The Knee-jerk: Round 27

The regular Fantasy season is over – managers now have 6 transfers to prepare for the first week of the finals.

These transfers are granted to remove any lingering deadwood from your side, so it’s important to spend them wisely and to balance expenditure throughout the four positions. For this weekend, it’s noticeable how poor at least 3 out of 4 teams have been defensively, therefore it’s important to limit transfer funds towards your defence and definitely opt to play 3-4-3 or 3-5-2. The four sides’ clean sheet returns over the last 7 games reinforce this:

Adelaide: 2/7, Brisbane: 0/7, Wellington: 2/7, City: 4/7

Before we assess the key players, team selections and strategies for week 1 of the finals, here’s a glance at what the two preliminary finalists did this weekend and what it means in a fortnights time:

Victory look the team to beat

Melbourne warmed up for the finals series with a Premier’s plate-sealing win over the Mariners. Besart Berisha returned the highest points total for the Victory and equal highest for the round with Adelaide’s Pablo Sanchez.

Doubts over Berisha’s capacity to produce the Fantasy scores of his Brisbane days have been soothed by the knowledge the once-fiesty Albanian had made a concentrated effort to stay away from needless red cards. This was the great problem with Brisbane’s Berisha – although he found the net with more regularity, his volatile behaviour on the field yielded several key red cards in times where the majority of the player base had given him the armband.

This is not the case this season – and although Berisha’s goal tally has dwindled, he is still the Victory’s leading scorer and has picked up 9 assists. He has cast aside his erraticism – both in demeanour and explosive scoring record – and matured into a consistent contributor to Melbourne’s cause. And of course, he is the man for a big occasion, with 3 goals in two A-League grand finals.

Elsewhere for Victory, Fahid Ben Khalfallah was rested by Kevin Muscat with the finals in mind – ignore any doubts about his fixture in the team. Looking ahead, Victory are to face either Wellington or Melbourne City in the preliminary final. Barring any injuries, you should expect to see Sunday’s team barring the exclusion of Khalfallah – which means either Barbarouses or Archie Thompson will drop to the bench (I would assume it would be the latter).

Ibini still the man

A Knee-jerk pick from Round 25 and regular talking point since, Ibini has come to the forefront of Fantasy attention, and deservedly so. I touched on his sizable contribution to Sydney’s attacking efficiency last week, and once again the former Mariner returned a goal and most shots on target in Sydney’s win over the Phoenix.

I anticipate Ibini will be pushed hard by the returning Marc Janko and Alex Brosque when Sydney play in two weeks time, but given both the nature of Sydney forwards scoring streaks this season and the form of the player and his team, Ibini is still a genuine option to keep around for week 2, and a good one at that.

Conversely, it’s also possible – even likely – that the conclusion of the regular season will limit the potential for Ibini to return the points hauls of the past three weeks. Of course, Sydney do not play until week 2 of the finals – plenty of time to mull over Ibini’s chances against Adelaide / Brisbane before revisiting the transfer Friday week.

It’s up to you to decide which theory sounds the most plausible.

Adelaide and Brisbane

On Friday night the Reds host a Brisbane side that have enjoyed recent success in the city of churches. Although Adelaide Oval is the destination for this first finals game, Brisbane find themselves undefeated in their last 7 games at Hindmarsh.

However, Brisbane will need to rely on more than just good omen to progress to the second week of the finals. After some shaky form, Adelaide struck their groove on Saturday night, dismantling a disorganised outfit in Melbourne City. Conversely, Brisbane edged wooden-spooners Newcastle at home.

It’s difficult not to look at Adelaide and be tempted by their differential forwards – namely joint highest scorer of the round Pablo Sanchez ($187k, 2.5%) and the ever-reliable Sergio Cirio ($305k), 8.6%).

Brisbane’s strikers also offer a few tempting options – Jean Carlos Solorzano ($161k, 3.8%) and Andrija Kaluderovic ($172k, 1.1%) are both the roughies out of all this weeks forward selections . Alternatively you could back Dimitri Petratos ($185k, 3.7%) to make a timely opening to his scoring account for the season.

Finally, Marcelo Carrusca wasn’t risked by Josep Gombau against City – I think he is an essential pick for this game if fit, so wait for team news on this front.

Wellington and City

The second and final game this weekend sees a badly out of form Wellington host a similarly inconsistent Melbourne City. Wellington’s Fantasy form has well and truly dried up after a string of comprehensive home defeats, with only Roly Bonevacia producing a form rating over 4.

Michael Boxall ($121k, 3.9%) has been a late season positive for the Nix, however – the big defender has popped up with 2 goals and is a constant assist threat. Should Wellington be able to hold out a Melbourne City side averaging less than a goal a game over the past month, Boxall could be primed for a hefty points return.

Up until they were thrashed 4-1 by Adelaide, City had developed a stingy defence to compromise for their lack of goals. Tando Velaphi’s form and price ($161k, 9.3%) will give Fantasy managers food for thought outside Jamie Young, whilst Aaron Mooy continues to be the most outstanding Fantasy player of the season.  Meanwhile, Harry Novillo has fired in a barrage of shots in the past two weeks (7) but has been denied by the opposition goalkeeper. If the Frenchman gets a lucky break against the Phoenix, his 0.8% ownership will make a real difference on the Fantasy ladder.

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