We’re heading into Round 20 of the Hyundai A-League, meaning “The Chase” has begun for clubs to stake their claims for spots in the Finals Series.
With eight games to go there’s still plenty to play for as teams try to catch league-leaders Sydney FC, get a top-two finish or secure their spot in the top six.
It sets up a thrilling end to the regular season, starting with the upcoming Split Round which begins on Friday night in Melbourne as Victory hosts a desperate Brisbane Roar.
But it’s at AAMI Park 24 hours later where the match of the round will take place as in-form Melbourne City take on champions Sydney FC.
City – who currently sit third - are unbeaten in their last six matches and a win over the ruthless Sky Blues would indicate they are the real deal this season.
It would also cut the gap to second-placed Newcastle Jets to just one point.
Ernie Merrick’s Jets are the closest challengers to Sydney FC and they will be hoping for a City win this weekend, before they get a chance to edge closer when they travel to play Western Sydney Wanderers on Friday, February 16.
Wellington Phoenix take on Perth Glory and Adelaide United host Central Coast Mariners [both on Saturday, February 17], in the last two games of Round 20.
The Wanderers and Phoenix will also do battle this Sunday in their rescheduled match from Round 7, with three points crucial to both sides.
Josep Gombau’s six-placed side can open up a six point gap to the Roar in seventh with a win, while the last-placed Phoenix simply must take three points to keep their Finals Series hopes alive.
Sydney FC’s marquee man Bobo appears unbeatable for the Golden Boot, with 18 goals from just 19 appearances this season.
With Ross McCormack (14 goals) not coming back to play for City, the Brazilian has a nine goal lead to his closest challenger (teammate Adrian Mierzejewski – nine goals) with just eight games left.
Mierzejewski is also second when it comes to assists, with the Pole’s seven [along with Andrew Nabbout from the Jets], four behind leader Leroy George of the Victory.
George also has the most crosses 167), while Sydney FC midfielder – Josh Brillante – has made the most passes with 1216.
Wanderers gloveman Vedran Janjetovic has been the busiest keeper so far this season, making 81 saves from 18 games, 26 more than Roar’s Jamie Young in second.
- After coming through a friendly match on Tuesday, Melbourne City striker Bruno Fornaroli appears ready to play for the first time this season, in a huge boost to the club’s title hopes.
- Fourth-placed Adelaide United will be hoping to have experienced trio Vince Lia (knee), Baba Diawara (quad) and Johan Absalonsen back on board soon.
- After fearing his season was over when he broke his leg in Round 3, Ronald Vargas could return in a matter of weeks for the Jets.
- Glory’s fading finals charge could get a boost with Caltex Socceroos striker Adam Taggart likely to return from a hamstring injury in the next one or two weeks.
WHAT IS THE CHASE?
In a new feature of the draw for the Hyundai A-League 2017/18 Season, the final nine rounds will see every club play each other in the lead in to the Finals Series.
As opposed to recent seasons, teams have played each other twice in the first 18 rounds, helping set up a blockbuster run home to make the top six.