21/04/2024

Australia Cup continues this week. (Image: Green Gully SC - Twitter)

The biggest domestic cup tournament in the country continues with the second week of the Australia Cup Round of 32 taking place this Wednesday.

With seven massive fixtures taking place this week, The Inner Sanctum takes a look into the sides action and what to expect from the second week of the Cup!

Heidelberg United vs Brisbane Roar

Having recorded one of the biggest giant killings years ago, Heidelberg United have the chance to do it all again when they take on A-League Men’s outfit Brisbane Roar in front of the United faithful at Olympic Park on Wednesday night.

The Victorian NPL outfit had a disappointing start to the 2022 Victorian NPL Men’s competition. Flirting with relegation in the early rounds before turning their fortunes around, they currently sit fifth on the table and looked poised to make the finals. Losing just one of their past 11 fixtures, they are currently one of the inform teams in the division.

Kaine Sheppard will be one to watch, one of the top strikers in the NPL Men’s competition with Sean Ellis and Adrian Zahra also influential players for the side.

Though a strong side, Heidelberg has a heck of a challenge in front of it when it takes on Brisbane. 

The Roar have bolstered their squad during the offseason, acquiring Charlie Austin on a free transfer, with the striker one the United defence will have to be wary of. Meanwhile, Riku Danzaki returns to the club on loan and will also be one to watch with the Japanese midfielder lighting up the league in his last stint with the club.

One of the most intriguing fixtures for this week’s fixtures, United will be out to record the first giant killing of the season while the Roar will look to get a win and kick off their 2022-23 campaign on the right foot.

Giacomo Bruno 

Brisbane City vs Cockburn City

Cockburn City makes the long journey from the West to the East to face Brisbane City at Perry Park. While both sides have had a mixed run of results leading into this one, the advantage has to be with the home side.

Coming into this game with a 4-1-2 record in its last seven games, Brisbane will be looking to advance into the round of 16 to atone for a less than stellar season in NPL Queensland, currently sitting ninth on the ladder.

For the home side, expect Yuta Hirayama to play a big role if Brisbane City is to advance.

For the visitors, they will have to go against history for advancement to the Round of 16. After Armidale’s loss last week to the Modbury Jets, NPL WA teams are 1-16 in the Australia Cup Round of 32.

Coming into this game with a 3-2-2 record in its last seven games, Cockburn City will need to pull out all the stops to walk away with the victory. With a mix of goal scorers this season including Daniel Robinson, Harry O’Brien, and Jesse Lozarro, expect a complete team performance from Cockburn, regardless of the result.

Steven Poletti

Adelaide City vs Logan Lightning

Fresh off securing the South Australian Federation Cup after a five-goal trouncing of the Modbury Jets, Paul Pezos’ Adelaide City side welcomes NPL Queensland side Logan Lightning to the Marden Sports Complex. Despite both sides competing in their state’s top competition, the difference is a stark one.

Despite losing star player Kur Kur to Serbian side Novi Pazars and not consistently showing the ruthless edge it showed early in the season, Adelaide has only lost one game in the NPL South Australia competition this season and is its current Champions and State Cup winners.

On the other hand, Logan has positioned a lowly tenth in its division, struggling for goals and finding it even harder to keep them out of its own net.

Adelaide City will be keen to avenge their heartbreaking loss to Melbourne Victory in last season’s Australia Cup Round of 32. The quality of the squad combined with the home ground advantage and revenge on their mind, it is hard to tip against the home side in this fixture.

Antonis Pagonis

Wollongong United v Green Gully SC

Though not coming up against an A-League Men’s side, the battle between Wollongong United and Green Gully SC will still be a clash of David and Goliath, with United the only grassroots side to qualify for the Round of 32.

Qualifying for the Australia Cup club for the first time in their club’s history, United will be looking to keep the fairytale going when they host Gully at Macedonia Park in one of the club’s biggest games in recent memory.

Forward Dani Lazarevski will be one to watch, currently leading the scoring for United in the Illawarra Premier League. Their captain Klime Sekutkoski will also be one to watch with the tough defender having a big task ahead of him.

