This article will give you a quick overview of the news and talking points heading into Round 27. I recommend reading through the official squads named for each round.
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- Adelaide will be without Nigel Boogaard, who is suspended after being sent off against Western Sydney. Awer Mabil and Marcelo Carrusca both return from injury this week. Jordan Elsey is out for the season.
- Brisbane have Michael Theo available again. Luke DeVere is out for the season, likely along with Shane Stefanutto and Henrique. Brisbane defeated Bejing Guoan 1-0 on Tuesday night to keep their ACL hopes alive, with Andrija Kaluderovic scoring the winner. Other fantasy relevant Roar players to play 90 minutes included Thomas Broich and Brandon Borrello. The line-up used can be found here.
- Central Coast lose Liam Reddy to suspension, while Fabio Ferreira returns from injury. Richard Vernes and Michael Neill are out indefinitely. The Mariners have been eliminated from finals contention.
- Melbourne City regains Kew Jaliens from suspension but loses Paulo Retre after his sending off against Perth for a week. Jacob Melling was also meant to return from suspension, however he has suffered a season-ending injury. Jack Clisby and Safuwan Baharudin have also sustained injuries that will keep them both on the sidelines for 1-2 weeks. Robbie Wielaert is still 2 weeks off a return, while James Brown (5-6 weeks) and Ben Garuccio (6-7 weeks) are likely out for the rest of the season, given there are only 4 weeks remaining. Damien Duff is out for the season.
- Melbourne Victory have lost Nathan Coe for the rest of the season. Jordan Brown and Jason Geria are also both injured, with no return date set for either player.
- Newcastle will be missing Ben Kantarovski, James Virgili and Scott Neville for another week, which means they – along with Mark Birighitti (on loan), Josh Barresi and Jess Vanstrattan (all injured) – are out for the rest of the season given that the Jets have been eliminated from finals contention.
- Perth have Ruben Zadkovich and Youssouf Hersi out injured. Rostyn Griffiths returns from suspension. Perth have been eliminated from finals contention for intentionally breaching the Salary Cap – regardless of their points tally, the Glory’s finishing position will be amended to 7th at the conclusion of this round.
- Sydney FC regain Nikola Petkovic and Mickael Tavares from injury, while Terry Antonis is at least a week away from a return. Sasa Ognenovski, Nick Carle, Ali Abbas and Corey Gameiro are all out for the rest of the season.
- Wellington have Joel Griffiths out injured for the rest of the season.
- Western Sydney have Brendon Santalab, Golgol Mebrahtu, Nick Ward, Labinot Haliti, Jaushua Sotirio, Romeo Castelen and Brendan Hamill all out injured. Nikita Rukavytsya, Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Shannon Cole are available again, however Cole has not made the squad for this round. Western Sydney were defeated 2-1 by Kashima Antlers in the ACL on Tuesday night, meaning their qualification for the next round is in doubt. The returning Rukavytsya scored for Popovic’s men; he played 90 minutes, as did Mark Bridge. Kerem Bulut was subbed off after 63 minutes. The full line-up used can be found here. The Wanderers are eliminated from finals contention.
A note about finals: it is important to remember that the top 2 teams will have a bye in the first week, meaning their players won’t score points in Fantasy A-League.
One of those teams will be Melbourne Victory, who only need a point to clinch the Premiership. If Sydney FC avoid defeat in Wellington, they will join Victory in the top 2 while Wellington will have to play next week.
Should Wellington defeat Sydney FC – which would be the Sky Blues’ first away defeat of the season – they will finish second behind Victory, and Sydney FC third.
Adelaide, Melbourne City and Brisbane will all play in the first week of the finals, making their players safer picks as we know they will be in action next week.
Perth, Western Sydney, Newcastle and Central Coast cannot qualify for finals and therefore their players will cease to score points after this round.
Fantasy coaches will receive 6 free transfers next week and again in the second week of finals, while for the Grand Final unlimited changes can be made to your teams.
