Roar win puts heat on Reds and Sydney
No longer just a battle for second place, Sunday's highly-anticipated A-League bout between bitter rivals Adelaide United and Sydney FC is shaping as a possible fight for finals survival.
Queensland's 2-1 upset of minor premiers Melbourne Victory on Friday has thrown yet another twist into the A-League's finals script, with the Roar jumping both Adelaide and Newcastle into third place.
While both Sydney and the Reds looked relatively secured of a finals berth to start the penultimate round, the Roar's shock win has heaped further pressure on both teams.
Adelaide could drop out of the top four if it goes down to Sydney and fifth-placed Newcastle beats Perth Glory in Sunday's late game.
The Blues, meanwhile, would likely be left clinging to fourth place on goal difference in defeat.
The upside is that the victor will have virtually sealed the all-important second place for the finals and the chance to host the A-League decider.
"We need to win, we know that, no one is under any illusion that there is (not) a lot at stake this week, so you don't have to paint any pictures for people," Adelaide coach John Kosmina said.
Sydney has travelled to Adelaide without Sasho Petrovski after the striker was ruled out with a niggling back injury.
The Blues, though, will be significantly boosted by the return of skipper Mark Rudan (suspension) and midfielder Robbie Middleby (calf injury) after both were sorely missed in last week's nightmare 1-0 loss to bottom club New Zealand Knights.
Adelaide, meanwhile, will resist throwing new Brazilian import Diego Walsh into the fray after his signing this week.
"He only got back into the country on Monday," said Kosmina of the Miami FC attacking midfielder who has been on trial with the Reds for the past month. "He hasn't trained with the squad for two weeks."
While arguably the fiercest rivalry in the A-League, Sydney does hold a massive edge over Adelaide on the head-to-head stakes.
The Blues have won five and lost just one of the team's seven meetings. In total, 26 goals have been scored in those seven matches - the highest number between two A-League teams.
Meanwhile, fifth-placed Newcastle will bid to keep its finals hopes alive against Perth at Members Equity Stadium.
While the Glory is out of semi-final contention, the Jets will faces tough time overcoming their hosts in a match doubling as a farewell fro Perth stalwart Bobby Despotovski.
The former Socceroos striker, who has been hampered by a back injury all season, will hang up his boots after his 241st appearance for the Glory
The 35-year-old has so far scored 113 goals for the club in the A-League and old NSL, but in forecast oppressive heat in Perth on Sunday is expected to start on the bench.