How things can change. Not a month ago I was calling the Heart a certainty to make the finals, and not stop there. I was ready to put my house on a Roar vs Heart grand final.
And aren’t I glad I didn’t.
At the other end of the table, Perth looked certain for the wooden spoon. The team in turmoil, a coach who seems to have been hired, and retained, purely for his on-field antics. It was hard to see any team challenging Perth for the wooden spoon. Once again, how things can change.
All that separates the Heart and the Glory on the bottom of the table is goal difference, the result of Heart’s routs of Wellington and Victory, meanwhile eighth placed Wellington are only three points clear, with a goal difference that is only one better than Perth’s.
So, because I never learn, here is my prediction for the race for the wooden spoon.
Central Coast Mariners (Home) & Sydney FC (Away)
Perth face a revitalised Central Coast at NIB this weekend, eager to cement second place on the ladder. Of the three A League teams playing in Asia, Central Coast have been the one that has appeared least affected by the travel. Their match at Bluetongue last night is unlikely to weigh especially heavily on them as they head to Perth for Saturday’s late match. If Perth are as limp as they were in the first half against Newcastle last week, Central Coast should have no trouble dealing with them. However, Perth is riding high from two late goals and a surprise win against the Jets, and could pull this one off.
Prediction: Glory 1:2 Central Coast.
The final round sees Glory traveling to Sydney, in what could be Alessandro Del Piero’s last A League match. It won’t be, though, as Sydney should comfortably make the finals – their run home is much easier than Newcastle’s, who sit one point behind them. Sydney won’t make the top two though, and as this match is the last of the regular season, the top six will already be set, and so, presumably, will the wooden spoon. Sydney will play a side with one or two key players rested, and Perth will be playing for pride, and possibly to avoid the wooden spoon. This match has all the making of a surprise package.
Prediction: Glory 2:1 Sydney
Adelaide United (Away) & Western Sydney Wanderers (Home)
Heart face Adelaide at home this weekend, keen to make amends for handing the win to a ten man Roar last week. Adelaide, however, will be chasing a top-two position, and a win this weekend could put them in the box seat. Last time Heart traveled to Adelaide they pulled off a late draw, a highlight from an otherwise lackluster first half of the season. Adelaide is a tighter side now and has more to play for, while Heart will struggle to stay consistent and get goals on the board.
Prediction: Heart 0:2 Adelaide
In the final round Heart welcome Western Sydney. The Wanderers will know whether they can leapfrog Adelaide and Victory into second place, and will hope for a Mariners loss to tie up second place. Heart however will want to give Harry Kewell a great send off in his last professional match, hopefully in front of a decent crowd, there to see Australia’s greatest ever football player off. John Van ‘t Schip will probably play Harry Kewell for the full 90 minutes, giving the crowd what they want, despite his recent run of injuries. Melbourne will still manufacture some chances, and hopefully be able to finish them off, with both Kewell and Williams getting on the score sheet, but the Wanderers will be chasing second place and a week off, and will also be looking to get on the scoresheet, in front of a decent crowd of traveling support.
Prediction: Heart 2:2 Western Sydney
Sydney FC (Away) & Melbourne Victory (Home)
Wellington will travel to Sydney, who are in the top 6 and looking to stay there, and also looking to take momentum with them into the finals. Wellington’s away form has not been their friend, going down to Newcastle 5-0 two weeks ago, while they struggled to make any opportunities against Adelaide at home last week, and will struggle in their last two matches too, with a depleted squad.
Prediction: Wellington 0:1 Sydney
Wellington will face Victory in their last match, at the end of a busy traveling schedule. Victory, like Adelaide, are mathematically in the hunt for a top two spot, and as Adelaide will have already played, Victory will have a chance to get an upper hand over Central Coast and Western Sydney. Victory, despite being depleted by travel, will not hand anything easy to Wellington, who will struggle to keep Victory’s superior attack out. Wellington has shown signs of greatness this season, but they may be destined for the wooden spoon.
Prediction: Wellington 1:3 Victory
The ladder at the death:
The three clubs have had seasons to forget, for different reasons. For Melbourne Heart it been a tale of two seasons, from struggling with a winless 2013 to pulling off the longest winning streak in the league. The club is destined for big things in 2014/15, with their recent buyout from the consortium that owns Manchester City likely to bring expertise and confidence to the side. Likewise Wellington has shown signs of progress in 2013/14, and should get by without any wholesale change to playing or coaching staff. Ernie Merrick should be allowed time to prove whether his rebuild of the club has been successful. Perth, however, are looking for a new coach, and may find themselves looking for several new players in the off-season. 2014/15 might also have to be written off as a growth year for the old NSL powerhouse, who will need time to get their new coach and players to gel.Google+