A festival of rugby league action is set to take over the pre-season in 2020.
Who’s your pick to take out the 2018/19 Hyundai A-League Championship?
Will it be the top of the table Glory, the ever-present Sydney FC, last year’s Champions Melbourne Victory, or even Adelaide United?
Let’s analyse each of the remaining four sides chances here.
Why they will win: Sitting in the box seat, and red-hot favourites to take out the title, Perth Glory have been almost unstoppable this season. Reinvigorated under Tony Popovic, and a host of new signings, the Glory have only lost three games this season. With six more goals scored than the next challenger, six fewer goals conceded than the next best, and finishing eight points clear atop the league, they’ve been almost unchallenged all season.
Why they won’t: They have lost to Sydney FC twice this season. Their biggest challenger for the title, chances are the Glory will have to get past Sydney to win it. After playing each other three times this season, Sydney FC have taken out the duel, two wins to one. This poses issues for the Glory who will be hoping Sydney don’t make it past the semi-final. Adding to their woes are Melbourne Victory who also knocked off the Glory just one month ago, in Perth.
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Why they will win: Brandon O’Neill and Adam Le Fondre. The two have been immense for Sydney FC this season and will need both stars firing to take home the gold. O’Neill has undoubtedly been one of the best performing players in the league this season, while Le Fondre has been in blistering form in front of goal with 16 for the season. Boasting Premier League experience, as well as an English Championship title with Reading, Le Fondre has the experience, nous and ability to guide Sydney FC to their fourth Championship.
Why they won’t: Sydney are still competing in the AFC Champions League. With clashes on 7 and 21 May, including one in Korea, it isn’t the most ideal preparation for their A-League campaign. Will their players be able to keep up with a heavier schedule than the majority of their competition.
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Why they will win: History and experience. Arguably the most successful Club in A-League history, they’ve ‘been there, done that’ four times already, and are the reigning Champions themselves. They know how to perform on the big stage, with star player quality in abundance and a Manager in Kevin Muscat who has been involved as either a player or Manager in all four of the Club’s titles.
Why they won’t: Like their Sydneysider counterparts, the Victory are still competing in the AFC Champions League. Unlike Sydney FC, the Victory don’t have a week off, and play on 8 and 22 May, and will also be travelling to Korea themselves. This will mean four games in under three weeks, all before the Grand Final, if they make it that far. How deep does the Victory squad run, and how good is their ability to back up performances with such a short recovery time? We will soon find out.
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Why they will win: Undefeated in six, Adelaide head into the finals with the best run of form of any side in the league. Form is a significant factor heading into a finals series, and should hold United in great stead. Couple this with a ten-day break between games, Adelaide will be the freshest of any side heading into the finals series. We might also add that last year’s Champions, Melbourne Victory, managed to take home the title from this exact position (fourth).
Why they won’t: A lack of scoring power. Goals win matches and Adelaide have found these hard to come by this season. United have scored the least amount of goals in the league this season (37) bar only a struggling Central Coast side who finished last with only three wins.
Craig Goodwin has been Adelaide’s go-to man this season, and will need him firing on all cylinders to be any chance.
Tickets to see Perth Glory v Adelaide United in their semi final on Friday night at HBF Park will be on sale to the general public at 2pm (WST) on Tuesday 7 May at Ticketmaster.com.au. Tickets to the Grand Final are TBC.