All roads lead to AAMI Park
Stuart Thomas tips an Aloisi fairy tale and a Muscat rabbit out of a hat for the elimination finals18 April 2018 | Stuart Thomas
Former rep tennis player & golfer, former high school teacher & now full time sports writer
After one of the most chaotic and unpredictable rounds of A-League that saw Brisbane Roar sneak into the last available spot in the finals, the elimination matches are upon us.
Interestingly, they will both be played at AAMI Park in Melbourne. Sydney and Newcastle will get their turns in the coming weeks.
Melbourne City face Brisbane on Friday night and the Victory meet Adelaide late Sunday in what could be a volatile encounter if past history is rebirthed.
These could be the last A-League matches played in the Victorian capital for the season or a magnificent precursor to a Grand Final. For that to happen the two Melbourne teams would need to navigate their way past this week’s opponents, as well as the New South Wales teams in waiting.
Friday night’s match-up is interesting from two perspectives. Firstly, it is hard to believe that John Aloisi has managed to lift his much maligned group of veterans and wily old foxes into the finals at all, considering their start to the season.
In addition, recent form suggests they might be as good a chance as anyone when it comes to competing on the final day for the famous trophy.
The last two months have seen the teams tally the following.
Whilst City will undoubtedly be installed as short priced favourites, the above data suggests that the first Elimination Final could be a lot closer than some people think.
What is beyond doubt is the opportunity presented to some of our young stars. Grasping it with both hands, at a time when the broader media takes something more than a passing interest in the A-League, can do the game and their careers no end of good.
Daniel Arzani and Nathaniel Atkinson can inflate their stocks even further and the occasion may well suit the enigmatic Bruce Kamau. He senses the moment well and could be a decisive substitution if used.
Brisbane will rely more on experience and guile; a point well made all season and one which Aloisi must be well and truly tired of hearing.
Perhaps this is the moment for Italian legend Massimo Maccarone (right) to shake off the air-swings and muffed efforts that have plagued his season and fire home at the eleventh hour for the Roar?
Imports Thomas Kristensen and Eric Bautheac probably hold the key for the northerners, yet Cory Gameiro could also put his name up in lights for the visitors if given the chance.
City beat the Roar both home and away this season with Brisbane getting a win at Suncorp Stadium in their other clash.
Your guess is as good as mine on this one. Personally, I am leaning towards an Aloisi fairy tale.
The Victory have been energised by their improved form in the Asian Champions League and all in all, both they and Sydney have handled the extra workload well. The table above shows no tapering in their recent A-League form and they will be ready to rumble with their old foes Adelaide United.
Adelaide have annoyed a few lately. The Wanderers exited stage left after the Reds knocked them off at ANZ Stadium and that result also saw Perth rue their missed opportunity against Brisbane the night prior.
Adelaide have drifted along over the last month with little to win and little too lose. They always looked like semi-finalists yet had no real chance of catching the two Victorian Clubs above them.
There is ample talent on show in this clash, with a corresponding number of young Australians looking to impress on the big stage.
Kenny Athui has been given increasing opportunities from Kevin Muscat and the scene is set for Christian Theoharous to produce some magic in the finals; confirming the belief many have in his skills and the view that we are watching another young Australian superstar in the making.
Even more mouth-watering is the prospect of Nikola Mileusnic, Ryan Kitto and George Blackwood leading the way for the talented Reds.
Most likely, the usual suspects will decide the contest with Isaias and Daniel Adlung constructing for the Reds and Leroy George (left) and Kosta Barbarouses desperately trying to ignite Besart Berisha for one last hurrah.
Something tells me the Victory might just have one more rabbit to pull from the hat.
However these games unravel, it will set things up for a cracking week two of the finals as the big two re-enter the fray.
I for one, can’t wait.
How do you think the two elimination finals will end-up? Vote in our poll right here.
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