Five things to watch out for in Hyundai A-League Round 1

We're now days away from the kick-off of the Hyundai A-League 2018/19 season!

Australian football fans are rejoicing with the return of the competition after a long off-season.

Here's five things to keep an eye on in Round 1 as the new campaign commences.

Adelaide United v Sydney FC

Watch out for: Trent Buhagiar

The big-name signings of Adam Le Fondre and Siem de Jong have led Steve Corica’s new era rebuild at Sydney FC during pre-season.

Few expected the two marquee recruits to be overshadowed by the blistering form of Trent Buhagiar and the former Central Coast Mariner was perhaps earmarked by Corica as one for the future following his off-season arrival.

But Buhagiar’s stunning form during pre-season has made the prospect of dropping the 20-year-old against Adelaide in the Hyundai A-League’s season opener impossible.

Buhagiar has looked at home in the Sydney set-up from day one and has scored four FFA Cup goals, displaying a finishing ability in front of goal few thought he possessed.

Can he nail down his spot in the starting eleven? If so, a strong showing against Adelaide might just ignite one of the upcoming season's surprise success stories.


Melbourne Victory v Melbourne City

Watch out for: A burgeoning partnership between Keisuke Honda and Ola Toivonen

How will Melbourne Victory go about replacing the goals of Besart Berisha?

The debut showings of Keisuke Honda and Ola Toivonen in the Melbourne derby will go some way to answering that question.

Honda and Toivonen were both goal scorers at this year’s FIFA World Cup™ in Russia, and with the marquee pair seemingly destined to front Victory’s title defence in close quarters on the pitch, they will be key figures for Kevin Muscat's men.


Wellington Phoenix v Newcastle Jets

Watch out for: Wellington Phoenix’s new attitude

The Mark Rudan era at Wellington Phoenix begins with the visit of Newcastle Jets.

According to the 44-year-old, Phoenix will be a different proposition this year.

But if they are to mount a genuine assault for finals football, the New Zealanders must start as they mean to go on.

That means the new winning mentality Rudan has championed throughout pre-season must come to the fore when they welcome the Jets across the ditch.

Mark Rudan

Brisbane Roar v Central Coast Mariners

Watch out for: Ross McCormack’s impact on the Mariners going forward

Of all the issues that have plagued the Central Coast Mariners over the past few seasons, the team’s low confidence in the final third has been at the forefront.

Mike Mulvey has sought to remedy that in part through the signing of Scotsman Ross McCormack, who will be looking to pick up where he left off in the Hyundai A-League with Melbourne City last season.

McCormack, on loan from Aston Villa, fired in a goal every 86 minutes for Melbourne City in 2017/18. The 32-year-old should bring the guarantee of goals for the shot-shy Mariners and inspire the players around him.

Oar & McCormack

Perth Glory v Western Sydney Wanderers

Watch out for: Two teams with emerging styles

Two of the highest profile managerial changes took place at both Perth Glory and Western Sydney Wanderers in the off-season.

Ex-Wanderers boss Tony Popovic took the Glory gig, while former Bayern Munich and Liverpool defender Markus Babbel signed on with the Wanderers.

And although it is still early days in their fledgling tenures, be sure to note how the two teams cope with adopting the new strategies of their coaches.

Glory look set to take on Popovic’s ruthless organisation and high-intensity game, while the Wanderers will show their transition from Josep Gombau to the more pragmatic ideals of Babbel.

Tony Popovic