The Final Four
Following Brisbane’s stunning come-from-behind win over the Victory and Fornaroli’s masterclass against Perth, the A-League season is down to four teams: Adelaide, Melbourne City, Western Sydney and Brisbane.
Melbourne Victory and Perth join Sydney, Wellington, Newcastle and Central Coast in being eliminated – their season is over, so it would be wise to remove any of their players from your team.
This week coaches will once again receive 6 free transfers, so hopefully you didn’t stock up too heavily on Victory or Perth players. The Grand Final will see coaches effectively given a second wild card, therefore picking evenly among the teams isn’t as much of an issue now.
Adelaide United (1st) vs. Melbourne City (4th)
In the previous 10 seasons of the A-League, the Grand Final has been contested by teams finishing either 1st, 2nd or 3rd on the table. Melbourne City will be looking to make history as they travel to Coopers Stadium on Friday night, a place where they have already won twice this season. However, their last encounter with the Reds – at AAMI Park just two weeks ago – ended in a deserved defeat as Amor’s men seized the Premiership.
In what has been a close season among the top six, it seems as though this contest could go either way despite Adelaide’s home advantage and 13-day break. The Reds are no certainties despite finishing top, and of course they have an appalling finals record in the A-League – winning only 3 of their 18 finals matches. The 3 wins (and all of their 3 drawn finals also) have come in Adelaide, however.
Adelaide possess few standout fantasy options while City have Fornaroli, Mooy and Novillo, so if you’re sitting on top of your league then you probably want City to advance here (unless, of course, you’re a Reds or Victory fan). If you have a few points to make up, then a Reds win could ensure a more unpredictable Grand Final from a fantasy perspective.
Adelaide’s most picked player is reserve keeper John Hall ($122k), with 32.7% ownership. While it is unlikely he will play any part in the finals unless Eugene Galekovic ($295k) gets suspended or suffers an injury, he is the second cheapest keeper in the game ($1k more expensive than fellow Reds’ custodian John Solari) and should sit on your bench to free up cash to spend elsewhere.
Iacopo La Rocca ($122k) is likely to be the cheapest starting Adelaide defender and therefore should be considered; Jordan Elsey ($110k) will probably be on the bench, while Michael Marrone ($164k) and Dylan McGowan ($182k) are awkwardly priced. If Tarek Elrich ($239k) is fit again – he hasn’t played since the 5th of March due to injury – he will take his regular spot at left back. This is good news if you want Craig Goodwin ($259k), as Elrich’s inclusion will see him deployed in an attacking role.
Stefan Mauk ($191k) is already owned by 23.8% of coaches, owing to the fact that he is underpriced – and no doubt he’ll be looking to make an impact against his former club. Isaias Sanchez ($218k) hasn’t been much of a fantasy player during his time at Adelaide, but he has found the back of the net twice in his last 3 games, including against City from a free kick in Round 27. Perhaps he’s worth a punt. Marcelo Carrusca ($309k) certainly hasn’t lived up to his premium price tag this campaign, however as Thomas Broich showed on Friday night the cream does rise to the top when it counts. Cheapie Bruce Kamau ($127k) could provide some spark and drive for the Reds, though if Elrich is back in the XI it may have to be from the bench.
Sergio Cirio ($309k) has endured his toughest season during his time in Adelaide, scoring only 4 goals (after 8 and 7 in his previous 2 campaigns). He hasn’t found the back of the net since Round 18 when he put 2 past Sydney – it would be a huge gamble to pick him, but if you are looking for a point of difference it’s not likely that he’d find his way into many teams. Bruce Djite ($240k), surprisingly, may be a more popular pick. Djite has hardly been prolific since returning to the Reds, however this campaign he’s scored 9 goals, representing his best season since 2010-11 when he netted 10 times. Djite is in goal scoring form too, with four in his last 3 games – including against City in Round 27. With Berisha and Keogh eliminated, and Novillo suspended (subject to appeal) Djite may come into calculations for many sides.
For City, Bruno Fornaroli ($288k) showed once again on Sunday why he simply must be in your team. It would be a massive risk to not have him – unless you are absolutely desperate to make up ground by trying something different, I would not trade him out. The same goes for Aaron Mooy ($382k). At the time of writing Harry Novillo ($269k) is suspended. If he wins his appeal to play this week then he should strongly be considered, especially if you are looking to cement your place at the top of your league.
If the appeal fails, then Ben Garuccio ($134k) will likely play on the wing in his place (as he did on Sunday), making him a cheap out of position defender that should be in your side. Nick Fitzgerald ($240k) will start on the opposite wing, and while he’s hardly a fantasy star, he did score the winner on City’s last visit to Coopers Stadium.
