2018-19 A-League - opening weekend promises drama
Counting down the three months until the A-League kicks-off19 July 2018 | James Evans
Although there are still three months to go until the start of the 2018-19 A-League, the five opening day fixtures are already circled on the calendars of every Australian mad about football. Though some teams are more equal than others, every one finds itself on zero points at the first whistle of the season. Given that, three opening day games, in particular, appear to be of particular interest to those of a betting mind.
Sydney FC’s dominance of the league shows little sign of slowing up, and they are odds-on to be league premiers once again. Yet, with Melbourne Victory winning the championship, despite finishing a distant fourth in the league itself, nothing is guaranteed. Newcastle Jets’ rise from the nether reaches of the league to a second place finish in 2017-18 is also a prime indicator that nothing can be taken for granted.
With a Melbourne derby kicking off at the same time of Sydney’s trip to Adelaide, the drama of 2018-19 is sure to be instantaneous.
Adelaide United v Sydney
Recovering from a 3-2 extra time defeat to Melbourne Victory, after an unexpectedly tough 2-2 draw in the championship final, will require every ounce of Sydney’s collective resilience. 2017-18 yielded another impressive march to Sydney once more being crowned premiers.
In the end, it was a process that had a familiar air of simplicity about it. Prior to their defeat in the championship final, Sydney ended their domestic season with four straight wins, scoring three or more goals on two separate occasions in that timeframe. Favourites to win this one at a market average of 6/4 on Oddschecker, Sydney will also approach this opener on the back of three straight away wins across all competitions.
Ending the season with three wins in five was a strong run by Adelaide’s suppressed standards, but their home form could create some problems for Sydney. In terms of the head-to-head record, Sydney should approach this one with greater confidence.
Melbourne Victory v Melbourne City
In all competitions, Victory will open their season on the back of a seven-match winning run at home. It is a run that stretches back to 24 February, prior to which home wins were sporadic.
In actual fact, the first two-thirds of 2017-18 only yielded two home wins for Victory, with none at all before Christmas. City’s away form gives little cause for encouragement, but a shock 3-0 away win at Newcastle in April showed signs of what the squad is capable of on its day.
City also won last season’s corresponding fixture 2-1, exactly one year and five days prior to this season’s first Melbourne derby.
Victory manager Kevin Muscat is, of course, well-remembered as an uncompromising player that opponents feared. If Victory are to avenge their defeat in the last derby, his competitive nature can only inspire his charges. Two free transfers, Corey Brown and Storm Roux – each of which specialises in a wingback position across from one another – have added depth to the squad.
Meanwhile, Muscat’s City counterpart Warren Joyce has opted to prioritise the midfield so far, with two central midfielders (Anthony Caceres and Riley McGree) and wingers for opposite flanks bolstering his numbers.
Wellington Phoenix v Newcastle Jets
In a clash that has the potential for lax defending and plenty of chances, the runners-up of 2017-18 travel to a Wellington side that continues to suffer, at the hands of a geographical chasm between New Zealand and Australia.
A surprise 2-1 home win on the final day of 2017-18, against Melbourne City, did nothing to assuage Wellington fans. Prior to that result, they had watched their team limp to a return of just four points from thirty-nine, in a run stretching back to 27 January. Current odds point to the home side being New Zealand lambs to the slaughter, but with Newcastle being newly distracted by Champions League action, there could be a more diverse element working in Wellington’s favour.
With no new signings of note at this time, there appears to be full, unconditional confidence in Newcastle’s ability to press on from here. A ruthless 8-2 away demolition of Central Coast Mariners, on 14 April, remains fresh in the memory. More impressively, it came after two straight defeats (including the 0-3 home reverse to Melbourne City). This will ultimately be an unpredictable game, but looks like a popular draw in the over/under goals market.
The other opening round fixtures are Brisbane Roar v Central Coast Mariners and Perth Glory v Western Sydney Wanderers.