Talking Points: Are Sydney FC favourites to be crowned Hyundai A-League Champions?

When Sydney FC spoiled Perth Glory’s Premiers Plate party on Thursday, did the Sky Blues prove to the whole Hyundai A-League that they are ready to take care of unfinished business?

The shiny silver plate which Sydney FC had called their own for the past two years had been snatched from their grasp as Tony Popovic’s upstarts signalled a new world order in the Hyundai A-League.

And what better way for the team from the wild West to lay down a marker and show there is a new sheriff in town at Jubilee Oval? But Steve Corica’s charges had other ideas.

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Adam Le Fondre’s 16th goal of the season struck a blow that gives the Sky Blues the psychological advantage in race for the Championship. It was Corica’s second deserved triumph over Popovic’s Premiers this season.

At Round 19, Perth were the runaway juggernaut. They have since watched their nine-point lead dwindle down to five, winning only three of their last seven games. It is a run which begs the question: have the oldest team in the Hyundai A-League peaked early?

Last year, Graham Arnold’s Sydney FC produced one of the most dominant regular season onslaughts in Hyundai A-League history. There was no drop off as they wrapped up the regular season with four straight wins, but they were unable to etch their names into the pantheon of Hyundai A-League greats in the Finals Series.

Are Corica’s contenders ready to make amends for the shortcomings of last season’s titans? Their biggest challenge would be a Grand Final on the road. If Perth Glory versus Sydney FC happens, expect Popovic’s men to remain scarred by the events of Thursday night.

Phoenix get behind Rudan by fighting till the death

The news of inspirational coach Mark Rudan’s impending departure had zero effect on Wellington Phoenix’s desire to clinch all three points against Melbourne City at Westpac Stadium. 

In fact it may have galvanised the Kiwi club even further as they scrapped until deep into stoppage time to snatch a stunning 3-2 victory.

Before the game, captain Andrew Durante spoke of his respect for Rudan's service throughout the season and the Nix players' dedication right up until their 94th-minute winner was apparent.

Post-match, Roy Krishna revealed Rudan had worked closely with the three-goal striker in midweek to help revive his goal-scoring form.

Warren Joyce’s men controlled 60% of possession but Wellington's counter-attacking style once again proved deadly against City. None of their rivals will relish an encounter with Rudan’s men come May.

Stakes are high on ANZAC Day as Adelaide United aim to lock up fourth

Adelaide United held on to the coveted fourth place with an impressive 1-0 win against Melbourne Victory, but Wellington's triumph piles the pressure on Marco Kurz's side heading into the final round of games.

Both Coopers Stadium and Westpac Stadium were rocking for their club's respective victories in Round 26. With the Reds and Nix likely to face off in the Hyundai A-League Finals Series, the team that earns home comforts will give themselves a huge competitive advantage of reaching the semi-finals.

If Adelaide take care of business at Suncorp Stadium against the Brisbane Roar, who will be licking their wounds after their 6-1 self-destruction against the Newcastle Jets, the race for fourth will be over before we even reach the weekend's games.

Any slip up by the Reds opens the door for Phoenix, who travel to a Perth Glory side without a cause on Sunday night. Kurz's men need to get the job done on ANZAC Day.

Are Newcastle Jets showing signs they can be a force in 2019/20?

The Newcastle Jets absolutely blew away the Brisbane Roar in a Saturday night demolition job to underline Ernie Merrick’s pledge to finish a disappointing campaign on a high and get ahead for next season. 

Missing suspended talisman Roy O’Donovan for the first eight games of this term, Newcastle never really entered the finals race in 2018/19. But they underlined their strengths with a number of young players showing their class in the 6-1 destruction of the Roar at Suncorp Stadium.

The exciting performances of Olyroos Joey Champness and Angus Thurgate will provide hope to fans in the Hunter over the off-season. Merrick took Newcastle from bottom of the ladder in 2016/17 to a Grand Final in 2017/18. Could we be set for a similar rise as a new generation of Jets come to the fore?

Light at the end of the tunnel for Mariners under Stajcic

The Central Coast Mariners delivered their most complete performance of the season in a 3-1 triumph over the Western Sydney Wanderers and much of the credit can be placed on the hands of Alen Stajcic.

The Gosford side have enjoyed a serious upturn in fortunes since the arrival of the former Westfield Matildas coach in March and the two events are not a coincidence.

Matt Simon led the the charge at Central Coast Stadium to seal a result which means the Mariners can still prevent 2018/19 entering the history books as the club's joint worst season ever if they secure a point at Melbourne City in Round 27. 

Before Stajcic's arrival, that unwanted record seemed inevitable. All of a sudden, the Mariners supporters will be hoping for more than avoiding a third straight wooden spoon in 2019/20.