Round 9. Can you believe we’ve made it this far? The season is flying faster than a dog seeking freedom does at the sight of an open gate. At round 9 it’s kind of nice to just take a moment, breathe and enjoy the competition before it really reaches crunch time. Although maybe the only reason I can do it this week is because a bye for Sydney FC means I’m not going through the emotions of having my expectations raised with 20 odd minute killer Kennedy free kicks, to go on and dash all hope through losing to Kerr headers.
Anyway, the business end of the season is fast approaching, but there is still so so so much room for upsets. It’s going to be better than the day you found out your Nan leaves the lollies on the top shelf, accessible thanks to some ungraceful kitchen bench climbing or a pair of tongs. Let’s get on with this rounds predictions hey? In the words of many commentators, “there’s plenty to play for”.
Canberra United v Brisbane Roar
Ohh ahh Canberra. Whilst every other side seems to have had a quiet, chill holiday period, maybe posting a Merry Christmas on social media, things have been really chugging in the nation’s capital. The gunner in Canberra’s midfield of O’Sullivan is to remain at the club, making for an absolutely mouth watering battle with Roar’s Boureille this weekend. Whilst Sykes is back in the fold, dusting her boots off after a short retirement, being a replacement for Prior. The two sides contrast like a lemon with a watermelon. Roar build from their solidity in the back and work the combinations, all within a solid type of formation, where it’s clear everyone has their roles. Canberra often have three in the back, have looked exposed away from home defensively, and heavily rely on a lynch pin in the midfield to remain consistent, whilst players all around are moving like a rubix cube. Based off form Roar have to come into this in the driver’s seat, but McKellar Park is an untamed beast for travelling sides and Canberra have turned it on at home this season. Still defences win matches and Canberra without Prior is going to make their back three wobbly.
Prediction: Canberra United 1-3 Brisbane Roar
Melbourne Victory v Perth Glory
Gathering your inner ABBA for inspiration, draw a deep breathe: “and the winner takkkkeeesss it alllllllll”. Massive points are up for grabs here, it’ll be essentially a six pointer, with a draw weighing as hefty as a loss with both Brisbane and Adelaide in a prime sport to over take them like those flaming P platers fanging it in 100km zones. I’m going to swallow my pride here and say that Glory’s defence last weekend looked solid, in contrast to my usual words on Glory’s defence. They dealt with balls getting into the box really well, their display against Sydney probably looking the strongest defensively so far. Now they need to build off this and manage to cut Dowie off. Meanwhile Victory have had two rough games in a row, where Dowie has been cut off, meaning their supply of goals has run drier than usual. Naughton is more than capable of nullifying Dowie this weekend too, so Victory are going to need to look elsewhere for goals in this one. Perth have no problem scoring. The moment a teams defence is slightly high, like Victory will when they’re searching for a goal inevitably at some point, Perth will be working the counters as they’ve done all season. This game is on Perth to ensure it is buried before the end of the match, as Victory have been showing they can rally late. Whilst these late rallies from the Melbourne side have been unsuccessful so far, there is bound to be a time it works. At home, fighting to re-establish themselves in first place, it may well be the weekend we finally see Melbourne with the late come back so long as they remain in touching distance. Lovely for Victory fans, a nightmare for the match reporter.
Prediction: Melbourne Victory 3-2 Perth Glory
Newcastle Jets v Adelaide United
This game could almost play out like a chess match. It’ll be one for the thinkers and a match of margins. With the Jets welcoming Crummer back into the fray, they’ll be set up with a back three that looked both smart and solid, whilst Adelaide’s movement, in how they set up in defence, without the ball has been their most impressive element of play this season. The Jets have demonstrated patience and the ability to play deep to combat the dangers of some impressive, in form centre forwards. Meanwhile, Adelaide are the team who don’t demand the ball, instead will wait patiently for their opportunities, pressing only in certain opportune moments and demanding the other side to dictate a lot of play. For the Jets to tip the balance in their favour here, they’ll need to cut out the threat of Latsko, whilst finding the aerial balls into the box to really get Adelaide’s defensive unit on their back foot. How the Jets deal with the loss of Smith, her pace and ability to shift a match, will be important and likely set the standard for the rest of their season. However, Adelaide look primed to build off their momentum from their win against Victory. Expect Adelaide to really be pressing the Jets centre backs at the first whiff of unease from the Newcastle defence, much like my aunt’s labrador hones in on me on my first bite of food.
Prediction: Newcastle Jets 0-2 Adelaide United
Western Sydney Wanderers v Melbourne City
City seem to have found their straps, so will the Wanderers be able to produce a performance to be a thorn in City’s stride? On paper this game is close to a write off. City full of current Matildas, and a host of quality internationals, comparative to the Wanderers who have ex-Matildas, local players and a few internationals not quite to the standard of their southern opposition. If this game is to play out differently than on paper, the Wanderers are going to want to keep City on the ropes and goalless. If City remain goalless for longer than half an hour, they will really start pushing forward, sending the whole pack forward in search for a goal. This is when the Wanderers will need to strike, on the counter, with City being caught out. The old philosophy of hitting the ball long and on the break? The Wanderers will be wanting to do this, and if Yeoman-Dale is at centre forward again, then they’ve got the pace to implement this age old strategy. However, the look of City in their last two shows they’re here to play. They’ll be sniffing blood, with the opportunity to really press and perhaps break into the top four, City will be wanting to make this a routine win on the course of what they’ll be hoping for as a fourth championship trophy. If City find a lead, they will be more than capable of keeping it, and their defence will suddenly become more impenetrable than that unopenable jar. Honestly, Melbourne sides so far are 4 for 4 against Sydney sides, so I’d just like to one up them and at least not have another lose here.
Prediction: Western Sydney Wanderers 1-1 Melbourne City