A-League preview - Round 4
Round 4 of A-League kicks off tonight with a double-header involving last season's Grand Finalists. In the early game, 2008/09 runners-up Adelaide United host the winless North Queensland Fury at Hindmarsh Stadium.
The Reds (1 win, 2 losses) will be without inspirational skipper Travis Dodd for the first time with injury after succumbing to a calf problem which may upset their midfield formation, especially as fellow mids Fabien Barbiero and Kristian Sarkies will be on the sidelines.
Add to that Brazilian winger Cassio and Aurelio Vidmar has some slight problems to deal with.
However, striker Lloyd Owusu is expected to be handed a full start and may be joined by Korean import Inseob Shin whilst the dependable Paul Reid will return from an adductor injury.
In the Fury (3 losses) camp, coach Ian Ferguson may tinker with a line-up that has failed to grab any points and has not scored since its opening match.
Once again, there will be focus on star striker Robbie Fowler but others in the team may need to start sharing the workload or it could be a long season.
Verdict: Adelaide to do enough, 2-1.
Ernie Merrick's team have lost their past three at Members Equity Stadium and after the Glory recorded their first win last week, it may again prove to be a tough task.
The home side may welcome back 36-year old Brazilian midfielder Amaral, who has been given a nine-game guest stint by Dave Mitchell who will be hoping the recent form of Scott Neville and Naum Sekulovski can continue to give the Glory plenty of forward movement down the flanks.
Archie Thompson got off the mark last week against the Fury and will be hungry for goals at a venue he admits has been tough for him in the past.
Overall, a tough game to call, hence the fence-sitting.
Verdict: Draw, 1-1.
Frank Farina has been buoyed by the news that Brazilian attacker Reinaldo is available for selection although the former Socceroos boss will have to watch on from the sidelines following last week's incident in a fiery draw with Wellington Phoenix.
If Reinaldo can make an impact, the Roar's attacking options will be bolstered as Sergio van Dijk is already in great goal scoring form and winger Henrique is providing headaches for opposition defenders.
The Mariners were unlucky to not get all three points against Sydney FC at Bluetongue last week, after Adam Kwasnik had an injury-time penalty saved.
Their style of game under Lawrie McKinna will be hard for the Roar to break down, but in saying that, I feel that the Roar's luck is due to change after giving up the lead in their past two outings.
Verdict: Roar 1-0 but Mariners will have their chances.
The Jets dropped their first match of the season last week, going down to the Glory 2-0 in a lackluster performance.
Compare that to the high-flying United who accounted for Adelaide 2-0 away and it seems a foregone conclusion where the points will end up.
The match creates extra interest because of the 'Culina factor' - where father Branko will be attempting to thwart son Jason in the Gold Coast midfield.
The Jets coach has been around long enough to know where loyalties lie in this cut-throat industry and I'm sure he will be doing his offspring no favours but the Socceroos midfielder should have the answers and lead his side to a fourth straight victory.
Verdict: Gold Coast 3-1.
The Sky Blues somehow managed a point against the Mariners last week but their form before that was solid, defeating Adelaide 1-0 and the Fury 3-2 away.
It seems the 'Bling FC' tag has now gone, as the players are now up for a scrap under Vitezslav Lavicka and with the defence beginning to gel, it could prove difficult for Ricki Herbert's Phoenix to find their way into Clint Bolton's goal.
The Phoenix did, however, show their own fighting qualities last week, netting in the 85th minute to take a point home from Brisbane but I think they will find this away trip a bit tougher, especially with number one shot-stopper Mark Paston attending to family matters.
Verdict: Sky Blues to win 2-0.