This weekend in the Hyundai A-League there are two huge games for you to enjoy, either on Fox Sports in Australia or here in the UK on BT Sport.
NEWCASTLE JETS VS. MELBOURNE CITY
10:50 am (UK time) – Friday 27th April
Nobody could have predicted the strong campaign that Newcastle Jets would have in 2017/18. One year ago, the Jets were the recipient of the wooden spoon, ending the season tenth out of ten. Newcastle have been revitalised by Ernie Merrick’s coaching and ended the regular season in second behind Sydney FC.
Newcastle Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna pointed out in comments this week that Melbourne City are the one club in the A-League that the Jets haven’t beaten and that does ring true. In Round 9, Manny Muscat inspired City to come from behind to win 2 – 1 at McDonald Jones Stadium. In Round 18 the two teams played out a 2 – 2 draw, City twice coming from behind to rescue a point. In Round 25, the Melbourne club demolished the Jets 3 – 0 back at McDonald’s Jones Stadium.
Certainly, the McDonald’s Jones has been a happy hunting ground for City, having won on four of their last five visits and in that time they have outscored the Jets by 15 goals to five.
There have been injury concerns for both sides. Newcastle Jets are set to regain captain Nigel Boogaard while City appear to be losing a race against time to have their own skipper available. Michael Jakobsen departed training early on Tuesday, unable to complete a full training session. If Jakobsen doesn’t shake off his fitness worries, Malik is likely to stay in defencewith Oliver Bozanic and Luke Brattan to continue in midfield. Should Jackobsen be available, expect Malik and Brattan to marshal midfield. Ernie Merrick has a fit squad, save for Ben Kantarovski with Ronny Vargas seemingly having recovered from a groin concern.
PREDICTION: Newcastle Jets 0 Melbourne City 2
SYDNEY FC VS. MELBOURNE VICTORY
10:50 am (UK time) – Saturday 28th April
The Big Blue is the blockbuster semi-final in a repeat of last season’s grand final but there will be no reduction in intensity.
If you think Melbourne City have the hoodoo over Newcastle Jets, Sydney FC’s hold over Melbourne Victory stretches back some 27 months, with the most notable loss coming last season in the final when Sydney claimed the title following a penalty shootout after the scores were locked at 1-1 after 120 minutes.
It’s not just Sydney’s domination in recent times that should concern Kevin Muscat. It’s well known that Victory do not travel well in finals football. As it happens they have lost their last five playoff matches outside of Victoria. Their only away win came in 2009 against Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium.
Graham Arnold and Kevin Muscat are former Socceroos teammates and despite being known as friends, the bond between the two is not as strong as it used to be after Victory refused to give the Sydney players a guard of honour before they met in the final round of the regular season two weeks ago.
It may be hard to see beyond Sydney FC and especially considering Graham Arnold is headed off to the Socceroos job following the World Cup but if Leroy George can continue his fine form alongside the likes of Besart Berisha, Victory can deny Sydney the opportunity to be the first club to win the triple – the premiership, championship and FFA Cup.
PREDICTION: Sydney 1 Melbourne Victory 2