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A-League preview - Round 18

Round 18 of the A-League begins tonight with North Queensland Fury at home to Perth Glory.

North Queensland Fury (9th) v Perth Glory (5th) Dairy Farmers Stadium Friday, December 11, 7:330pm local (8:30pm AEDT) The Fury were back to their defensive worst last week when Sydney swept them aside 4-1 whilst the Glory were unlucky to get the points against the Roar despite coming from behind to record a 1-1 draw.

Ian Ferguson has included Chris Tadrosse, Karl Dodd and Dyron Daal in his Fury squad and thankfully does not have any more injuries to deal with as Glory coach Dave Mitchell has Scott Bulloch returning from injury as Jimmy Downey and Adrija Jukic have been promoted.

Leading goalscorer Branko Jelic is out for the Glory and will miss two weeks with an ankle injury meaning Mile Sterjovski could be partnered up front by Victor Sikora. The fact the Robbie Fowler and Daniel McBreen are beginning to get better as an attacking pair may be worrying for Mitchell whose defence is currently undermanned.

The Fury have a knack of bouncing back from poor performances and I think they can do it again on this occasion. Verdict: Fury 2-1.

Wellington Phoenix (7th) v Sydney FC (2nd) FMG Stadium, Palmerston North Saturday, December 12, 7:00pm local (5:00pm AEDT) The Phoenix are out to beat Sydney's run of 15 games unbeaten at home although they are in unfamiliar surroundings themselves.

This match is being played in Palmerston North which may actually be the undoing of the Phoenix's great home form in recent times and especially as a rampant Sydney outfit are in town.

The Sky Blues brushed past North Queensland last week with a 4-1 win and strikers Alex Brosque and John Aloisi in fantastic form, being fed by the likes of Karol Kisel and Shannon Cole.

The big out for the Phoenix is their New Zealand international goalkeeper Mark Paston who will miss up to six weeks with a knee injury but the good news is that striker Chris Greenacre will be back to add spice to the attacking stocks.

This is a very tough game to pick with both sides showing okay form recently but I'm leaning towards a draw. Verdict: 1-1 draw

Central Coast Mariners (4th) v Melbourne Victory (1st) Bluetongue Stadium Saturday, December 12, 7:00pm Undoubtedly the match of the round between fourth and first.

The Mariners have the wood over the league leaders, beating them twice at home this season including a 4-0 romp in round 14 but I have the feeling the result might be reversed here.

The Victory were brave last week after being reduced to ten men, then conceding a goal before getting an equaliser and almost a winner away to Wellington.

Central Coast gave up three points last week when they were a goal up against Gold Coast but conceded twice late to go home empty-handed and with the injury of Michael McGlinchey for the Mariners being cancelled out by the suspension of Melbourne's Nick Ward, neither side has any major ins or outs. Victory's away form is good enough for this. Verdict: Victory 1-0

Brisbane Roar (8th) v Adelaide United (10th) Suncorp Stadium Saturday, December 12, 8:00pm local (9:00pm AEDT) If Adelaide lose this it will be disastrous but they have not been able to respond when the chips have been down so far this season.

The Roar have got their season back on track to some point with a win and a draw from their past two and probably take enough form into this to be firm favourites.

The Reds will lose midfielder Kristian Sarkies who is out with a quad injury whilst Brisbane welcome back the hard-working Massimo Murdocca into their squad who is returning from a broken leg and is sure to create a buzz around the dressing room.

A few departures during the week for the Roar may unite the group and it should be enough to get over last season's runners-up who have not had a win since round 11. Verdict: Roar 2-0

Newcastle Jets (6th) v Gold Coast United (3rd) EnergyAustralia Stadium Sunday, December 13, 5:00pm Newcastle will be looking to cement their spot in the top six whilst Gold Coast will be determined to close the gap on the top two.

Both teams take winning form into this match with the Jets coming off the back of two wins, both on the road.

Branko Culina seems to have instilled some solidarity in the squad which has turned their fortunes around on the pitch and moved them from near the bottom of the table to fighting for a finals spot.

The loss of striker Michael Bridges to a hamstring injury could prove costly but departing skipper Matt Thompson has hit some brilliant form, netting in the past two outings and providing plenty for his side.

Gold Coast showed they have some fight by coming from behind to record a gritty win over Central Coast last week and were served well by substitute Andrew Barisic who provided the equaliser for Shane Smeltz before grabbing the winner himself.

Another tough one to call but with the loss of Bridges, I doubt the Jets can win but can do enough to thwart the visitors chances. Verdict: 1-1 draw

Andrew Slevison
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Andrew Slevison

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