Brisbane Roar v Newcastle Jets
The opening game of the final round is something of a dead rubber for the finals-bound Roar, with Brisbane unable to move on the table regardless of the result. The Jets can at least attempt to escape the wooden spoon by winning.
Considering their recent busy schedule and away trip to China in midweek, it’s feasible that Brisbane will once again rest players as they did against Melbourne Victory in the last round. This is a somewhat frustrating scenario given Roar players come with the guarantee of seeing action next week. At least fantasy coaches will have the opportunity to see the team sheets before lockout commences – keep an eye on your preferred social media channel for updates. Thanks to the number of changes made, there wasn’t much of note fantasy-wise from the Roar last round. Daniel Bowles did manage to keep his spot in the side and picked up 6 points, however this was likely due to Jerome Polenz not being fit enough to start. Also Michael Theo is available again, so be wary if you have been using Jamie Young.
As the Jets have been eliminated from finals contention, it would be highly risky to bring in one of their players now, as you’d need to trade them out again next week. However, if you have any of the more fantasy relevant Jets, a game against a second string Brisbane side could provide some late fantasy gold. Andrew Hoole picked up a terrific 13 points last week in a high-scoring loss to Sydney, while Edson Montano managed 10 and Enver Alivodic 6. Otherwise, it was another quiet round for the struggling Jets.
Western Sydney Wanderers v Perth Glory
The second match of the final round also features one team locked into a position and another fighting to avoid the spoon. Both the Wanderers and Perth are out of the finals, so it’d be best to look elsewhere for new recruits.
Before even considering their poor season, there’s a lot counting against picking Wanderers players in fantasy A-League – rotation, ACL involvement, and a high number of injuries among them. With the focus now firmly on reaching the second round of the Champions League, expect some key omissions from the Wanderers in their final A-League game of the season. Tomi Juric may be among the starters, however, given he played only 27 minutes in midweek. His 15 point haul against Adelaide in the 2-1 win last round means that if you have him, he could be worth hanging onto for another week. Mark Bridge also picked up 12 points against the Reds, though it’s worth considering that he played a full 90 minutes against Kashima Antlers.
Perth’s season of promise has come to a shattering end for their fans, though at least the players managed to show a lot of spirit in the 3-1 win over finals-bound Melbourne City last round. Aside from Danny Vukovic picking up 7 points, however, really the only fantasy relevant score was that of Jamie Maclaren, who scored a hat trick and picked up a whopping 20 points. Maclaren has shown this season that he can be a lethal finisher despite often getting only limited minutes. Expect bigger things from him next season.
Adelaide United v Melbourne City
The Saturday night game could potentially be a dress-rehearsal for week 1 of the finals, though a win for Adelaide could see them move up to third if Sydney FC defeat Wellington on Sunday, meaning they would instead face Brisbane Roar. Like the Roar, Melbourne City are unable to alter their finishing position this round.
Adelaide’s title challenge has fallen apart in recent weeks, collapsing 3-2 at home to the Roar and then 2-1 to Western Sydney last round. Despite losing only once in 11 games against Victory, Sydney and Perth this season (including in the FFA Cup), Adelaide have been defeated by all of the teams below them on the ladder – suggesting they could be ripe for picking off in the first week of finals. Nonetheless, despite recent poor form Gombau’s men do provide us with the safety of knowing they will be playing next week. Nigel Boogaard’s dismissal last round means that Dylan McGowan will regain his spot in the starting XI for at least this week. Marcelo Carrusca and Awer Mabil have both been included in the squad, but there’s no guarantee they’ll see action – for now, it might be wiser to look to Reds that we know are fit, such as Sergio Cirio, Tarek Elrich and even Craig Goodwin. James Jeggo and Isaias are both 1 yellow card away from a suspension, so word is that they will not play against City.
