Eli Babalj (AZ Alkmaar), Iacopo La Rocca (Western Sydney Wanderers), Mate Dugandzic (Melbourne City), George Mells (Southampton)
Josep Gombau’s second – and now final – season in charge of Adelaide will probably be best remembered for the Reds’ FFA Cup triumph, however good progress was made in the A-League as well. The Reds finished 3rd overall (up from 6th in 2013-14) and made the second week of the finals, winning 4 more games despite scoring only 2 more goals (47) – the Reds were however top scorers the previous season. Adelaide shared the goals around, with Pablo Sanchez top scorer with 8, while Sergio Cirio and Marcelo Carrusca netted 7 times each and Bruce Djite, Craig Goodwin and the now departed Awer Mabil all scored 6.
One advantage the Reds have over some of their rivals this season is that the starting XI will be a familiar one. Probably only Dylan McGowan – who nonetheless played regularly last season despite being 3rd choice – will come in at centre back for Nigel Boogaard, who has joined the Jets. New signings Iacopo La Rocca (who is out injured for 6 weeks thanks to a broken bone in his foot), Mate Dugandzic, Eli Babalj and youngster George Mells will likely all begin life in Adelaide on the bench. The biggest change is the one on the sideline, with the energetic and passionate Gombau replaced by Barcelona legend Guillermo Amor. This is Amor’s first professional coaching gig and he has a very different demeanour to his predecessor, however it’s safe to expect that the Reds won’t stray too far from the plans put in place by Gombau.
Adelaide’s pre-season showings have been promising, aside from a concerning capitulation in Melbourne against the Victory in the FFA Cup Quarter Finals. Apart from that 3-1 defeat – a scoreline which flattered the Reds – there have been two wins each against fellow contenders Sydney FC (2-1 and 2-0) and Melbourne City (4-3 and 3-1). Adelaide have swept aside their lower league challengers across 4 games, in which the Reds found the back of the net 24 times while conceding just twice.
The standouts have been Pablo Sanchez (currently struggling with injury), who has scored 7 times (including against Sydney and Melbourne City), a feat matched by Marcelo Carrusca (also netting against Melbourne City, and Melbourne Victory from the penalty spot). However it is an Australian player that may provide the Reds with improvement this season. James Jeggo was underrated by many last season, however one aspect his game lacked was goals – he scored only once in 28 games despite often being in good positions to strike. In preseason he’s looked much sharper in this respect, and has scored 4 goals, including twice against Melbourne City.
Adelaide United likely first-choice XI (4-3-3)
NB: Tarek Elrich and Eugene Galekovic will miss Round 1 through international duty
You should consider…
Marcelo Carrusca (MID, $325k) and Sergio Cirio (FWD, $325k) – you know what you are getting with the Reds’ two biggest fantasy guns. Both have their drawbacks, with Carrusca being injury prone (indeed he’s currently injured, but could be ready for Round 1) and sometimes inconsistent while the ever-present Cirio is hamstrung by his versatility. Cirio’s best position is clearly the left wing, however due to injuries, absences or the form of Craig Goodwin he’s regularly deployed on the right wing (as in the line-up above), in central midfield or even as a striker. The arrival of Eli Babalj will probably mean he at least won’t have to lead the line as much, which is a role he has generally struggled with.
Dylan McGowan (DEF, $150k) remains a relatively cheap defender despite likely moving up into the starting XI this season. You can pick him with the confidence that he’ll start at least for the first few rounds, given the chief rival for his position, Iacopo La Rocca, is out injured as mentioned above. Last season McGowan averaged just 2.7 points per game, however he was used as a substitute on 6 occasions, which no doubt affects that score. A defensive cheapie at a likely contender with room for improvement – he ticks a lot of boxes in fantasy.
Craig Goodwin (MID, $250k) has room to improve, with the young South Australian starting to fulfil his potential late last season – ultimately averaging a respectable 4.8ppg. However, there is some element of risk in picking Goodwin – mainly that he has no set position in the XI. He plays as both a left back and a left winger, however he’s not the best player in either of those positions in the squad. Fantasy coaches who select him will hope that he’s deployed as a left winger, as his output will be decreased if used at left back – which also makes him a ‘bad’ out-of-position pick. Unfortunately the absence of Tarek Elrich through Socceroos duty means that he will likely be playing at left back against Victory in Round 1.
You should avoid…
Bruce Djite (FWD, $250k) – because, despite being a striker, he is not the focal point of the Adelaide attack. He drops deep and tries to work other players (mainly the wide forwards) into scoring positions, thus it’s highly unlikely his output will increase beyond the 6 goals and 4.5ppg he produced last season. And he’s injury prone.
Isaias Sanchez (MID, $225k) – he’s one of the Reds’ best players, but defensive midfielders and fantasy football don’t mix. The 4.3ppg he managed last season is not terrible, but there’s no upside to him and that level of scoring is not going to win you the competition.
All of the Reds’ new signings, at least initially, should be ignored:
Iacopo La Rocca (DEF, $125k) is a tempting defensive cheapie but he’s out for several rounds injured and once he returns to active duty expect him to start on the bench unless the Reds have injuries or suspensions.
Mate Dugandzic (FWD, $200k) gives Adelaide depth in the wide forward positions, but depth players aren’t much use in fantasy football.
Eli Babalj (FWD, $275k) likely will have to build off substitute appearances to unseat Bruce Djite as the Reds’ favoured number 9. Even if he plays, he may not be a big scorer – it’s too much of a risk at $275k when there are better, and safer, options at other clubs.
George Mells (MID, $100k) is a young prospect who has his work cut out for him breaking into Adelaide’s strong midfield unit. He will probably manage sporadic substitute appearances, at best, unless something extraordinary happens.