The Hyundai A-League Finals will be starting this weekend with Melbourne City and Sydney FC both having a week off. Central Coast will face off against Macarthur on Saturday and Brisbane Roar hosting Adelaide United on Sunday.
The winners of those two games will keep their A-League title chances alive while for the losers, their seasons will end.
The Inner Sanctum has previewed every team’s chance of taking home the A-League title.
Melbourne City: Happy to have a home ground advantage
Melbourne City and Sydney are currently the bookmaker’s joint-favourites and rightly so. City has been the best team all year under first-year boss Patrick Kisnorbo. Winning 15 of their 25 games, scoring a league-high 56 goals, and claiming the premiers plate with three games to spare.
City’s home form has been incredible, losing just once in 12 games and picking up 31 points.
Not having the trio of Socceroos in Jamie Maclaren, Connor Metcalfe and Curtis Good could hamper City’s ambitions to reach the final.
Much of the burden will fall on Craig Noone (six goals, eight assists), Adrian Luna, Florin Berenguer, and Marco Tilio to take City forward.
It remains to be seen whether the trio will return should City make the Grand Final, but they remain of one the favourites to go one better than next year.
Sydney FC: A true defensive powerhouse
Sydney FC is the form team in the competition. Winning five consecutive matches and having the best defensive record in the league, only conceding 23 goals from their 25 league matches.
The Sky Blues also possess the joint second-best attack in the league, scoring 39 times with Bobo (11 goals) and Kosta Barbarouses (eight goals) leading the way for Steve Corica’s side.
During their five-game undefeated streak, Sydney FC has scored ten goals and conceded just once.
They head into the finals with the utmost confidence and are good value to go back-to-back after winning the title last year.
Central Coast: Zero to hero?
Central Coast has been the surprise packet of the season.
Finishing third on the table after placing bottom of the league just 12 months ago.
Alen Stajcic has worked wonders in Gosford this year. Matt Simon has found a new lease on life, topping the scoring charts with 10 goals in his 25 games, Jack Clisby and Daniel De Silva have been the most creative for the Mariners, creating 78 chances in 47 games combined.
The Mariners are a dangerous proposition in the finals series.
Brisbane Roar: Don’t knock Consistency
The Brisbane Roar return to the finals after finishing the season in fourth place, the same position they finished last season.
Riki Danzaki leads the scoring for Warren Moon’s side with nine goals to his name and the Roar have the second-best defensive record in the league.
Their defence has conceded just 28 goals from their 26 games and that kind of steel has been one of the reasons the Roar has been consistent over the last two years.
The Roar have let in more than two goals only four times since February 26 so don’t expect Warren Moon’s side to get blown out.
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Adelaide United: Attacking prowess to makeup for defensive struggles
Adelaide United didn’t have their finals appearance locked in until the last matchday.
It is not often that teams secure a finals berth with a negative goal difference but that is what has happened with Adelaide. With their top two goal scorers in Craig Goodwin (eight goals) and Tom Juric (seven goals) providing some attacking threat but it is at the other end of the park where their troubles are.
Out of all the finals participants, the Reds have conceded the most goals (41), five clear of Macarthur in the sixth position.
Their troubles away from home could derail the Reds as they have only won 14 points on the road this season.
Macarthur FC: New kids on the block
Lastly is new boys Macarthur. Finishing in the top six in your inarguable season is a good feat in itself. Western United did it last year finishing fifth and now Macarthur has done the same.
Led by 35-year-old Matt Derbyshire who has found the net 14 times to finish runner up in the Golden Boot standings, they have the firepower to trouble.
Playing away to the Mariners will not hold any fear for Macarthur as they have a better away record, gathering 23 points (7-2-4) compared to their home form of 16 points (4-4-5).
It would be the ultimate fairy tale should the new boys take home the title in their first season.
Going through all the finals teams and given that each game is a one-and-done prospect, anything can happen. This type of format often produces upsets and unexpected results and that is what we want heading into the A-League finals.
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