How much pressure is Rado under? Can Shinji step it up minus Mooy? Will Frank Farina inspire Sydney? Oue editors ask the important questions ahead of Round 9.
1. Melbourne Victory v Perth Glory: Whose team is more clearly defined?
Melbourne Victory are fast approaching what we could call the “Postecoglou Line” - the point where all the swift interplay and movement off the ball becomes second nature, and the fluid transition of the ball from defence to attack leaves opponents breathlessly backtracking.
You can see they-ve got the idea - but they-re not quite there yet. Despite the turnaround in form and results, Victory still have work to do, particularly at the back. They-ve stabilised in recent weeks but the loss of Mark Milligan to the national team has the potential to have a greater impact than that of Archie Thompson.
Perth Glory, alternatively, are much further down the track and Ian Ferguson-s side have a well defined idea of who they are and what their roles are. Their athleticism and direct style will put Victory under plenty of pressure.
And Glory-s inconsistent away form - two losses and one draw - alongside the loss of Michael Thwaite, Scott Jamieson (National team) and Jacob Burns (suspended) could also define the character of this game.
2. Central Coast Mariners v Adelaide United: Who will miss their Qantas Socceroos more?
The two form teams of the competition, first v second, and a number of big-name players away on national team duty... It-s a big test of resources, both players and mental, at Bluetongue Stadium.
Eugene Galekovic and Dario Vidosic (injured) will both be out for the Reds, while the Mariners will miss Tom Rogic and Mat Ryan.
It-s not being harsh on their colleagues to say all of these players have been in inspirational form this season, and often proved the difference for their respective clubs in various games.
Adelaide have plenty of attacking options to call on in Neumann, Carrusca, Ramsay and Ferreira, and while perhaps the Mariners- defence remains as strong as ever, there will be more responsibility on the likes of McGlinchey, Sterjovski and Ibini to take the game to the opposition.
To put it in perspective, only four players will be missing - it just happens they-re four of the players who have defined the season for their clubs so far.
3. Brisbane Roar v Newcastle Jets: How much longer will Rado get?
Let-s get this straight; we are not saying Rado Vidosic should be sacked - but we are raising a serious point that if current form continues, the pressure on him will increase to the point where it becomes unbearable.
The back-to-back reigning champions are second from bottom and have lost five games already this season. Now they face a fired up Jets side who have already indicated they might wind up fiery striker Besart Berisha.
This hasn-t gone down well with Brisbane but it doesn-t have to be true - even the idea of it is enough to upset the Roar camp and illustrate that the cracks are widening exponentially.
Newcastle showed against Heart last week that they-re not a team to lie down and the Roar will have to put in a serious display of team work and determination if they-re to score just their third win of the season.
4. Wellington Phoenix v Western Sydney Wanderers: Will Ono step up?
Shinji Ono-s performances have been steadily improving since the start of the season but we-re still waiting for the former Japan star to take a game by the scruff of the neck, as Del Piero or Heskey have for their teams.
With Aaron Mooy on national team duty, the responsibility to drive forward from midfield falls to Ono, who must be the creative fulcrum and man to inspire. It-s a big job because Mooy, loathe though he is to talk himself up has been sensational for Tony Popovic-s men.
It-s somewhat unfortunate for Ono that he-ll have to try and step it up in Wellington, hardly the most welcoming environment for visiting football teams.
Only one point separates the two teams on the ladder and the Wanderers have proven their tortoise-like ability to sit back and soak up pressure, so Wellington know they have to find a way to break through.
Ricki Herbert should have a close to full-strength team to choose from, and a home win could see a big jump in ladder places.
5. Sydney FC v Melbourne Heart: Will Frank get the bounce?
Surely the Sky Blues have to get it together soon, and what better time to throw caution to the wind and play like they mean it than the new coach-s first game in charge.
Farina will only meet his new side on the Saturday before the game, not long enough to have any tactical effect - but he will come into a Sydney camp bereft of confidence and desperate for any kind of lift.
The old dog might just have something up his sleeve (If dog-s have sleeves...) to surprise Heart-s rookie coach?
John Aloisi-s team twice threw away a lead last week, showing there-s a long way to go in terms of consistency and the capacity to control a game. Let-s face it- this game could be anyone-s.