode well for the eighth-placed Glory.
As the saying goes, form is temporary, class is permanent. Plenty of class was shown in defeat by Melbourne Victory last week; it's only a matter of time before good form comes with it.
3. City and Roar set for spectacular clash
Melbourne City last week showed they are more than capable of mixing it with the best teams in the league, but this Sunday they will face perhaps their greatest challenge yet away to Brisbane Roar.
Last time these two teams met at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane coach John Aloisi labelled City's performance as "anti-football," condemning John van't Schip's side for defending deep and refusing to push forward.
On this occasion, City travel north to Queensland full of confidence having won their past four matches, scoring 16 goals in the process. The Roar also have a spring in their step, picking up two wins on the bounce to put them into second spot -- a position City can attain if they can win on the road.
Given the recent history between these two sides and their respective form of late, this promises to be one of the clashes of the round. Set aside some Christmas leftovers and tune into what should be a Boxing Day classic.
4. Holosko hoodoo-breaker overshadowed
As mentioned in last week's column, Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold has been reprimanded for comments he has made in the press. This has unfortunately taken the limelight away from marquee man Filip Holosko, who broke his goal drought in impressive fashion in a 1-1 draw against Wellington Phoenix last week.
Given Holosko's recent woes in front of goal, this normally would have been cause for celebration, but a late Wellington equaliser, plus Arnold's scolding, has taken the shine off the Slovakian's strike. This is a real shame for the Sky Blues, who are in desperate need of some momentum heading into the holiday season.
Sydney have picked up just seven points in as many games following a strong start to the campaign. This dip in form -- particularly in the front third -- has seen Arnold's side drop to fourth on the table, six points behind rivals Western Sydney.
On Boxing Day, Sydney FC will face the hapless Central Coast Mariners and Arnold will be hoping he stays out of the headlines this time around for what should be a comfortable victory
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5. Wellington eager to keep touch with leaders
Ernie Merrick and his side impressed throughout the opening rounds with an expansive, attacking game plan. Ignited by Michael McGlinchey, Roly Bonevacia and Roy Krishna, Wellington have continued to play with attack in mind, but have failed to capitalise on their chances.
A run of one win in five matches has resulted in the Phoenix slipping away from the competition frontrunners and if results don't go their way this week, they could fall out of the top six.
In Wellington's way this Saturday will be a resurgent Adelaide United, who have put a horror start to the campaign behind them to go three games unbeaten. Though the Reds lack the offensive arsenal of the Phoenix, coach Guillermo Amor will have his charges inspired to finish 2015 on a high.
Rob Brooks writes about Australian football and the A-League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @RobNJBrooks