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A-League round 14 preview panel

AAP logoAAP 4/01/2017 Emma Kemp and Ben McKay

Preview of A-League Round 14 matches (all times AEDT):

THURSDAY, Jan 5

Perth Glory v Wellington Phoenix at nib Stadium 9.00pm

Head to head: Glory 13 Phoenix 12 drawn 5

Last clash: Round 2 2016-2017 - Glory 2 bt Phoenix 0 at nib Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Glory $2.10 Phoenix $3.00 Draw $3.50

New Phoenix signing Shane Smeltz is set for his first appearance in the season's second distance derby. Just two points separate fifth-placed Perth and eighth-placed Wellington, rendering a win crucial for both amid a mid-table tussle for fifth and sixth spot. Now-permanent Phoenix co-coaches Chris Greenacre and Des Buckingham are undefeated in four since taking over but were last held scoreless by lowly Adelaide. Perth are markedly improved in their east coast road trip, drawing 3-3 with Melbourne City and 1-1 with Western Sydney. The Glory claimed this bout 2-0 in October and momentum is on the hosts' side.

Key: In Kenny Lowe's own words Perth are conceding goals for even more fun than they are scoring them. With Dino Djulbic still suspended, centre-half partners Shane Lowry and Alex Grant again have to step up.

Tip: Glory

FRIDAY, Jan 6

Melbourne City v Western Sydney Wanderers at AAMI Park 7.50pm

Head to head: Melbourne City 3 Western Sydney 8 drawn 3

Last clash: Round 7 2016-2017 - Western Sydney 1 drew Melbourne City 1 at Spotless Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Melbourne City $1.73 Western Sydney $4.33 Draw $3.60

Interim coach Michael Valkanis steps into the hot seat after the shock departure of City boss John van 't Schip this week to care for his terminally ill father. His first task will be the visit of Western Sydney with both sides on winless runs. City's FFA Cup hangover has lasted five games; the Wanderers are winless in four but better on the road than at home. Their biggest problem is likely to again be a route to goal, with Brendon Santalab suspended. City have no such issues, scoring five in the last two matches even if they haven't won them.

Key: Tim Cahill has goals in his last three games and is performing at a level befitting his reputation.

Tip: Draw

SATURDAY, Jan 7

Brisbane Roar v Newcastle Jets at Suncorp Stadium 5.35pm

Head to head: Brisbane 14 Jets 13 drawn 11

Last clash: Round 2 2016-2017 - Jets 4 bt Brisbane 0 at McDonald Jones Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Brisbane $1.57 Jets $4.50 Draw $4.33

Third-placed Brisbane are out to rebound from their second loss this season, a 2-0 capitulation to leaders Sydney FC that snapped a 10-game unbeaten run. The last defeat before that was a shock 4-0 shellacking by Newcastle in round two. Mark Jones' men have been improving and won't be walkovers but their hosts will fancy themselves this time at their Suncorp fortress. The aim? Closing a growing gap on Sydney and Melbourne Victory. The Jets are coming off a 4-2 away defeat to Victory and will get limited training time back in the Hunter before hitting the road again.

Key: Will skipper Nigel Boogaard return from an ankle injury to marshal the Jets' defence against Jamie Maclaren?

Tip: Brisbane

Adelaide United v Melbourne Victory at Coopers Stadium 7.50pm

Head to head: Adelaide 13 Melbourne Victory 21 drawn 11

Last clash: Round 3 2016-2017 - Melbourne Victory 2 bt Adelaide 1 at Coopers Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Adelaide $3.50 Melbourne Victory $1.95 Draw $3.50

Victory are hitting their stride and will head to Adelaide full of beans after eight goals and two wins in their holiday fixtures. Can the Reds mount a defence against their traditional rivals? In six games against top-four opposition this season, they've picked up two points, scoring just three times and leaking 12. Victory's deadly quartet of Besart Berisha, Fahid Ben Khalfallah, James Troisi and Marco Rojas all got on the scoresheet on Monday in Geelong, showing their firepower in front of goal. But still, Victory have a poor record in Adelaide with just one win - from their round three meeting - in their last 10 visits.

Key: Who else but Rojas? Nine goals and seven assists in nine appearances is league-best form and the Reds must find a way to contain the Kiwi Messi.

Tip: Victory

SUNDAY, Jan 8

Central Coast Mariners v Sydney FC at Central Coast Stadium 5.00pm

Head to head: Mariners 13 Sydney 17 drawn 8

Last clash: Round 2 2016-2017 - Sydney 4 bt Mariners 0 at Allianz Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Mariners $7.00 Sydney $1.40 Draw $4.33

Central Coast nearly pulled off a famous upset of Melbourne City in Gosford on New Year's Eve but are unlikely to trouble unbeaten Sydney, who lead the league by seven points and sit 23 points ahead of the ninth-placed Mariners. The Sky Blues are without suspended captain Alex Brosque, opening the door for the recently overlooked David Carney, while Seb Ryall will step up in central defence after Matt Jurman's midweek exit to Korea. Paul Okon's big guns Fabio Ferreira and Mickael Tavares are set to return to the Mariners' starting XI. Question is whether he reverts to Connor Pain on the wing or gives Saturday's man of the match Trent Buhagiar another chance.

Key: With a hamstring injury likely to keep former Sky Blues Jacques Faty sidelined, Central Coast's already-shaky defence is looking thin.

Tip: Sydney

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