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A-League Round 15 preview panel

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 12/01/2017 Ben McKay

Preview of A-League Round 15 matches (all times AEDT):

FRIDAY, Jan 13

Melbourne Victory v Brisbane Roar at AAMI Park 7.50pm

Head to head: Melbourne Victory 15 Brisbane 13 drawn 8

Last clash: Round 1 2016-2017 - Brisbane 1 drew Melbourne Victory 1 at Suncorp Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Melbourne Victory $1.70 Brisbane $5.00 Draw $3.50

Can anyone stop Melbourne Victory? Five straight wins and it's tempting to look ahead to the Australia Day clash with league leaders Sydney FC as a title-shaping blockbuster. Before then, Victory have a gut-busting three games in eight days - including trips to Wellington and Perth - beginning with the visit of Brisbane. The Roar - without a loss in four matches against Victory - do have the wood over Kevin Muscat's men. But 20 goals in Victory's last six home games surely suggests former Roar striker Besart Berisha, cleared-to-go winger Marco Rojas and co are just too good a force in Victoria.

Key: Nick Ansell. Steps into the breach for the suspended Alan Baro and if he can pick up where the Spaniard left off, Victory should be too strong.

Tip: Melbourne Victory

SATURDAY, Jan 14

Wellington Phoenix v Central Coast Mariners at Westpac Stadium 5.35pm

Head to head: Phoenix 10 Mariners 13 drawn 6

Last clash: Round 10 2016-2017 - Phoenix 3 bt Mariners 0 at Waikato Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Phoenix $1.60 Mariners $5.00 Draw $4.00

Wellington must wish they could play Central Coast every week; two of their three wins this season have been over the Mariners. But Paul Okon's team are capable of turning in solid performances. Central Coast were so close to downing league leaders Sydney on Sunday, only for FC's late show. So they head across the ditch, where Wellington have steadied the ship with an unbeaten home run of four. The Nix have a defining week ahead; hosting the Mariners, Victory and Brisbane in eight days, and have a great chance to set the ball rolling on Saturday. The return of Gui Finkler (personal leave), Michael McGlinchey (injury) and Vince Lia (suspension) also helps.

Key: Shane Smeltz. With Roy Krishna suspended, Smeltz could lead the line against his old side.

Tip: Phoenix

Sydney FC v Western Sydney Wanderers at Allianz Stadium 7.50pm

Head to head: Sydney 7 Western Sydney 3 drawn 3

Last clash: Round 1 2016-2017 - Sydney 4 bt Western Sydney 0 at ANZ Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Sydney $1.67 Western Sydney $4.50 Draw $4.00

Will Saturday night bring a result more than three years in the waiting for Western Sydney? The Wanderers' famed derby drought has dogged Tony Popovic since Brandon Santalab's sole goal gave them their last win over Sydney in January 2014. But Santalab won't be there on Saturday night, nor will Artiz Borda, due to suspension. Former Sydney FC man Terry Antonis could be after being promoted to the squad for the first time since signing for the club. The Sky Blues have their own personnel issues at centre-back, with Seb Ryall injured and Matt Jurman departed. But up front, Sydney look a class apart and that's surely where this derby will be settled. Alex Brosque (eight goals), Bobo (seven), Milos Ninkovic (six), Filip Holosko (five) David Carney (three) and Bernie Ibini (two) may just be the best attacking group the A-League has ever seen.

Key: Brandon O'Neill. Likely to start as a makeshift centre-half against the Wanderers.

Tip: Sydney

SUNDAY, Jan 15

Newcastle Jets v Perth Glory at McDonald Jones Stadium 5.00pm

Head to head: Jets 7 Glory 21 drawn 6

Last clash: Round 10 2016-2017 - Jets 2 bt Glory 1 at nib Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Jets $2.60 Glory $2.50 Draw $3.50

Free-scoring Newcastle are back in the top six and are every chance to jump a further position to fifth with a home win over Perth. The Jets have come on in recent weeks, scoring at least twice in their last five games and winning three of those. But this one could depend on Perth. The Glory are the hardest team to read in the A-League, boasting a squad on paper that could contend but has so often failed to produce the goods. Perth boast a five-year unbeaten streak in the Hunter and one of the league's form strikers; Andy Taggart has scored in three of his last four matches. But so have Andrew Nabbout and Morten Nordstrand for the Jets.

Key: Nabbout. The discarded Melbourne Victory winger is having a season to remember and Perth must contain him.

Tip: Draw

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