The Big Five Questions | Round 21

The force is strong with Victory and the Wanderers - but will Ange Postecoglou or Tony Popovic prove to be the master?

Newcastle Jets v Melbourne Heart: Have Heart got the mental strength? Every game for those last two finals spots are six-pointers now and this one at Hunter Stadium could be a doozy. The Jets know nothing less than a win will get them into the top six, and the Heart have to overcome their travel sickness in the face of hungry opponents.

Newcastle are four games without a win, their last coming in a tepid round 16 1-0 grinder against the Roar. Hardly the form to inspire a finals charge - and yet, somehow, they-re still within touching distance of the top six.

A home win would see them leapfrog the Heart and that little sniff of finals could be all they need.

Melbourne, however, have the high ground. John Aloisi-s side troubles on the road are well known but we-ve seen enough of them at home to know they do have what it takes to win games, and Eli Babalj-s return has certainly made them a much more dangerous attacking side.

But we-ve also seen Heart shaken too many times this season. The question is, do they have the grit to hold off the Jets?

Sydney FC v Adelaide United: Is Sydney-s upward trajectory strong enough? We all love Sydney FC. Even if you don-t support the club, you-ve got to love them just for the ridiculous drama and soap opera they bring to the competition. And yet, they-re still in with a shot, the tricky little buggers!

How does a team that had so much fall so low and then clamber back into a position to be involved in the business end of the season? God love ‘em! Frank Farina-s two-year extension might just make the good ship Sydney a little steadier and it certainly gives the team a lot more certainty heading into the finals.

But then Adelaide aren-t exactly short of a little controversy. After Kossie-s acrimonious departure, Michael Valkanis pumped his team up for a no-holds-barred grapple with rivals Melbourne Victory. It mightn-t have been pretty but it did the job.

Given that Sydney haven-t been averse to a bit of the biff this season and the Sky Blues- desperation for finals football, this could get a bit tasty!

Melbourne Victory v Western Sydney Wanderers: Who is the force strongest with? Are we being harsh to equate Melbourne Victory to Star Wars- galactic empire? OK, Ange Postecoglou isn-t quite the Emperor that Ernie Merrick used to be, but Kevin Muscat makes a pretty good Darth Vader.

And in this light, don-t the Wanderers look a little like Luke Skywalker? Wide-eyed and only just coming to terms with their previously untapped power...

Both teams have been using the force to great effect of late, even if Victory were knocked off their stride by Adelaide-s rough-house tactics last week.

But with Western Sydney snatching second spot on the ladder, this is Tony Popovic-s biggest test as Wanderers coach, flying straight into the Melbourne Death Star to take on the great empire in their own backyard.

We-re not saying Victory are the bad guys - but the last time these two met, Ange Postecoglou-s side came out on top. After this game, will it be Popovic saying, “The last time we met I was but the learner - now I am the master!”? (OK, technically, Vader said this to Obi-Wan Kenobi... Nerd alert!)

Perth Glory v Central Coast Mariners: Will Glory respond to an old-fashioned whip-crackin-? The first thing Glory interim coach Alistair Edwards did after taking the reins from Ian Ferguson was get his team working, according to the Glory players.

And after it all went a bit stale under Fergie, there-s a good chance Perth talented players might just respond and put a nasty dent in Central Coast-s lead at the top of the ladder.

Despite being bottom of the ladder, Perth still aren-t out of it yet, mathematically speaking, as long as results go their way, and moon rises after a red sun when the seventh son of the seventh son throws salt over his shoulder. And they-ve got nothing to lose. Not an opponent Graham Arnold would want to face right now.

The Mariners four-point buffer should protect them from the worst and events at AAMI Park in the evening-s previous game could yet put heap pressure on the league leaders.

Brisbane Roar v Wellington Phoenix: Do the Roar like plane food? If Roar had come home from their midweek trip to Thailand with a ticket to the AFC Champions League in their back pocket, they might have had enough of a spring in their step to overcome the time in the air.

As it is, the flight back to Brisbane from Bangkok would have been that much longer after a grinding, extra-time penalty loss. Picking up his team after that defeat will be a huge test for Mike Mulvey.

Phoenix will be glad to face the still-reigning champions at home at least, as Ricki Herbert looks to pull their season out of the rubbish bin before it-s too late. If new striker Corey Gameiro can take some of the pressure of Jeremy Brockie for scoring goals and give Wellington a few more options up front, things could be looking up.

But can an on-loan 20-year-old really turn things around in round 21?

Image © Lucasfilm