A-League Round 16 kicks off tonight with a clash between two finals aspirants in Central Coast Mariners and Perth Glory. Central Coast Mariners (4th) v Perth Glory (5th) Bluetongue Stadium Friday, November 27, 8:00pm The Mariners have become the most dangerous team in the competition in the past two rounds, scoring nine goals away from home to jump up to fourth on the table, easily holding the best goal difference in the A-League.
It could be a daunting task for Dave Mitchell's Glory, who knocked five past North Queensland last week without leading striker Matt Simon and although I'm tipping the home side to win, I can't see them scoring as freely tonight as they have done in the last two matches. Verdict: Mariners 2-1.
Melbourne Victory (1st) v Gold Coast United (3rd) Etihad Stadium Saturday, November 28, 7:00pm This would get the nod as match of the round if Gold Coast had a full squad to choose from but they don't and I cannot see them beating the league leaders.
With suspensions to key defenders Kristian Rees and Bas van den Brink and injuries all over the shop, United look extremely vulnerable and this is the closest the Victory would be to a certain win all season.
But the A-League in 2009/10 has proved that there are no certainties and Gold Coast will come here with an experienced line-up full of brazen youngsters who will be keen to impress.
That said, I doubt their makeshift defence will be able to cope with likes of Archie Thompson and Carlos Hernandez as the Victory get a great opportunity to kick even further clear on top of the table. Verdict: Victory 3-1
North Queensland Fury (10th) v Adelaide United (7th) Dairy Farmers Stadium Saturday, November 28, 8:00pm local (9:00pm AEDT) The loser of this game is in serious trouble and face missing out on the finals altogether if they cannot at least scrounge a point from this fixture.
The Fury, despite copping a 5-1 hiding at the hands of the Mariners last week, probably hold the ascendency going into this match.
They attacked frequently last week but couldn't quite finish off and allowed their opponents to get the better of them late in the piece.
On the other side of the coin, Adelaide were lucky not to sink to their third defeat in their past four when teenage sensation Mathew Leckie provided a brilliant last-gasp goal to give them a share of the points at home against Gold Coast.
Goals have been hard to come by for the Reds with just 13 in 15 games and there will be added incentive for the Fury who can move a point above their opponents if they are able to expose their lack of goals and find efficiency at the other end. Verdict: Fury 1-0
Sydney FC (2nd) v Newcastle Jets (9th)Sydney Football Stadium Sunday, November 29, 5:00pm Both sides are coming off disappointing losses, mainly the Jets who allowed Wellington to record their first away win of the season when they lost 1-0 at EnergyAustralia Stadium.
Newcastle are simply not consistent enough, hence the reason they sit second bottom on the table and have scored the second least amount of goals in the league.
In the opposing camp, Sydney were outdone 2-0 by the Glory in Perth last week which was their second defeat in a row and the result forced them to relinquish their spot on top of the table.
But I think they have the class to overcome a Jets side that have lacked polish and creativity in recent times. Verdict:Sydney 2-1
Brisbane Roar (8th) v Wellington Phoenix (6th) Suncorp Stadium Sunday, November 29, 6:00pm local (7:00pm AEDT) This season's flops versus the most improved team in the competition finish off Round 16 from Suncorp Stadium.
The Roar have not lived up to expectations this term and need to turn their form around sharply if they want to figure in February action.
A toothless 1-0 home loss to Melbourne last week came just one match after they fought hard for an away win of their own against Adelaide but if they can mix their form so much, then who is to say they can't come out and wipe the floor with the Phoenix.
I do doubt that will happen as Ricki Herbert has his charges playing a disciplined but confident brand of football that has seen them jump to sixth on the table and will take much from their first away win of the season last week.
But I can't pick a winner here so am happy to sit on the fence. Verdict: 1-1 draw.