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A-League round 16 preview panel

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 18/01/2017 Emma Kemp

Preview of A-League round-16 matches (all times AEDT):

THURSDAY, Jan 19

Melbourne City v Central Coast at AAMI Park 7.50pm

Head to Head: City 4 Mariners 10 drawn 5

Last clash: Round 13 2016-17 - Mariners 2 drew City 2 at Central Coast Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: City $1.30 Mariners $8.50 Draw $5.50

City are out to snap their worrying form slip in this New Year's Eve rematch. When these sides met in Gosford - John van `t Schip's final game as coach - the lowly Mariners held them 2-2 and nearly pulled off an upset. While Paul Okon's battlers are unlikely to trouble their well-resourced rivals so much again, time is slipping away for third-placed City. With only one win since November, they're likely to miss out on a top-two finish and have a skinny four-point buffer between them and seventh place.

Key: City's deep-lying maestro Neil Kilkenny returns from suspension. Can the midfielder spark a revival?

Tip: City

FRIDAY, Jan 20

Sydney FC v Adelaide United at Allianz Stadium 7.50pm

Head to Head: Sydney 14 Reds 20 drawn 7

Last clash: Round 12 2016-17 - Sydney 4 bt Reds 0 at Coopers Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Sydney $1.50 Reds $6.50 Draw $4.00

Melbourne Victory's mid-week loss to Wellington has given Sydney valuable breathing room at the top, and Graham Arnold's trailblazers will be confident of seeing off Adelaide - if they can reignite their attack after a scoreless Sydney derby. Do that and the gap at the top extends to eight points. But cockiness would be unwise against a Reds side who stunned Melbourne City last weekend 2-1. Sky Blues midfielder Josh Brillante is back from suspension, while Reds star James Holland has left for China.

Key: Can Sydney striker Bobo switch back on this week? The Brazilian's passing accuracy barely exceeded 40 per cent against the Wanderers.

Tip: Sydney

SATURDAY, Jan 21

Wellington v Brisbane at Westpac Stadium 5.35pm

Head to Head: Phoenix 5 Roar 17 drawn 7

Last clash: Round 14 2015-16 - Phoenix 0 drew Roar 0 at Westpac Stadium.

Tab Sportsbet: Phoenix $2.80 Roar $2.30 Draw $3.40

Brisbane refuse to lower their title ambitions despite losing to Melbourne Victory for their third-straight defeat. Now 16 points shy of the top, John Aloisi's fourth-placed outfit are only three points ahead of Wellington and could be overtaken with a large enough scoreline against them. The Phoenix, meanwhile, are enjoying their first taste of being finals contenders following Tuesday's win over Victory. Now fifth, the carrot is more enticing than ever.

Key: Wellington have four clean sheets in their past seven games and will be tough to crack at home.

Tip: Draw

Perth v Melbourne Victory at nib Stadium 8.00pm

Head to Head: Glory 15 Victory 15 drawn 11

Last clash: Round 9 2016-17 - Victory 1 drew Glory 1 at AAMI Park

Tab Sportsbet: Glory $3.00 Victory $2.10 Draw $3.60

Kevin Muscat is confident Victory can shake off their mid-week loss to Wellington and rediscover their best form in Perth, the second half of a gruelling road trip before next week's top-of-the-table blockbuster with leaders Sydney FC. Now five points adrift of the leading Sky Blues, a win is crucial against a sixth-placed Glory side held to another draw in Newcastle but keen to keep climbing. Perth are without suspended captain Rostyn Griffiths, while Victory's Jason Geria and Fahid Ben Khalfallah are also out after copping five yellow cards.

Key: Perth star Diego Castro was again instrumental against the Jets but missed two golden chances and will be raring to put one away.

Tip: Victory

SUNDAY, Jan 22

Western Sydney v Newcastle at Campbelltown Stadium 5.00pm

Head to Head: Wanderers 6 Jets 3 drawn 4

Last clash: Round 3 2016-17 - Wanderers 2 drew Jets 2 at Spotless Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Wanderers $1.85 Jets $3.60 Draw $4.00

It's not an understatement to say this clash is crucial for the Wanderers. Defeat to vastly improved Newcastle could result in Tony Popovic's eighth-placed side slip up to five points out of a playoff spot. In the hosts' favour is their encouraging display in last weekend's controversial derby stalemate with Sydney FC. A first clean sheet of the season will breed confidence, especially given the Jets' own front-third wastefulness in Sunday's 2-2 draw with Perth. Depending on other results, the Jets can leap back into the six with a win.

Key: Brendon Santalab. The veteran striker returns from a three-match ban to make up for lost time.

Tip: Wanderers

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