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A-League preview - Round 9

Round 9 of A-League action poses some tough encounters in the tightest contest since the league's inception. With just two points separating top and seventh place, the competition is capable of producing all types of results, making predictions a disaster, but once again, we will try our best to tip the winners.

Tonight, the Wellington Phoenix are away to league leaders Gold Coast United who have somehow held on to top spot despite losing their last two and taking just one point from their past three outings.

The return of former Phoenix star Shane Smeltz to the United line-up from suspension is an enormous in for the home side who missed his creativity last week despite scoring twice against the Melbourne Victory.

Brazilian midfielder Robson has been included in the squad following a knee injury but Miron Bleiberg will be without suspended Steve Fitzsimmons and Steve Pantelidis which may create problems in defence.

In the Phoenix camp, playmaker Daniel returns from personal leave and may be included in the line-up to the team that was unlucky not to take the points against Central Coast Mariners last week.

This is a hard game to call with the recent poor form of United and the four-game unbeaten run of the Phoenix but I believe the current league leaders will hold their position on top of the table. Verdict: 2-1 Gold Coast

On Saturday, Perth Glory host North Queensland Fury after a solid away win over the Newcastle Jets.

The Glory now find themselves in second position and should go in relatively unchanged in their clash with the bottom-placed Fury.

Ian Ferguson's men cannot take a trick this season and let in two late goals to go down to Adelaide United at home last week.

It looks as though the Glory will continue their good recent run of form and account for the Fury who are in desperate need of a season-lifting away win. Verdict: Glory 2-0.

Over in Melbourne, the Victory are at home against the Brisbane Roar.

The reigning champions have not been beaten since round 4 and have strung together two handy away wins in the past two weeks which holds them in good stead to grab the points against the Roar.

Last time these two met, they produced an epic six-goal thriller, taking a share of the points but somehow I cannot see a similar result with Ernie Merrick finally getting the best out of his men.

The potential return of Grand Final hero Tom Pondeljak to the line-up is a boost for the Victory whilst the Roar are still dealing with plenty of injuries. Verdict: Victory 2-0 to be the first team to keep the Roar goalless.

For the first time, we will see two matches on Monday, beginning with the Sydney FC v Central Coast Mariners clash at Sydney Football Stadium.

The Sky Blues have dropped three of their last four outings as the Mariners come off an entertaining 0-0 draw against Wellington last week.

Sydney are likely to get back star striker John Aloisi, midfielder Terry McFlynn and defender Stephan Keller - and if all three play, they should win.

The Mariners will be without Shane Huke but could welcome back Nik Mrdja and Brad Porter, however, I think the home side can do enough to land the points. Verdict:Sydney 1-0.

Finally, Adelaide United are at home to the Newcastle Jets.

The Reds found form last week with a 2-0 victory over North Queensland Fury and with the return of Alemao from injury, should be good enough to hold out the Jets who have lost their past three.

Veteran striker Sasho Petrovski and new signing Michael Bridges may provide a spark up front and the grunt of returning midfielder Jobe Wheelhouse will be important but Aurelio Vidmar will be urging his Reds to get a positive result at home and I believe they can achieve that. Verdict: Adelaide 2-1.

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Andrew Slevison
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Andrew Slevison

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