The big guns are out in full force as we enter Matchday Three of the FFA Cup Round of 32.
Eleven teams have already punched their ticket to the Round of 16 and, this week, eight Hyundai A-League heavyweights will be vying for the final five spots in the nation’s biggest sporting knockout competition.
That means three Hyundai A-League sides will fall at the first hurdle and open their 2019/20 in heartbreak.
In an attempt to avoid that miserable fate, Australia’s biggest clubs are set to unleash an array of new signings to keep their FFA Cup dreams well and truly alive.
In this article, we take a look at the most exciting new players and combinations to watch as eight Hyundai A-League powers seek to lock down a coveted spot in the Round of 16.
But, before we start, a quick reminder of the match ups on Wednesday 7 August:
- Sydney FC v Brisbane Roar
- Melbourne Victory v Newcastle Jets
- Melbourne Knights v Adelaide United
- Brisbane Strikers v Wellington Phoenix
- Perth Glory v Western Sydney Wanderers
Of course, the nature of the FFA Cup running through the Hyundai A-League off-season means players are at various stages of their pre-season conditioning. But, in a best case scenario, here are the dream debuts that could light up the Round of 32.
The Fornaroli era at Glory begins
Perth Glory’s capture of ex-Melbourne City hot shot Bruno Fornaroli could signal a major power shift in the Hyundai A-League.
Sparked by the creative genius of Diego Castro and Chris Ikonimidis, Glory were by far the highest scoring team in 2018/19 with 56 goals - six more than Melbourne Victory and 10 more than third-highest scorers Wellington Phoenix.
Add one of the Hyundai A-League’s all-time most lethal hitmen into the mix and you have a front three that could be scorching hot. Fornaroli scored on his last competitive outing in Round 4 last season, November 2018. Nine months later, the Uruguayan is going to be hungry for goals.
After signing way back in March, Tony Popovic could set Fornaroli loose on his former club Western Sydney Wanderers on Wednesday. Markus Babbel may also hand competitive debuts to a pair of exciting new signings.
Swiss midfield general Pirmin Schwegler will be on patrol against Glory’s tormentors and Radi Majewski is a Polish playmaker capable of the type of magic that can flip a match in a moment.
Will the 2018/19 Champions new-look attack fire from the off?
Kosta Barbarouses and Alexander Baumjohann joined forces for the first time in Sydney FC’s 3-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain and were understandably stifled by the European heavyweights.
A home encounter against Brisbane Roar to kick off Steve Corica’s quest to avenge last year’s FFA Cup final defeat against Adelaide United is a legitimate opportunity for the new Sky Blues forward line to showcase their skills.
Barbarouses is a proven commodity with 60 Hyundai A-League goals to his name. Michael Zullo thinks Baumjohann will hit even greater heights after moving away from Western Sydney. Add natural poacher Adam Le Fondre into the mix and the 2018/19 Hyundai A-League champions will take some stopping.
It could be a baptism of fire for new Roar coach Robbie Fowler. With 12 new faces on board, the Englishman’s charges will need to gel quickly to stand a chance in the Harbour City. Fowler may look to Aussie attacker Brad Inman to provide the service for Roy O’Donovan if the Queenslanders are to cause a FFA Cup upset.
Could Caltex Socceroos stars ignite Victory?
Melbourne Victory fans’ excitement for the Hyundai A-League Season 2019/20 went through the roof earlier this month when the club announced the arrivals of Caltex Socceroos stars Robbie Kruse and Andrew Nabbout.
It has been eight years since Kruse last turned out in a Victory jersey, when he scored 11 goals in 19 Hyundai A-League games, and the 75-cap Caltex Socceroo is eager to make more lasting memories in Melbourne.
Another returning Victory player, Nabbout, is set to face his other former club Newcastle Jets on Wednesday, where he scored 18 goals in 46 Hyundai A-League games before departing for Japan.
CEO Lawrie McKinna revealed the Jets would have loved to have brought Nabbout back. Ernie Merrick’s men will hope that new Panamanian striker Abdiel Arroyo will fill the boots of the departed O’Donovan and show Victory that Nabbout is no longer needed in the Hunter.
Will fresh faces set the tone for the reigning FFA Cup holders?
Defending FFA Cup champions Adelaide United set social media ablaze when they dropped the highlight reel of new signing Kristian Opseth on Wednesday last week.
If the long-shot maestro is ready to bring his mouth-watering showreel to life in the City of Churches then new head coach Gertjan Verbeek certainly has a serious weapon at his disposal.
Even if the Norwegian danger man is not ready to play only seven days after signing, all eyes will be on returning hero Riley McGree as the Reds take to the field to face NPL Victoria outfit Melbourne Knights on Wednesday.
The Gawler-boy made his Hyundai A-League debut for his hometown team back in 2016 but really captured the attention of the watching world during stints at Newcastle and Melbourne City. After a move to Belgium did not work out, there’s no doubt McGree will be extra motivated to deliver in a Reds jersey.
New Nix forward duo will bring the swagger
It’s been a huge off-season of change for Wellington Phoenix and Ufuk Talay’s new-look side may be the most unpredictable in the 2019/20 Hyundai A-League season.
With newly appointed captain Steven Taylor leading the backline, it will be up to the Nix’s freshly assembled strike force to pick up where departed 30-goal pair Roy Krishna and David Williams left off last season.
In Mexican attacker Ulises Dávila, the Kiwis have a trickster once touted as a rising star of world football when Chelsea signed him from Chivas Guadalajara in 2011. Now 28 years old, the well-travelled creator is a seasoned pro with the pedigree to take the Hyundai A-League by storm.
Partnering him is another mercurial player capable of the spectacular. David Ball has a FIFA Puskas award nomination to his name, but that global goal of the year candidate is no outlier.
The 29-year-old striker has regularly produced the sensational in the lower leagues of English football and joins Phoenix in the prime of his career. There’s little doubt Ball will bring the excitement to the Hyundai A-League, perhaps starting Wednesday night against NPL Queensland side Brisbane Strikers.
All of the potential competitive debuts for Hyundai A-League clubs during FFA Cup match day 3
Riley McGree (second debut)
Jai Ingham (second debut)
Rahmat Akbari (second debut)
Pat Langlois (second debut)
Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi
Western Sydney Wanderers