A-League season heading for thrilling finale

Nearing an end to the regular season, the Hyundai A-League ladder is finely poised to produce some late drama in the final eight rounds.

Nearing an end to the regular season, the Hyundai A-League ladder is finely poised to produce some late drama in the final eight rounds.

Only six points separates the third-placed Adelaide United from the second-bottom Perth Glory, making the difference between a home final and a failed season poised on potentially one result falling one way or another.

As it stands, 'goals scored' is the only thing putting Melbourne Victory in fourth spot ahead of the Central Coast Mariners - and that could be the difference between a home final and a road trip.

The run-in to the finals will, therefore, prove to be a thrilling one.

For the Reds, though, their fate to perhaps unseat the Western Sydney Wanderers from the top-two placings is made all the harder by five of their final eight matches being played away from home.

One of those trips is to Parramatta on March 15, but they will need to take something from their visits to Melbourne and Brisbane in the meantime if they are to remain in contention for higher semi-final honours.

Conversely, leaders Brisbane Roar have five of eight matches in the comfort of their own home, which should see them put a second hand on the Premier's Plate which they have had one on for some time now.

Victory and the Mariners have equal claims on trying to catch the Wanderers in second spot, given they sit level on points with Adelaide with 27.

The spanner in the works for Kevin Muscat's men, though, is the additional workload an AFC Champions League group-stage spot has given them.

That, and also the fact that Victory only have three more 'home' fixtures this season - not counting their derby with Melbourne Heart - might see the boys in blue out of the top-two race, and more focussed on simply preserving their top-six standing.

The out-of-form Mariners also have Champions League action to deal with, which makes the fight for a finals place all the more tantalising.

Amid all their supposed in-club woes, Sydney FC have the ideal run-in - with four home matches, mixed with four short trips.

Two of the Sky Blues' away matches are within New South Wales, while their longest ventures are just to Adelaide and Melbourne - very manageable for Frank Farina's men - who sit in sixth, and two points clear of the chasing pack.

But no side is out of the race for a finals spot, with each of Wellington, Newcastle, Perth and Heart all still well in the hunt.

The Phoenix only have three more matches at home, but the way they are playing, that won't matter to them.

Besides, their 5-0 shellacking at the hands of the Heart last time out at home might see Ernie Merrick's squad glad to escape NZ for the time being.

The Newcastle Jets are winless in five at home, so five matches at Hunter Stadium in their finale to the season does not sound as beneficial as it should.

Trips to Parramatta, Gosford and Perth also spell trouble for Clayton Zane's side.

Regardless, they are just two points outside the top six so a quick turnaround could easily salvage their season.

Perth are four points outside the finals spots, but can capitalise on their next two home fixtures - as they get the Wanderers and Victory at home at the right time, with both sides knee-deep in ACL matches at the respective times.

A couple of Glory wins there would see them in contention in the dying stages of the season.

And then there's the bottom-place Heart, who have four of their next five matches at home - and a huge chance to catapult themselves into what would be a rags-to-riches story for John van 't Schip's men.