Sky Blues, Victory tipped to dominate again
It will be a case of history repeating itself with Melbourne Victory to meet Sydney FC in the 2010/11 Hyundai A-League grand final, while North Queensland and Wellington loom as the big improvers.
It will be a case of history repeating itself with Melbourne Victory to meet Sydney FC in the 2010/11 A-League grand final, while North Queensland and Wellington loom as the big improvers.
That's the view of the competition's leading players and coaches days out from the start of the sixth year of the Hyundai A-League following a snap poll by Sportal at Monday's season launch.
Asked to nominate the likely title contenders - excluding their own club - the majority of those plumped for the two clubs who between them have won four of the five Hyundai A-League championships contested.
Brisbane Roar coach Ange Postecoglou spoke for most when he said: "You've got to look at the obvious ones, Sydney and Melbourne."
"They've both backed up pretty well, not too may changes to the squad and haven't dropped their quality at all."
"In some areas they've got better and they will be up there again."
New Central Coast boss Graham Arnold also sees the Hyundai A-League's two biggest clubs as the teams all others will be measured by.
"They can both start the season the way they finished off last year because they haven-t brought in too many players," he pointed out.
"They've got a stable set up with the same coaches. You have to expect they will be the ones to beat."
Perth Glory coach David Mitchell couldn-t go past Sydney and Melbourne but warned not to write off Melbourne Heart in their opening season.
"Heart have a quality coach and quality players and a great pitch," he said.
"But obviously Sydney and Melbourne have got the history, the players, the depth, the set up."
While Sydney and Melbourne are rated the teams others most fear, there is a far greater spread of opinion when labelling the competition-s darkhorse.
Sydney FC marquee player Nick Carle nominated Wellington Phoenix as one team capable of upsetting the established order.
"They showed last year that they're not to be under-estimated and they've recruited well," he said.
"It wouldn't surprise me if they are up there."
Heart coach John van't Schip also predicts Wellington to emerge as a genuine force.
"With the experience that a lot of their players had in the World Cup, they will take that into the league," he declared.
"I think they're going to be a very competitive team. They showed that last season and I think they will make the next step."
Adelaide midfielder Travis Dodd expects the Fury to put a forgettable 2009/10 campaign behind them and make life difficult for opponents this season.
He said: "North Queensland could be a surprise packet. They've got a new coach with a lot of new faces."
Mitchell agreed adding: "A lot of people are under-estimating North Queensland. They beat Adelaide the other night 1-0 and they should have won 4-0."
"People say they are out of sight out of mind and you don-t have to worry about them."
"But they are hard to beat up there and they are my darkhorse."
Newcastle captain Michael Bridges expects wooden spooners Adelaide to come out with a point to prove.
"They finished bottom of the pile last season but had a good run in the Asian Champions League so they will be out to impress," he said.
Gold Coast captain Jason Culina believes his father Branko can produce something special at Newcastle.
"They play attractive football, they did well last season and they've strengthened this season," Culina Jnr said.
Phoenix boss Ricki Herbert predicts Heart to surprise in their debut season.