We're asking some very big questions for the final round of the home-and-away season. Huge. Life-changing.
Brisbane Roar v Sydney FC: can Sydney overcome the odds? As the Socceroos found out earlier this week, sometimes fighting spirit just isn-t enough. After a humiliating first half of the season, Sydney are left trying to salvage something by dragging themselves into the finals almost by sheer force of will. And a little bit of ADP.
Under Frank Farina, Sydney have shown themselves willing to throw themselves into every battle and more often than not, have been undone by their own ill-discipline. Too many cards have overshadowed the increasing solidity since Farina took over - in the last 11 games, they-ve lost three, drawn four and won five, including a 2-1 defeat of Roar in round 20.
The Sky Blues have to win at Suncorp Stadium, or at least draw and hope for big favours from both Newcastle and Perth, to make the top six. To compound that desperation, they will be missing Brett Emerton and big-name sick-note Lucas Neill when they face a resurgent Brisbane side, who have got a bit of that old swagger back recently.
Since that last loss to Sydney, Roar have only lost once - to the Mariners - and conceded just two goals in six games. With home advantage, a better goal difference, and a more coherent and cohesive team, this game - and a place in the finals - is Brisbane-s to lose.
Newcastle Jets v Western Sydney Wanderers: can the Jets change the season? When Frank Lowy wrote his letter to Santa last year, he said, “Dear Santa, please, please, please, can you make Western Sydney Wanderers a success. I know it-s asking a lot but a premiership in their first season would be totes amazeballs.” He also made similar requests to the Easter Bunny, a falling star and left a note under his pillow for the tooth fairy.
Because the Wanderers debut season has been an elaborate fantasy, the FFA dream made real. Whether or not they clinch the Premier-s Plate at Hunter Stadium, this has made the governing body-s dreams come true.
That said, Newcastle have a history of being a fly in FFA-s ointment.
Everything points to a Wanderers win on Friday night: the Jets have lost two of their last three games, conceding eight goals. Western Sydney are unbeaten in 11 and will be accompanied by their usual small contingent of softly spoken fans making their way up the freeway.
Lose and it-s all on the Mariners but a draw will secure first place - so even if the Jets are able to dredge up a performance of unexpected brilliance in their desperation to sneak into the finals, expect a frantic finish to this game, one that could go down in history. There-s no way the Jets can halt the red and black march… Is there?
Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Heart: Will it matter? When Graham Arnold calls for the final round of A-League fixtures to be played at the same time, you can understand his frustrations. Events on Friday night will have a huge impact on this game; it could mean everything or nothing.
Should the Wanderers slip up, Central Coast will have destiny in their hands. Otherwise, Graham Arnold-s side will be guaranteed second spot and facing a side whose only goal is to avoid the wooden spoon.
With the Mariners- AFC Asian Champions League campaign continuing next Wednesday, Arnie has said he might pick a Youth team should it all be academic come kick off. Can you blame him?
John Aloisi, however, should be all fired up. Only goal difference is keeping them off the bottom of the ladder and Wellington actually have shown some surprisingly good form of late. Heart showed little desire to get into the finals - will the chance of finishing last provide some motivation?
Perth Glory v Adelaide United: Can Glory take their chance? This is it for Perth; all or nothing, do or die, one last bite of the cherry, waiting on a decisive result at Suncorp, like a dog in a butcher-s, they have to beat Adelaide to steal that last finals sausage.
But with Travis Dodd out with a knee reconstruction and Shane Smeltz in doubt after getting smashed on All Whites duty, will this old dog-s bark be worse than it-s bite? (See what we did there?)
Perth have looked better in patches under Alistair Edwards, enough to show there could be some serious progression next season and recent results have been good enough to suggest they will trouble Adelaide, who haven-t been very reliable away from home.
The Reds, however, already have their finals sausage in a bun and smothered in sauce. Are they hungry enough to make a fight of this one?
Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Victory: Will Ange-s rant hit home? Ange Postecoglou tore into his side after their loss to Perth Glory last week so we can expect to see a much-improved Victory in Wellington. Archie Thompson, Marco Rojas and Mark Milligan are all set to return from international duty will also help, and you-d expect Melbourne to aim to finish this home-and-away season with a bang before the finals.
They-ll have to deal with a carefree Wellington side, though. Chris Greenacre has enjoyed a pressure free introduction to the big chair.
Phoenix have nothing to lose and if he can guide them off bottom place, the Englishman can consider his short stint as big cheese a success.
Neither team are playing for their season in this fixture but will be going out for pride - how much motivation and competition will that provide?