We're into the final stretch, the last 10 games of the season. Here’s what the run-in looks like for your Hyundai A-League club.
Sydney FC (1st) – Points 43, Goal Difference (GD) + 30
The Sky Blues are sitting pretty at the top of the ladder and barring a major loss of form will – at the very least - finish in the top two. Six more wins will make sure they win the Premiers’ Plate but with 53 the highest tally for the premiership winner in the last couple of seasons, three more wins might do it for their first piece of silverware since 2010.
To Play: Roar (away), Phoenix (home), Wanderers (away), City (away), Victory (home), Mariners (home), Glory (away), City (home), Phoenix (away), Jets (home)
Key Games: The next month could well determine Sydney’s hopes of becoming the Hyundai A-League’s so-called “Invincible” men. Tough road trips to Brisbane, City and a Sydney Derby, plus another Big Blue will present a challenge for Graham Arnold’s side. But as we’ve seen time and again in the 2016/17 Season, the bigger the test, the tougher the Sky Blues are to beat.
Melbourne Victory (2nd) – Points 32, GD +14
Despite three straight losses, Victory remains well-placed for a top-two finish heading into the last third of the season. History suggests 48-50 points will earn a coveted spot in the top two meaning probably five more wins will be enough. Might be too hard to run down Sydney FC but ‘Muscy’ won’t give up.
To Play: City (home), Jets (away), Mariners (away), Adelaide (home), Sydney (away), Glory (home), Roar (away), Phoenix (home), Wanderers (away), Mariners (home)
Key Games: Victory probably has the best draw of the sides in the top four, with half of their games against sides currently outside the top six. But there are still some massive games to come, including this weekend’s derby and another Big Blue.
Brisbane Roar (3rd) – Points 27, GD +2
John Aloisi’s side appear back on track with back-to-back wins following a three-game losing streak - 48 points wasn’t enough to get them a top-two spot last season but you get the feeling if they can repeat that tally again they’ll get there this time. But the ACL will key to their chances, you feel.
To Play: Sydney (home), City (away), Glory (away), Phoenix (home), Jets (away), Adelaide (away), Victory (home), Mariners (home), Glory (away), Phoenix (home)
Key Games: Much could depend on the result of next week’s ACL playoff against Shanghai Shenhua. Win it and they’ll have six extra games thrown in between late Feb and the end of the season. That could make it difficult to get the six or seven wins likely needed to get a top-two spot.
Melbourne City (4th) – Points 26, GD +4
City already have one trophy in the cabinet from their Westfield FFA Cup triumph but it’s been a period of inconsistency for them ever since. Have the firepower to still be a seriously contender come finals time but will need to start racking up consistent wins to chase down Victory for a top-two spot.
To Play: Victory (away), Roar (home), Phoenix (away), Sydney (home), Mariners (away), Jets (home), Wanderers (away), Sydney (away), Adelaide (home), Perth (away)
Key Games: It’s hard to look past Saturday night’s derby, especially given the importance of the three points to City’s top-two hopes. With a clash against Roar the following week and two more games against the unbeaten Sky Blues, it’s a tricky run-in for City. They’ll want to bank some points quickly or might find themselves looking over their shoulder come the last few rounds.
Perth Glory (5th) – Points 21, GD -5
Glory is possibly the hardest team to get a read on right now. One game they are beating high-flying Melbourne Victory, the next is a disappointing loss to the lowly Mariners. Still have one of the most talented rosters in the competition so you wouldn’t rule them out chasing down City and/or Roar for a spot in the top four.
To Play: Jets (home), Adelaide (away), Roar (home), Wanderers (home), Phoenix (away), Victory (away), Sydney (home), Adelaide (away), Roar (home), City (home)
Key Games: Glory has the luxury of having six of the last 10 in front of their home fans at nib. Given how tight it is around the bottom of the six, four wins might be enough to get them over the line. Back-to-back home games to finish the season against Roar and City is likely to have a huge say on where Kenny Lowe’s side ends up.
Newcastle Jets (6th) – Points 20, GD -5
It’s been seven years since the Jets have played finals football but this looks like their best chance to end that run. They are confident, in form and in Andrew Nabbout have a player that can be a real x-factor for them.
To Play: Glory (away), Victory (home), Adelaide (away), Mariners (home), Roar (home), City (away), Phoenix (away), Wanderers (home), Mariners (away), Sydney (away)
Key Games: With it so tight from positions five to eight, they are all massive games for the Jets especially against those sides around them on the ladder. Mark Jones’ troops have just four home games to come and will need to make the most of those. A final round trip to Sydney FC could be the decisive clash and there are two F3s to come.
Wellington Phoenix (7th) – Points 19, GD -3
We’ve seen a real upsurge in results since Des Buckingham and Chris Greenacre took the reins, with the Nix now a real shot to make the finals. The coaches have set the side a target of another 24 points from the last 10 matches to make the top four. Not impossible, but tough.
To Play: Wanderers (home), Sydney (away), City (home), Roar (away), Glory (home), Wanderers (away), Jets (home), Victory (away), Sydney (home), Roar (away)
Key Games: It’s a tough run home for Wellington, with five of their last 10 matches against sides currently in the top four. But significantly, clashes against the sides likely to fight them for spots in the bottom of the six – Wanderers, Jets and Glory – will all be played in New Zealand.
Western Sydney Wanderers (8th) – Points 18, GD -6
Given they’ve won just three games all season and have struggled for results at home, it’s remarkable the Wanderers are just two points outside the top six. Scoring goals has been their main issue but the signing of experienced striker Ryan Griffiths this week plus young Stefan Zinni might be just what they need.
To Play: Phoenix (away), Mariners (home), Sydney (home), Glory (away), Adelaide (home), Phoenix (home), City (home), Jets (away), Victory (home), Adelaide (away)
Key Games: We’ll know a lot more over the next month as the Wanderers play all the sides around them on the ladder, with a Sydney Derby sandwiched in between. The rigours and travel that comes with an ACL campaign only adds to the difficulty Tony Popovic’s side faces to get into the Finals Series.
Central Coast Mariners (9th) – Points 13, GD -15
The Mariners have already recorded the same amount of wins and points as they did in the whole of last season so they are certainly on the right track. Consistency will be the key for Paul Okon’s side. History suggests around 35 points will get you a top six spot so they might need seven wins to get there.
To Play: Adelaide *(home), Wanderers (away), Victory (home), Jets (away), City (home), Sydney (away), Adelaide (home), Roar (away), Jets (home), Victory (away)
Key Games: With seven points between the Mariners and top six there is little room for error. The next month looms as vital with three games against the sides around them. They have two F3 Derbies to play as well – including one at home in round 26 – which looms as pivotal to their hopes. They simply have to go on a fantastic run starting this weekend in the capital and hope other contenders drop points.
Adelaide United (10th) – Points 11, GD -16
It’s been a tough campaign for the champions who have plenty of work to do to make the finals. With an ACL campaign set to start later this month, it will take a monumental effort from Gui Amor’s side to make a late-season charge.
To Play: Mariners (away), Glory (home), Jets (home), Victory (away), Wanderers (away), Roar (home), Mariners (away), Glory (home), City (away), Wanderers (home)
Key Games: Let's face it, every game is important. The Reds need to win at least half – and maybe more - of their remaining games and to have any chance of making a spot in the top six. With the exception of Wellington, they play all the sides they are battling with to earn a spot in the finals. So If they can find some form, it’s not out of the question. But gee it'd be a long shot.