Cheapie defender Jack Clisby ($114k) ultimately won the battle for City’s left back position and could start there again if Novillo remains suspended. Otherwise, it’s possible Garuccio will take the spot. Ivan Franjic ($243k) withdrew late through injury, with midfielder Paulo Retre ($123k) filling in at right back. Retre is the wrong type of out of position so he really doesn’t offer us much besides a cheapie for your midfield to free up cash, or to provide some cover on the bench (assuming he even plays this week).
Anthony Caceres ($237k) would be unlikely to have much impact from a fantasy perspective. Osama Malik ($216k) may want to make a statement against his former team though it would likely be from a defensive standpoint, as the holding midfielder has not found the back of the net since the 6th of December in 2013. He is also awkwardly priced for a defender, as are Alex Wilkinson ($201k), Patrick Kisnorbo ($240k) and Franjic, should he play. Thomas Sorensen ($280k) probably won’t feature in many teams while Roar cheapie keeper Jamie Young is active.
Western Sydney Wanderers (2nd) vs. Brisbane Roar (3rd)
The other Semi Final sees a rematch of the 2013-14 Grand Final, where the Roar came from a goal down to beat the Wanderers in extra time. The Roar’s heroics on Friday will no doubt have them confident of getting the job done at Pirtek Stadium, where they have already triumphed this season – albeit back in Round 1, winning 3-1. Their most recent visit (Round 9) ended in a 2-1 defeat though, while the last encounter between the teams (at Suncorp Stadium in Round 22) saw the Roar take the points in stunning fashion, with Maclaren and Petratos both netting in the last 9 minutes after the Wanderers themselves had scored two late goals to lead. Like the Adelaide v City game, this one really could go either way.
Interestingly Andrew Redmayne ($215k) was started in goals for the Wanderers for their last two games, his first starts since losing the spot to Liam Reddy ($246k) in Round 20. He is still $16k more expensive than Young but he is an affordable alternative if you want to be a little different – and it may be some relief for coaches that regardless of which team makes the Grand Final we will have an inexpensive keeper to select.
The Wanderers are settled in defence, with a back four of Scott Neville ($182k), Scott Jamieson ($253k), Nikolai Topor-Stanley ($174k) and Alberto Aguilar ($152k). Likewise, the midfield trio will be comprised of Mitch Nichols ($303k), Andreu Guerao ($211k) and Dimas Delgado ($237k). Neither Andreu nor Dimas are big point scorers, so only consider picking them if you are desperate for an unlikely hero. Nichols’ late season form did not match that of his hot start to the campaign, however is he one of the Wanderers’ few genuine fantasy standouts and should be in your plans.
The front three will likely consist of Romeo Castelen ($246k), Mark Bridge ($230k) and Brendon Santalab ($170k). Both Castelen and Santalab are in good recent form, with Castelen producing 27 points from his last 2 starts (1 goal and 3 assists) and Santalab 28 points from 2 games (4 goals). Santalab has been a hero off the bench for the Wanderers at times this season, though he’s shown he can produce the goods from the start in recent weeks. Strongly consider him for your forward line, especially given his bargain price. Castelen is listed as a midfielder, so he should be a contender for a spot in your team there. Bridge is not in great form – no goals since Round 19 – however this may be the exact occasion he needs to make his mark (no pun intended). Maybe pick him if you are desperate to be different.
As for the Wanderers, the Roar’s side is relatively comfortable to predict – it will more than likely be the same XI that defeated the Victory on Friday night. Jamie Young ($199k) will start in goals, protected by a back four of Jack Hingert ($147k), Jade North ($218k), James Donachie ($163k) and Corey Brown ($148k). Corona ($269k) will sit in front of the defence as the deep-lying playmaker, flanked by Matt McKay ($226k) and Dimi Petratos ($186k). Jamie Maclaren ($296k) will lead the line with Thomas Broich ($319k) and Tommy Oar ($215k) on the wings. Henrique ($254k) will play a role off the bench.
There’s some decent value in the defence with Young, Hingert, Brown and even Donachie worth considering, while Petratos is another cheapie option for your forward line (as he’s listed as a forward) – though perhaps not as strong as Santalab in terms of a goal threat. Midpricer Matt McKay showed he can have an impact, while Oar probably hasn’t quite found his feet yet after a long period without playing prior to his return to the Roar. It is possible that he could be replaced by Brandon Borrello ($234k) or even Henrique.
Surprisingly Jamie Maclaren is not in good form, with just one goal from his last 5 games; he has however hit the target 8 times in that stretch, so perhaps it’s only a matter of time before he scores again. Time is running out this season, though, and coaches may want to think about picking someone else. Thomas Broich hasn’t been in great form all season, though he showed he can still be a match winner with a thumping header to steal the game for the Roar last week. There could be some value in picking Corona too, with the midfielder picking up his 5th assist of the season (though his first in five weeks) against the Victory; he does fall more into the ‘unlikely hero’ category, however.
Player shots on target statistics via Fox Sports Fantasy A-League.