Seven games to go: strap yourself in for a roller-coaster run-in to Round 27. Here's what fans need to know heading into final final 21 points to play for in the Hyundai A-League.
Sydney FC (1st) – Points 47, Goal Difference (GD) + 31
Despite slumping to their first league defeat of the season in the Sydney Derby on Saturday, the Sky Blues still look very likely to finish on top with an eight-point gap to second, though they face Victory in a mega Big Blue next week in Sydney. The 57-point mark is their target, which would be a record in a 27-game regular season.
To play: City (away), Victory (home), Mariners (home), Glory (away), City (home), Phoenix (away), Jets (home)
Key games: A huge fortnight ahead for Graham Arnold’s side against the two Melbourne clubs. Come through unscathed and the Premiership should be theirs. But a couple of defeats could open the door for a hungry and in-form Victory to pounce.
Melbourne Victory (2nd) – Points 39, GD +18
Still haven’t given up hope of chasing down Sydney FC, especially given their strong form so far in February. Even if they don’t haul in the Sky Blues, only a major slump would see the Big V miss a coveted top-two spot, needing probably three wins to be safe.
To play: Adelaide (home), Sydney (away), Glory (home), Roar (away), Phoenix (home), Wanderers (away), Mariners (home)
Key games: Like Sydney, the next fortnight is massive for Victory with a clash against traditional rivals Adelaide followed by the Big Blue. Have a decent draw with four out of seven at home, including clashes with the struggling Phoenix and Mariners.
Melbourne City (3rd) – Points 30, GD +7
The weekend’s drubbing of Phoenix suggests City may have come out of their mid-season slump to be back on track. With just two points separating City (third) to Perth (fifth), Michael Valkanis’ men will need to keep the wins coming to lock-up a top-four berth.
To play: Sydney (home), Mariners (away), Jets (home), Wanderers (away), Sydney (away), Adelaide (home), Perth (away)
Key games: With Roar and Glory hot on their heels, every game and point will be crucial for City from here on in. We’ll know more about their credentials after Friday night’s blockbuster against Sydney FC. With five of their last seven against sides below them on the ladder, there are no excuses not to finish at least in the top four.
Brisbane Roar (4th) – Points 30, GD +2
A string of injuries and the start of their ACL campaign leave Roar a little vulnerable heading into the last two months of the regular season. John Aloisi’s side are head to beat – without a loss in their last five – but will need to turn recent draws into wins to make the four.
To play: Phoenix (home), Jets (away), Adelaide (away), Victory (home), Mariners (home), Glory (away), Phoenix (home)
Key games: The next three games will prove decisive for Roar. All three are against teams currently outside the six and they simply must get maximum points. Especially with the extra travel and games they are going to play now the ACL has started. Will be a serious test of the club’s depth.
Perth Glory (5th) – Points 28, GD +1
You can almost set your clock to it in recent years. Heading into the last third of the season and Glory hit their straps. It’s happening again with two wins and a draw from their last three putting them just two points off third spot. With their big guns in form and the goals flowing – 10 in the last three – Kenny Lowe’s side are looking good.
To play: Wanderers (home), Phoenix (away), Victory (away), Sydney (home), Adelaide (away), Roar (home), City (home)
Key games: Can’t afford to look past Saturday night’s game with the resurgent Wanderers. Depending on other results earlier in the weekend, Glory could go third with a win. Back-to-back home games against Roar and City to finish the regular season is likely to determine their top-four fate.
Western Sydney Wanderers (6th) – Points 24, GD -5
What a difference a derby win makes! The Wanderers are suddenly three points clear from the chasing pack in sixth spot and there’s a feeling there’s still a bit left in their season. But consistency has been their issue and they’ll need to string a few more wins together to stay in the finals spots.
To play: Glory (away), Adelaide (home), Phoenix (home), City (home), Jets (away), Victory (home), Adelaide (away)
Key games: While a trip to the west this week is tricky, the following fortnight will be crucial to their chances. Throw in the fatigue and travel that comes with the ACL and they’ve still got plenty of obstacles to overcome to play finals for a fourth time in five seasons.
Newcastle Jets (7th) – Points 21, GD -7
The Jets’ finals hopes have taken a hit over the last few weeks, picking up a solitary point from their last three games. Looking food for a first finals finish in seven years at the start of the month, Mark Jones’ troops now have work to do. Must rediscover their attacking mojo and confidence quickly.
To play: Mariners (home), Roar (home), City (away), Phoenix (away), Wanderers (home), Mariners (away), Sydney (away)
Key games: It’s hard to remember a bigger F3 Derby in recent years for the Jets than the one they will play on Sunday. A win would not only reignite their top six quest but also put a dagger into the top six hopes of their fierce rivals. After Sunday they play just two of their last six in the Hunter.
Wellington Phoenix (8th) – Points 19, GD -11
The honeymoon period is well and truly over for new coaches Buckingham and Greenacre took over. Wellington has conceded 11 goals in three straight defeats and their faint finals hopes are almost extinguished. Would take a massive form reversal to change that and it just doesn’t look like happening.
To play: Roar (away), Glory (home), Wanderers (away), Jets (home), Victory (away), Sydney (home), Roar (away)
Key games: Their next four matches are against the four teams directly above them on the ladder, giving them a good opportunity to close the gap. Highly unlikely, though not impossible.
Central Coast Mariners (9th) – Points 19, GD -15
The club’s unlikely finals charge took a hit with Sunday’s loss to Victory. But as Paul Okon’s side has proved more and more as the season has gone on, signs flicker that something is brewing in Gosford. Probably need to win five of their last seven to sneak into the six.
To play: Jets (away), City (home), Sydney (away), Adelaide (home), Roar (away), Jets (home), Victory (away)
Key games: Again, Sunday’s F3 Derby is a must-win for the Mariners. Win and the finals fight goes on, lose and its playing for pride over the last six weeks. With away trips to Sydney FC, Brisbane and Victory to come, the Mariners will certainly have to earn their spot in the six if they are to get there.
Adelaide United (10th) – Points 14, GD -21
Last Friday’s morale-boosting win over the Jets has given the Reds a glimmer of hope to make the finals. But realistically have seven more “Cup finals” to play if they are to go from last spot into the top six. In what’s been a tumultuous title defence, it seems trying to avoid the spoon is their best hope.
To play: Victory (away), Wanderers (away), Roar (home), Mariners (away), Glory (home), City (away), Wanderers (home)
Key games: You can’t sugar-coat for the Reds. Seven games left and they probably need to win all seven to make the six. Three of their next four matches are away from home, including Saturday’s clash with in-form Victory. With their ACL group stage matches also mixed in, the Reds have left their run too late.