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A-League round-nine preview panel

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 4 days ago Emma Kemp and Vince Rugari

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

FRIDAY, Dec 2

Melbourne Victory v Perth at AAMI Park 7.50pm

Head to Head: Victory 12 Glory 13 drawn 9

Last clash: Round 17 2015-16 - Glory 3 bt Victory 2 at nib Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Victory $1.60 Glory $5.00 Draw $4.00

Things are starting to get a little hairy for Perth. Last week, they became the first team in 36 matches not to score against Central Coast and, this week, they've lost key men Diego Castro and Josh Risdon, who are unlikely to return from injury until the new year. Labelled as title fancies in pre-season, they're already nine points behind Sydney FC, and can't afford to slip much further back. Victory, who have won three of their past four, regain Daniel Georgievski and Lawrence Thomas from injury, but they'll be minus Mitch Austin (ankle) for the next two weeks.

Key: With playmaker Castro out, there's huge pressure on Nebojsa Marinkovic to start pulling the strings in attack for Perth.

Tip: Victory

SATURDAY, Dec 3

Central Coast v Western Sydney at Central Coast Stadium 5.35pm

Head to Head: Mariners 4 Wanderers 6 drawn 5

Last clash: Round 4 2016-17 - Wanderers 1 drew Mariners 1 at Spotless Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Mariners $3.50 Wanderers $2.05 Draw $3.40

It's no doubt an unusual feeling looking at Central Coast above them on the ladder, and one seventh-placed Western Sydney will seek to rectify when they take their impassioned fans to Gosford. The Mariners rebuffed their battler status with an upset home win over Perth last week that lifted them to sixth, and will have momentum on their minds against a Wanderers outfit who showed improvement against Brisbane but remain stuck in a rut, results-wise, with five draws. Liam Rose (suspension) and Jacob Poscoliero (injury) are back for the home team.

Key: Tony Popovic retained an identical starting XI for the first time against the Roar but, with one goal to show for 30 crosses, his side need another attacking dimension.

Tip: Draw

Melbourne City v Brisbane at AAMI Park 7.50pm

Head to Head: City 8 Roar 8 drawn 3

Last clash: Round 5 2016-17 - Roar 1 bt City 0 at Suncorp Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: City $2.00 Roar $3.50 Draw $3.50

You could forgive City for reaching for the Panadol and Powerades the morning after Wednesday night's FFA Cup final win. But as entitled as they were to celebrate the club's first piece of men's silverware, their clash with the Roar is arguably just as important in the grand scheme. Second-placed City and fourth-placed Brisbane are separated by just three points and both have designs on hauling back Sydney FC's runaway lead atop the ladder. FFA Cup match winner Tim Cahill will need to overcome a knee issue to take his place while Brisbane's Thomas Kristensen and Brandon Borrello remain in doubt with hamstring injuries.

Key: Can City get past the Roar's defence? Last time they met, they failed to get a single shot on target.

Tip: Draw

SUNDAY, Dec 4

Newcastle v Sydney FC at McDonald Jones Stadium 5.00pm

Head to Head: Jets 6 Sydney 22 drawn 8

Last clash: Round 4 2016-17 - Sydney 2 bt Jets 0 at McDonald Jones Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Jets $4.50 Sydney $1.70 Draw $3.75

After a dominant start to the season, a tricky December could undermine Sydney FC's commanding lead. That starts away to the Jets when the Sky Blues attempt to maintain their four-point advantage over FFA Cup final conquerors Melbourne City, who can close the gap by defeating Brisbane. Graham Arnold's side lacked their usual attacking prowess in their past two outings against City and Adelaide, and will be set on reigniting their spark against injury-ravaged Newcastle, who are eighth and without a win in six games. Alex Wilkinson has been named in Sydney's squad despite missing the FFA Cup decider through illness.

Key: Whether Dane Morten Nordstand can back up from a minor hip flexor issue to provide the Jets with a much-needed clinical finish.

Tip: Sydney

Adelaide United v Wellington at Coopers Stadium 7.00pm

Head to Head: Reds 14 Phoenix 8 drawn 6

Last clash: Round 22 2015-16 - Reds 4 bt Phoenix 0 at Westpac Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Reds $1.70 Phoenix $4.50 Draw $3.75

There's a feeling in the South Australian capital that Adelaide's fortunes are about to change. A morale-boosting display against Sydney FC last weekend provided the strongest signal yet the defending champions' ninth game could yield a breakthrough win in a bottom-two playoff with Wellington. It's not lost on the Reds' faithful that Guillermo Amor's last-placed side are in an identical position to last season - their title-winning run began in round nine. Either way, Amor will watch from the stands as he serves his second touchline ban. Not that Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick expects the absence to affect a team against whom he's won only four of his past 11 games.

Key: The Reds could again find joy down the flanks via wingers Ryan Kitto and Nikola Mileusnic, especially with Phoenix left-back Tom Doyle (hamstring) still out.

Tip: Adelaide

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