Will no Finkler hamper the Victory? Can Shane Smeltz actually find some semblance of form? And who will crack, Wanderers or the Mariners?
Newcastle Jets v Adelaide United: Are the Jets strong enough?
Newcastle are a good side, with plenty of talented players - but too often this season they-ve failed to impose themselves on games. Maybe it-s a confidence issue - despite their obvious strengths, they don-t quite seem to have the belief to really go for the jugular. Or perhaps it-s something more technical? Like conceding a frankly embarrassing 28 goals in 14 games, second only to Sydney FC.
A lack of discipline and experience at the back has cost the Jets too many times this season and they-re not likely to get any sympathy from an Adelaide side that tore Sydney FC apart last week.
John Kosmina-s side wobbled a bit before Christmas but the display in round 14 shows they are still serious contenders, and boast a wealth of attacking options. They might get a bit of trouble from the Jets, but there-s a good chance they will simply score more than their hosts. Unless Newcastle can stand up for themselves.
Melbourne Victory v Wellington Phoenix: Can Victory cope without Finkler?
It was arguably one of Melbourne Victory-s worst performances of the season when they fell to the Wanderers and a big part of that was that they didn-t have their midfield maestro at their disposal.
Both Archie Thompson and Marco Rojas struggled to make an impact without the Brazilian feeding them with his creative passing and brilliant vision and as a result both men tried far too hard to create opportunities themselves and it just wasn-t working for them.
With Marcos Flores already feeling the weight of expectation on his shoulders you could almost argue it might be worth throwing Isaka Cernak or Jimmy Jeggo into the mix, but neither have the close control needed, Theo Markelis possesses that sort of control, but he may not suit the midfield role that would be required of him.
Simply put if Flores is ever to find form, then the time is now. He has to pick up his game and find the sort of form that took him to a Johnny Warren Medal for Adelaide United, because he-s starting to go the way of former AFL Brownlow Medallist Shane Woewodin, one great season followed by a whole lot of nothing.
Perth v Sydney FC: Where will the goals come from?
It used to be we asked this about the Wanderers and while they weren-t scoring Perth were largely ignored, but now 14 weeks into the competition and all the Glory can get is a goal a game.
They are struggling in the final third and much of the mystery surrounds Shane Smeltz.
Is he fully fit? Are there other issues at play? Because the once-prolific Kiwi has only found the net twice this year and that simply isn-t good enough.
It-s not like the Glory don-t get the ball into good areas either, they do. It-s just what they have or lack in the final third is killing them and Smeltz and his inability to hit the target is an increasing issue.
There is plenty of strike power sitting around waiting for a chance. Billy Mehmet started the season well and maybe he-s the man Ian Ferguson needs to go to or maybe he can hope that Sydney-s weak defence will give Smeltz enough opportunity to get his confidence up, because truth be told Perth-s marquee man isn-t doing enough and surely the gaffer-s patience is beginning to wear thin.
As for Sydney, they have a similar issue, but with Del Piero likely back in the side, their creativity will get the boost it so badly needs.
Melbourne Heart v Brisbane Roar: Which coach can achieve consistency?
Brisbane managed their first back-to-back wins over the past two rounds as Mike Mulvey aims to rebuild the champions- confidence. The new boss said from the start the Roar weren-t that far away from getting back to their best but given their best was a record-breaking 32-game unbeaten run, being pleased with winning two on the trot shows just how hard consistency is to achieve.
Mulvey has at least stopped the Roar conceding so many goals as he looks to tighten up their structure. They-re not quite the entertainers of old just yet but, stopping the rot at the back is always the first step to getting a team back on track.
John Aloisi has struggled with that problem all season. Heart have the ability to hurt their opponents but they-re just too flaky at the back. Their last six fixtures run DWLLLW - it-s no wonder they-ve been languishing near the bottom of the ladder all season. Aloisi has promise but he has to tighten his team up.
Wanderers FC v Central Coast Mariners: Who will break the deadlock?
Who would have ever thought that their round one draw with the Mariners was such a pointer of things to come for the Wanderers?
They held their own against the cream of the A-League crop, but many dismissed it as a ‘brave- first-up performance at that time. How wrong we were.
Now that we are halfway through the season it has been found that these teams are battling out the Premier-s Plate with Adelaide and Melbourne Victory and both have done it on the back of brick-wall like defences.
After 14 rounds they possess the best (Mariners) and second best (Wanderers) defensive records in the competition and back in their opening match they played for 90 minutes with zero goals.
The question remains who will crack? Both sides have excellent keepers in their line-ups and both have the ability to score a goal, but the question is who will break down?
The Mariners have shown time and time again that no matter who they play they usually have the answer and with Danny McBreen back in the side they will grow an attacking leg, but so will the Wanderers who welcome back Aaron Mooy and between he and Shinji Ono they might just prove too much for Graham Arnold-s men.