Melbourne City missed a host of chances early against Perth, and were made to pay for it in a 3-1 defeat. Despite conceding only 1 goal in their previous 5 games, City were punished by a reinvigorated Perth side, casting doubt on their ability to make an impact in the finals. At least for fantasy coaches, Aaron Mooy (10 points) and Harry Novillo (9 points) produced decent returns. Mooy remains a must-have while City are still alive, while Novillo could be the surprise to elevate you up the ladder. As City cannot gain anything except momentum from a win here, it is possible they could rest some players, so be wary of loading up on City players this week.
Wellington Phoenix v Sydney FC
The first of the two Sunday games is the most important of the round. It will decide who gets to join Melbourne Victory in having a bye in the first round of finals, and it may also see Victory claim the Premiership before they even take the field against the Mariners.
Wellington’s recent poor form (no goals scored, 6 conceded, 2 losses in their last 3) looked like it would continue when the Mariners raced to a 2 goal lead. However, Roly Bonevacia stepped up with a goal and an assist for 19 points, and Kenny Cunnigham with 2 goals and 12 points to steer the Phoenix to a 3-2 win at the death. Roy Krishna and Nathan Burns have both under-performed in recent weeks, however both managed 6 points here and could be crucial players for fantasy coaches next week if Wellington are unable to end Sydney’s unbeaten streak away from home here. The uncertainty over whether Wellington will play next week or not means bringing in any of their players is a risk.
Sydney need only a point against Wellington to qualify for the top 2 and a bye next week, though in order to keep their slim chance of claiming the Premiership alive they must win and win well. In addition to Victory’s 3 point lead, they also have a goal difference of +23, 7 better than Sydney’s +16. It will be interesting to see what approach Graham Arnold takes on Sunday – play it safe and sit on any lead they may have, or go for more goals and risk throwing away 2nd spot. Sydney are certainly capable of scoring multiple goals – they have netted 3 times or more in 11 games this season, including bags of 4 (3 times) and 5 (twice). Sydney also won 3-0 in Wellington quite recently. It’s well worth fantasy coaches considering this scenario when picking their team this week, as if Sydney go for goals it could prove to be a golden weekend for owners of the likes of Alex Brosque, Bernie Ibini or Marc Janko. While Janko has gone cold in recent weeks, scoring only 13 points total in his last 4, Brosque has been the one to step up. The 16 points he picked up against Newcastle means he has 30 in the last 2 games, and 53 in his last 6 – though there is a low score of 2 in that run. Of course, loading up on Sydney FC players is a double-edged sword – win (or draw) and they are missing next week.
Melbourne Victory v Central Coast Mariners
In all likelihood, Victory will clinch the Premiership in the final game of the regular season. Even if Sydney FC win and win by a big margin, Victory would be expected to see off the Mariners, let alone managing a draw which would also be good enough. No doubt though such a scenario could put doubt in the minds of Muscat’s men, especially after suffering a shock defeat to Newcastle in their last home game. Of course, Sydney fail to win in New Zealand and the Premier’s Plate is their’s. For the Mariners, the game is a dead rubber as they cannot improve their finishing position – however, they could still play a role in determining the fate of the Premier’s Plate.
Given that Victory have to name their line-up before the Wellington v Sydney game has concluded, it’d be safe to expect to see a strong team named in order to erase any doubt of letting the Premiership somehow slip away. So owners of Gui Finkler, Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Besart Berisha should all rest easy – until next week, when all of Victory’s star performers will have the bye. If you are looking to bring in some Victory players, it’s probably best to wait until the second week of finals. While a full-strength line-up should be put out, the game could still descend into a canter if Sydney aren’t able to get the job done against the Phoenix, and the likes of Finkler and FBK could be subbed off early.
The Mariners looked to be cruising against an out-of-sorts Phoenix 2-0, before succumbing to a 2nd half comeback by Wellington. In fantasy A-League, Mariners players have struggled to be relevant this season, and that was largely the case again last week – aside from decent returns from Eddy Bosnar (9 points), Nick Fitzgerald (7 points) and Isaka Cernak (6 points). But given that they have been eliminated from finals, and potentially face a motivated Victory this weekend, don’t be looking to their players for any late sparks. Certainly don’t trade any Mariners in.