Ernie and Newcastle trying to stay near the top
As we head into the turn of the Christmas and New Year festivities, the Newcastle Jets will be aiming to finish the year on a high by keeping pace with league leaders Sydney FC.
Despite the injury turmoil at the Jets, particularly the long-term injuries to their star players, the Jets haven't had any issues in readjusting and continuing their exciting brand of football.
However, Ernie Merrick is looking to sign an injury replacement player to help cover the losses of Roy O'Donovan and Ronnie Vargas.
We have to ask ourselves if they need to resort to such measures? If it ain't broke, don't fix it. With no pressure of FFA Cup duties or Asian Champions League travel, the Jets aren't in such a predicament that they need a short-term replacement. Should they sign him, it may pose selection headaches if O'Donovan does make a comeback before season's end.
On the flip side of the coin the Wanderers might be headed for a repeat performance of last season, an unprecedented 12 drawn matches saw them just finish 6th last campaign. The Wanderers are currently 8th, 2 points off finals. Interestingly, they currently hold a 7 match unbeaten streak against the high flying Jets, making for a tasty clash of surprise packets vs the historical favourites.
Gombau remained coy on how long the process would take. While the Wanderers faithful might seem disgruntled, there's still plenty of time in the season for the Spaniard to influence his magic. The in-form Jets will be a stern task for a recovering Western Sydney outfit.
Will home ground advantage help top versus bottom?
These two teams couldn't be more polar opposites this season than they are. Phoenix have conceded the most goals in the competition (21), Sydney have conceded the least (9). Sydney have had the most-clean sheets (5), Phoenix have had the least (1). Currently, Sydney have nearly five times the points of the Phoenix this season.
The Phoenix are having a rough time at the moment, and this isn't helped by the fact the club keeps losing players and personnel. Two weeks ago, marquee midfielder, Gui Finkler was released from his contract. This week, assistant coach, Rado Vidosic, and key midfielder, Dario Vidosic, walked away from the club. Will the Phoenix be able to defy the odds, and produce a strong performance, amid the turmoil at the club this week?
The fact that this match is in Wellington will actually benefit the Sky Blues, surprisingly, who have remained undefeated at Westpac Stadium in the last three seasons. Sydney midfielder, Brandon O'Neill even commented on this point earlier this week, "A trip over to Wellington is always a good thing for Sydney FC, we love travelling there, we love playing there and more importantly we love winning there, so we're looking forward to the weekend."
Sydney goes into this match on a five-game winning streak, while Phoenix go into this match on a four-match winless streak. Will Sydney continue their strong form this season, or will the Phoenix surprise everyone and take down the league leaders?
Who will take home the Melbourne derby?
The Melbourne derby, one of the A-League's most anticipated fixtures.
This game could not come at a better time for the two Melbourne sides, who both could take a truck load of confidence from a big win against one of their fiercest rivals.
With both sides having struggled for consistency and form at times this campaign, a convincing win against a cross town enemy could be enough to see either of their seasons given a kick in the rear end.
One interesting situation to come from the lead up to the game is the inclusion of Ross McCormack in the Melbourne City squad for the match. After picking up a knock last round that had City fans fearing an ACL rupture, the striker will now sensationally line up for his side to spearhead their attack, or so Melbourne City might have you believe.
The McCormack inclusion may be a case of mind games, with Cahill and Fornaroli also gone they may just be trying to keep Victory defenders from getting complacent ahead of their big clash.
Interesting clash in Adelaide - which way will it go?
Adelaide United seem to be in a fairly healthy position for the time being this season. Sitting right in the middle of the table, the Reds need to continue their form if they're to make finals for this season. The squad will take a hit when some key players are called up to the under-23 Asian Championships, but there have been whispers of a reunion between the club and an old face.
Similarly, the Mariners are also set to lose a couple of first team players to the same tournament, notably that of Daniel De Silva. Still feeling hard done by last round's dubious VAR red card debacle, the Mariners will also have to deal with the suspensions of Wout Brama and Jake McGing.
Now, Dario Vidosic won't be available until the January transfer window opens, but the loss of Wout Brama isn't going to do the Mariners any favours without one of their key midfielders. This match has the makings of a team hungry for finals contention, but both sides may also play cautiously due to the misdemeanours of the VAR to both teams last round.
A supercharged high scoring encounter, or a quiet possession based snore fest? (Unfortunately, I'm not referring to the cricket). Both are completely possible here. Boxing Day awaits!
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