Finals are here!
Last weekend saw Adelaide United incredibly claim the Premier’s Plate after Brisbane Roar were unable to see off an under-strength Melbourne Victory side in a 0-0 draw. That result also opened the door for the Wanderers to take 2nd spot (and the week off), which they did by dispatching Wellington 2-0.
What it all means for Fantasy A-League coaches is this:
Adelaide and Western Sydney will have the bye in Week 1.
Brisbane, Melbourne City, Perth and Melbourne Victory will all play in Week 1.
Sydney, Newcastle, Wellington and Central Coast have been eliminated and play no further part in the season.
All up, this was probably the best result for Fantasy A-League coaches. It means that the likes of Aaron Mooy, Bruno Fornaroli, Jamie Maclaren and Andy Keogh will be lining up for your teams this week, while the teams with the bye – Adelaide and the Wanderers – aren’t really packed with strong fantasy options.
Fantasy coaches will have 6 free trades available to use this week – or 7 if you saved one from last round – to clear their teams of any players who won’t be participating this week.
I’d recommend prioritising the removal of any players from the four eliminated teams, as if you can hang onto any Wanderers or Adelaide players by placing them on the bench then you know you have them ready to go next week – and it could save you points from additional trades.
It is of course okay to keep eliminated players as cheap bench fillers, in order to save both trades and money. It is a slightly risky strategy however given points are typically at a premium in A-League Finals, and any late omissions could cripple your team.
Another strategy to consider – more so if you are looking to make up a lot of ground – is to go unique where possible. Obviously we wouldn’t expect someone like Dimi Petratos to outscore Jamie Maclaren across an entire season, but for 1 week he could certainly do so. Someone like Jason Geria or Osama Malik could be an unlikely hero for their team. If you are sitting at or near the top of the table however, it’s probably best to stick with fantasy favourites instead of making wild guesses. We have relied on them across the campaign for a reason.
Brisbane Roar (3rd) vs. Melbourne Victory (6th)
Brisbane will be wondering how on earth they managed to let the Premier’s Plate slip from their grasp. Had Matt McKay been able to divert Tommy Oar’s cross in the 3rd minute into the goal, perhaps the Roar would currently be sitting with their feet up instead of preparing for a do-or-die clash with the team that denied them first place and a week off.
The Roar will be fuming – well, we know assistant coach Ross Aloisi is – and determined to make immediate amends. Jamie Maclaren has been quiet in the last few rounds, with only one goal from his last 4 appearances. He has nonetheless been consistently and accurately shooting, with 7 shots on target registered in that period; it’d be a surprise if he didn’t find the back of the net again soon. Maclaren is second only to Fornaroli for shots on target (43 to 57, 10 more than 3rd placed Berisha) and should be considered as essential if you are sticking with the proven players.
Coaches looking to take a risk could find a spot for Dimi Petratos ($181k) in their forward line. Though erratic, Petratos has been in reasonable form of late, scoring 4 goals in his last 8 appearances from 8 shots on target. Or perhaps it could be Henrique ($254k) from the bench, with the supersub scoring 2 goals in his last 3 games from 3 shots on target.
Besart Berisha ($341k) has been cleared to play after his suspension was reduced on Tuesday night, meaning he also now comes into the mix for your forward line. Berisha has not had the most consistent of seasons, but he’s in solid enough form to consider regardless of his massive price tag. In his last 5 games Berisha has scored 3 goals from 4 shots on target – probably not quite enough to say he’s worth the money, but against his old side at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night he may well come out firing. Berisha and the Victory love big games, generally speaking, and if they can get past the Roar they’ll fancy their chances of knocking off Adelaide the following week.
Berisha’s early return could be bad news for some coaches who own, or are looking at bringing in, Roar’s cheap defenders. The Roar of course did keep Victory (including Berisha) scoreless on their last visit to Suncorp Stadium, with the match ending in a 5-0 drubbing. Jack Hingert ($134k) and Corey Brown ($136k) are the clear value picks in defence, while James Donachie ($159k) is slightly pricier but also affordable.
Of course this game also sees the cheapie keepers come head-to-head, with Jamie Young ($186k) already likely in most active fantasy teams. Alternatively, Lawrence Thomas ($153k) could again be the hero for the Victory after his fine display to stop the Roar last round. If you have the cash to spare you can look ahead to next week by selecting both custodians in your squad, though coaches looking to save money wherever possible should opt for one as a starter and have John Hall ($120k), who will only play if Eugene Galekovic is unavailable, on the bench.
Former fantasy favourites Thomas Broich ($317k) and Gui Finkler ($311k) have found it difficult to make an impact this season despite their class. Broich in particular has struggled; he has registered only 1 assist since Round 11, against the Mariners in Round 18. Only twice this season – in Rounds 7 and 26 – has Broich hit double-figures in fantasy points. The Wellington-bound Finkler has similarly had an underwhelming campaign, though he has managed to hit double figures four times, and notched 2 assists in his last 3 games. Perhaps either man has one big fantasy showing left in them, but they are both risky selections at their premium prices.
