It only seems like yesterday that Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory locked horns in last seasons Grand Final but it is time again to embark on yet another A-League Season. We turned to Spyro Lambas, World Football Correspondent for The Pinch Hitters with Boz and Pav, for answers on what we should expect from the opening round of the season.
“I’m not sure if I’m mentally ready for it,” Lambas said when asked about the first round Grand Final rematch between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory. “Such a big game to be thrown at us so early,” after their epic Grand Final it is easy to understand his excitement but as enthused as he is about ‘The Big Blue’, he also has his eyes on a number of other matches in week 1.
Spyro Says – Victory 1, Sydney 1:
No Milligan, Barbarouses or Troisi will make it difficult for the Victory against a full strength Sydney FC. Kevin Muscat will have his team hell bent on earning a draw in their absence and I expect they will get away with a valuable point
Melbourne City and Brisbane Roar’s clash to open the season at AAMI Park is of similar interest when you consider the subplots to the game. Can John Aloisi’s Roar take the next step after two consecutive exits at the Semi Final stage? How will Melbourne City fare without the services of Tim Cahill and Bruno Fornaroli due to International Duty and Injury respectively. Both clubs have failed to live up to big expectations over the last few seasons and will be hoping to get this campaign off to the perfect start against a potential finals rival.
Spyro Says – City 1, Roar 0:
It will be interesting to see how City creates scoring opportunities this weekend without the services of Cahill and Fornaroli. If Ross McCormack is ready they should get the job done.
The F3 Derby between Central Coast Mariners and Newcastle Jets also presents an intriguing match up. Both teams endured frustrating campaigns in 2016/17 but have been extremely active in the offseason and will be hoping to make a quick climb up the ladder this season. With the healthy rivalry between the two clubs it is always a match worth watching but this one will have a number of other reasons for tuning in. What effect will former Melbourne Victory mentor Ernie Merrick have on the Jets? Paul Okon has earned praise from many with his efforts with the Mariners but can he translate this into results on the park?
This match should also showcase Venezuelan international Ronald Vargas, a man Lambas has labelled his “favourite signing in the A-League”. The 30-year-old forward has earned 22 caps for his country and has spent much of the last decade plying his trade in Europe.
He comes to the Jets from AEK Athens were one of his last appearances was in the club’s Greek Cup Final victory over Panathinakos.
Newcastle Coach Ernie Merrick, who has had great success with international signings in his time at Melbourne Victory was extremely pleased that his club had beaten out a number of European clubs for his signature. He’s an exciting, international player with experience in some of the finest leagues in the world and his inclusion goes a long way to completing our squad,” Merrick told the Newcastle Herald. “We’ve now got a player who I feel, can take the game by the scruff of the neck with his skill at the set piece and in general play.”
Spyro Says – Mariners 2, Jets 2:
I can’t split these two teams but it will be exciting though. Especially with Ray O’Donovan returning to his old stomping ground where he was once a fan favourite. It will be a very hostile home coming for him, that’s for sure.
On Sunday two of the biggest disappointments of season 2016/17, Wellington Phoeniz and Adelaide United, will square off at the Cake Tin in Wellington. Having ‘mutually agreed’ to sever ties with both coach Ernie Merrick and Marquee signing Kosta Barbarouses, hopes aren’t high for the Phoenix in 2017/18.
Despite their horror Championship defence last season, Lambas has vastly different expectations for Adelaide United this year. It’s never easy to get the points across the ditch, but if United are to prove Lambas right this is a match they will need to bank the points from.
Spyro Says – United 2, Phoenix 1:
I’m tipping Adelaide to finish Top 3 this year. I expect that they will have a strong campaign.
The round finishes up at Spotless Stadium with the home town Wanderers and Perth Glory locking horns. The Wanderers will enter the match without inaugural coach Tony Popovic who left the club on the eve of the season and with a poor record at their temporary home.
With Andy Keogh up front for the Glory they are always a dangerous side to overcome. It should make for an enterprising contest with both teams confident of walking out of Spotless Stadium with all 3 points.
Spyro Says – Wanderers 1, Glory 1:
It will be interesting to see how Western Sydney respond to interim coach Hayden Foxe. This disruption and their poor record at Spotless Stadium leaves me thinking that Perth can sneak out of Homebush with a point.
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