Preview of A-League round 25 (all times AEDT):
BRISBANE ROAR V MELBOURNE HEART at Skilled Park, 5:30pm
Head-to-head: Brisbane 2, Melbourne Heart 0, Drawn 0
Last meeting: Brisbane Roar 2 bt Melbourne Heart 1 at AAMI Park, Nov 2010
TAB Sportsbet: Brisbane $1.55, Draw $3.65, Heart $6.
Brisbane are in blistering form and will be looking to extend their record-equalling 22-match unbeaten streak against A-League newcomers the Heart. But with three matches of the regular season to go for the sixth-placed Heart they'll be desperate for a win to secure a finals berth with Wellington and Newcastle breathing down their neck. The Heart will be without winger Adrian Zahra who suffered a season-ending injury after a horror tackle in their Melbourne derby by the Victory's Kevin Muscat. But the Heart will be revved-up after that match and will be looking to take advantage of a Roar side missing in-form Socceroos midfielder Matt McKay still on Asian Cup duty.
Key: The pitch. With Skilled Park's surface not in the best shape Brisbane's one-touch style of football could suffer.
PERTH GLORY V SYDNEY FC at nib Stadium, 9:45pm
Head-to-head: Glory 4, Sydney 7, Drawn 0
Last meeting: Sydney FC 2 bt Perth Glory 0 at Parramatta Stadium, Nov 2010
TAB Sportsbet: Glory $2.85, Draw $3.30, Sydney $2.30
Defending champions Sydney FC look to finally be hitting some form producing their best run this season with a four-game unbeaten streak. Their new Finnish weapon Juho Makela has had an instant impact and young striker Dimitri Petratos, who has scored three goals in their last three games, is on fire. Meanwhile fellow bottom-of-the-table battlers Perth have come off the back of two losses including last weekend's 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Wellington. Sydney however, will be without fiery goalkeeper Liam Reddy who copped a two-match suspension for striking the Central Coast's Matt Simon in last weekend's 2-2 draw.
Key: Motivation. With coach Vitezslav Lavicka admitting their A-League season is over and his focus is now on the Asian Champions League, the defending champs may just be going through the motions in their last four games.
Tip: Sydney FC
ADELAIDE UNITED v CENTRAL COAST MARINERS at Hindmarsh Stadium, 6:30pm
Head-to-head: United 6, Mariners 6, Drawn 6
Last meeting: Central Coast Mariners 2 bt Adelaide United 0 at Bluetongue Stadium, Dec 2010
TAB Sportsbet: United $2.05, Draw $3.35, Mariners $3.35
There's not much separating these two teams ahead of this season-shaping clash. With four matches to go before the finals the Mariners currently sit in second place only a point ahead of the Reds after their come-from-behind draw against Sydney on Sunday, and coach Graham Arnold is now eyeing top spot. Adelaide however, will be high on confidence coming off the back of their 8-1 annihilation of North Queensland Fury on Friday. Argentine import Patricio Perez is hitting form, finally justifying the hype from Arnold. He scored a goal with a menacing run into the box and provided the crucial through-ball for the equaliser in the draw against Sydney. Adelaide coach Rini Coolen will be hoping new Croatian signing Dario Bodrusic, who arrived in Adelaide on Sunday, will be ready to debut against the Mariners.
Key: Perez. Fresh from scoring his first goal from open play for the Mariners Perez has declared he has finally reached his comfort zone in the A-League.
WELLINGTON PHOENIX v NEWCASTLE JETS at Westpac Stadium, 3pm
Head-to-head: Phoenix 7, Jets 4, Drawn 1
Last meeting: Wellington Phoenix 4 bt Newcastle Jets 0 at Westpac Stadium, Dec 2010
TAB Sportsbet: Phoenix $1.60, Draw $3.65, Jets $5.25
This will be a do-or-die clash for the Phoenix and the Jets as the finals approach with both sides sitting just outside the top six. The Phoenix are on 32, just a point outside the top six with a game in hand while the Jets sit a only point behind them with two games in hand. The Jets have only won once at Westpac Stadium in six previous visits, with a 4-0 drubbing the result of their last trip across the Tasman. They will be boosted however by the return of Jeremy Brockie and experienced left-back Adam D'Apuzzo from injury. They will however be without winger Ali Abbas, who has suffered a setback during his recovery from a groin injury. Wellington, who don't travel well, will be happy to be back at what has become their fortress Westpac Stadium, after going down 2-0 to ladder leaders Brisbane on Wednesday.
Key: How will Newcastle travel? Wellington enjoyed 25 undefeated matches at home before Brisbane and then Central Coast lowered their colours.
Tip: Wellington Phoenix
MELBOURNE VICTORY v GOLD COAST UNITED at AAMI Park, 5pm
Head-to-head: Victory 3, Gold Coast United 2, Drawn 0
Last meeting: Gold Coast United 1 bt Melbourne Victory 0 at Etihad Stadium, Nov 2010
TAB Sportsbet: Victory $2.40, Draw $3.35, United $2.70
The Victory put a four-match winless run behind them with a comprehensive 3-0 win against North Queensland Fury on Wednesday night. But it came at a price with the loss of midfielder Billy Celeski who suffered a season-ending hip injury late in the match. To add insult to injury they'll be without influential skipper Kevin Muscat who is facing a likely career ending suspension for his horrific tackle on Heart youngster Adrian Zahra in the weekend. And with star striker Robbie Kruse still on Socceroos duty the depth of Victory's squad is set to be tested against an in form Gold Cost side. The fourth-placed Gold Coast produced a 5-1 drubbing of Newcastle on Saturday mainly thanks to Bruce Djite who scored his first A-League treble.
Key: Djite. The 23-year-old striker is in ominous form. The Victory will be in lots of trouble if he can come close to Saturday's hat-trick heroics.
Tip: Gold Coast United