If Victory are forced to proceed without Berisha, they’ll be looking to the likes of Kosta Barbarouses ($278k) and Fahid Ben Khalfallah ($284k) for goals and creativity. Barbarouses’ A-League season has recently been disrupted by the Victory’s ACL campaign, however he has still had an impact with 2 goals in his last 4 appearances from 5 shots on target, along with 2 assists from 5 shot assists. Ben Khalfallah’s form has been ordinary of late, despite not being included in the ACL squad. His last goal for the Victory came in Round 22 against the Mariners, and his last assist in Round 21 against Sydney. He has hit the target just twice in his last 4 games, though he has provided 6 shots assists in that time. Consider him as more of a ‘roughie’ than a premium.
Another ‘roughie’ selection could be Oli Bozanic ($242k). Bozanic has hardly been prolific this season, but he followed up his Round 25 brace against the Wanderers with another goal in Wellington. Prior to Round 25, he’d managed only one shot on target in 10 games. It seems unlikely he’ll explode again, but anything’s possible.
Melbourne City (4th) vs. Perth Glory (5th)
City were in with a chance of taking the Premier’s Plate prior to the final round kicking off, however a loss at home to Adelaide immediately ended their title tilt. Now they must face a resurgent Perth side, whose remarkable revival was perhaps overshadowed by that of Adelaide.
It probably goes without saying that Bruno Fornaroli ($264k) and Aaron Mooy ($380k) need to be considered – they are surely already in most active teams anyway. While City have added some defensive steel, it is the attack that has carried them for most of the season and we can expect the same in the finals.
Harry Novillo has been suspended for 2 games by the Match Review Panel, and therefore should be traded out and ignored unless City make the Grand Final – or he wins any appeal to have the ban reduced. With Michael Zullo ruled out for the season, the spot could potentially fall to Ben Garuccio ($133k), offering coaches a cheapie out of position defender. However, Garuccio was not in the squad last round, likely due to an injury concern. Marc Marino ($141k), who played 45 minutes off the bench on Friday night, could also take the spot.
Nick Fitzgerald ($239k) could be considered City’s ‘roughie’ in attack. While Fitzgerald is not a proven goalscorer he did manage to net the winner against Adelaide in Round 23 followed by another goal against the Roar in Round 24, showing he can have an impact against the stronger sides in the competition. He did fail to register a shot on target against both Perth and Wellington after his 2 goals in 2 weeks, though against Adelaide on Friday night he hit the target twice. With Novillo out of the team, he could have a greater responsibility to attack.
In defence, City don’t offer us any solid cheapie options. Thomas Sorensen ($278k) will start in goals, but given his high price tag I’d expect most coaches to opt for either Young or Thomas. Patrick Kisnorbo ($239k), Ivan Franjic ($241k), Osama Malik ($216k) and Alex Wilkinson ($200k) should all start but are awkwardly priced.
The best hope for a cheapie is at left back, though it’s somewhat uncertain who will play there. Connor Chapman ($166k) started there against the Reds on Friday night, before being replaced with Jack Clisby ($113k), who is more comfortable with the position (but perhaps not fully fit). Ben Garuccio held the position previously but was not in the squad for last round’s game, nor was another candidate for the spot in Aaron Hughes ($190k).
Perth’s defensive stocks are much more attractive fantasy propositions thanks to their prices, however they’d want to do far better than in the 4-0 hammering Sydney handed out to them on Sunday. Marc Warren ($112k) was lucky to escape red after a dangerous tackle, so he is free to line up for your fantasy team as a budget price option. Alex Grant ($147k) and Shane Lowry ($156k) are both affordable and a crucial part of the Glory defence, though be wary of Kenny Lowe swinging the axe after last weekend’s disaster. Dino Djublic ($237k) is probably too pricey for your fantasy team but he may potentially take the spot of one of Perth’s cheapies if he’s fit enough to start. Ante Covic ($270k), like Sorensen, won’t get many takers when much cheaper options are on offer at Brisbane and the Victory.
Andy Keogh’s ($303k) record goal-scoring run may have ended at 8 consecutive games, however he must be considered in fantasy, especially if fellow premium Diego Castro ($293k) is able to overcome the hamstring issue that ruled him out of Sunday’s game. Chris Harold ($202k) also missed the loss to Sydney but can be considered if fit despite a downturn in recent form. From Rounds 15 to 20 Harold managed 6 goals in 6 games, but since then he’s found the back of the net just once. Another fantasy ‘roughie.’
In midfield Perth do have a host of potential, but unlikely, match winners – Gyorgy Sandor ($213k), Richard Garcia ($213k), the under-performing Nebojsa Marinkovic ($255k) and defensive midfielder Krisztian Vadocz ($154k), who has shown he can score (against Newcastle in Round 25; granted, he’s had only 2 shots on target this season) and is cheap enough to be a ‘squad filler’ if you are running short of cash but need another starter who will likely chip in with 3 or 4 points but no more.
Player shots on target statistics via Fox Sports Fantasy A-League.