Their opponents Green Gully are one of the top sides of the NPL Men’s Victorian competition, currently sitting fourth on the table.

Attacking players Luc Jeggo and Nahuel Bonada will be ones to keep an eye on, with the duo having an enjoyable season for Gully this season.

Having had a good run in the NPL this season, Gully would be hoping its domestic league form translates to its cup fixtures.

Giacomo Bruno

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Magpies Crusaders v Macarthur FC

In the second clash between an NPL and A-League Men’s clash, the Crusaders will host the Bulls at BB Print Stadium.

Currently plying their trade in the second tier of Queensland football, the Crusaders will be playing out the most important fixture in their short history, having formed back in 2017. They’ve had a spectacular run in the preliminary rounds and will be out to record one of the biggest upsets in the Cup’s history.

Midfielder and skipper Liam Shipton will be one to watch as will Michael Lyall who’s bagged nine goals for his side in the FQPL1 competition this season.

For Macarthur, it will be the heavy favourites coming into the clash, with coach Dwight Yorke getting a good opportunity to see what his side has to offer in a competitive fixture.

One of the most creative players in the A-League Men’s competition, Mexican maestro Ulises Davila will be one to watch. Meanwhile, it will be the first chance to see new signings Anthony Carter, Kearyn Baccus, Jonathan Aspropotamitis, Matthew Millar, and Ivan Vujica in action.

Giacomo Bruno

Newcastle Jets v Adelaide United

One of the multiple all A-League Men’s encounters in the Australia Cup Round of 32 sees Adelaide United travel to the Hunter Valley to take on the Newcastle Jets for the third time in the competition’s history. The visitors are undefeated against the Jets, albeit both games were hosted in South Australia and the Reds won by a solitary goal to nil.

Both Arthur Papas and Carl Veart implore their sides to press the opposition into mistakes, and with this being the first competitive hitout for both sides expect it to be a battle of attrition.

The Jets have stocked up with talent in the midfield, but still lack assurity in defence, while Reds coach Carl Veart will keep on-lookers guessing about the mix of experience and youth he chooses to field on Saturday night.

This encounter promises to be a close one, with either side providing a headache for any future opposition. In a match that may require a piece of individual brilliance to gain a ticket to the next round, it will be intriguing to see what role recently re-signed captain Craig Goodwin will play if any at all.

Antonis Pagonis

Sydney FC v Central Coast Mariners

This battle of A-League Men’s sides saw a lot of goals last season, with 12 goals scored in the three games the two sides played against each other, but this is a new season, and both sides have undergone massive changes in their respective rosters.

For the Sky Blues, the changes have been plenty. Milos Ninkovic, Kosta Barbarouses, Mustafa Amini, and Elvis Kamsoba, amongst many others, see the home side going into this one with a lot of unknowns and what will likely be a very youthful squad.

The Mariners have lost the likes of Marco Urena, Kye Rowles, and keeper Mark Birighitti – the latter being a massive loss given how important Birighitti was to the Mariners. While bringing in players like Sam Silvera, Michael Ruhs, and Paul Ayongo. Outside of those key changes, the roster should look very similar to how it did in the back end of last season.

Another key thing to look at is both sides’ respective NPL fixtures.

For the Mariners youth, they play on Saturday night against SD Raiders in the FNSW League One Men’s competition and will have everyone available for Sunday afternoon’s fixture if required.

For the Sydney FC youth, they are scheduled for a 6:30 pm kick-off on Sunday night in the NPL NSW Men’s competition in what is one of the most tightly packed ladders heading into the final day, with seven of the 12 teams still able to make the finals, including Sydney FC.

This presents a dilemma for the club. Do they try to secure finals football in the NPL and make sure the likes of Patrick Wood, Adrian Segecic, and Jaiden Kucharski are available, at a risk of weakening the first-grade squad?

Or do they let coach Steve Corica select all those players for the Australia Cup game if he wants to and risk weakening the NPL squad in its most important game of the NPL season?

It is an interesting dilemma, and all those factors combined should give Mariners the edge in this one.

Steven Poletti

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