The A-League kicks off Round 17 with the clash between the Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Victory at Westpac Stadium. Wellington Phoenix (6th) v Melbourne Victory (1st) Westpac Stadium Friday, December 4, 7:30pm local (5:30pm AEDT) Wellington's great home form and Melbourne's brilliant away form basically make this a 50/50 contest but I think the league leaders are travelling well enough to edge past the New Zealanders here.
A 4-0 trouncing of Gold Coast United last week put the Victory five points clear on top of the table whilst the Phoenix came undone in Brisbane, losing to a previously out of form Roar side 4-1.
Victory's Archie Thompson was back to his best last week and with help from Robbie Kruse along with key midfielder Carlos Hernandez, the visitors should have enough potency in attack to notch up what would be a fantastic away win. Verdict: Victory 2-1.
Adelaide United (10th) v Newcastle Jets (8th) Hindmarsh Stadium Friday, December 4, 7:30pm local (8:00pm AEDT) Adelaide hit a new low last week when they were defeated by North Queensland and dropped to the bottom of the table as the Jets caused the upset of the round by accounting for Sydney 3-1.
On form it would be easy to pick Newcastle, especially after their win last week was a way and generally speaking their form away from EnergyAustralia Stadium this season has been reasonable.
The Reds will be determined to record a win and pick up a vital three points but with former Leeds striker Michael Bridges now adjusting positively to life in the A-League with the Jets, the visitors might just be too strong. Verdict: Newcastle 1-0
Sydney FC (2nd) v North Queensland Fury (9th)Sydney Football Stadium Saturday, December 5, 7:00pm Despite losing their past three, Sydney remain second on the table as teams below them jockey for position but they will find they have fallen five points behind Melbourne Victory.
A 3-1 loss at home to Newcastle last week would have hurt especially as a win would have given them some breathing space from 3rd and 4th placed Central Coast and Gold Coast.
The Fury produced a much-needed win last week at home over Adelaide and will take solace in the fact they managed to get the job done against the Sky Blues at the Sydney Football Stadium back in round 6.
With Robbie Fowler back on the scorers list and within two of league leader Shane Smeltz, the Fury will be desperately pushing forward to nick an early goal but I sense a stalemate in this one, although some goals will be scored. Verdict: 1-1 draw
Gold Coast United (4th) v Central Coast Mariners (3rd) Skilled Park Saturday, December 5, 8:00pm local (9:00pm AEDT) The match of the week for Round 17 with third playing fourth for a chance to kick clear of fifth.
United struggled last week with a makeshift defence against a rampant Melbourne whilst the Mariners were held goalless by Perth in their 0-0 draw that saw them overtake tonight's opponents on the table.
Gold Coast striker Shane Smeltz has been quiet in recent weeks and will be looking to hit back with at least a goal as Central Cost will be keen to get back to the away form of the two matches prior to last week that saw them net nine goals and pick up six points.
In a tough match, I'm tipping the home side to bounce back with the return of four key players (Bas van den Brink, Kristian Rees, Steve Pantelidis and Jess Vanstrattan) who will strengthen their defence and keep the visitors at bay. Verdict: Gold Coast 2-1
Perth Glory (5th) v Brisbane Roar (7th) Members Equity Stadium Sunday, December 6, 4:00pm local (7:00pm AEDT) The lone Sunday game this week features Perth and Brisbane who are both seeking to push into the top six.
The Glory are undefeated in their past three outings and are tough to beat at home whilst the Roar bounced back to form with a 4-1 demolition of Wellington last week.
Roar forwards Reinaldo and Sergio van Dijk seem to work well together and just need enough supply from the likes of Tommy Oar, Mitch Nichols and Charlie Miller to produce a winning score but the Glory have proved in the last few weeks that they can be hard to score against and at home, in front of their loyal fans might have the edge over their visitors. Verdict: Glory 1-0