Wed, Oct 4, 2:01pm by Staff Writer
The 2017-18 Hyundai A-League season begins on Friday night when Melbourne City hosts the Brisbane Roar at AAMI Park in Melbourne. Reigning champions Sydney FC are once again favourites to claim their third A-League title, with the two Melbourne teams, Victory and City hot on their heels.
Melbourne City versus Brisbane Roar
Friday, 6 October, 7:55pm at AAMI Park, Melbourne
A very underwhelming 2016-17 season means Melbourne City come into the new campaign with enormous pressure to succeed. Sir Alex Ferguson’s former right-hand man, Warren Joyce will coach the side this season and will be hoping to impress from the outset.
The loss from Bruno Fornaroli to injury is monumental for City, with his replacement, former Leeds and Aston Villa striker Ross McCormack arriving recently from England. McCormack has a chequered history in England, with queries about his commitment and work-rate.
McCormack will be joined up front by veteran Tim Cahill who plays his second season for City. Stefan Mauk returns from a stint in the Dutch Eredivisie in the only other changes to the City squad.
For the Roar, the loss of Thomas Broich has seen 38-year-old Serie A striker Massimo Maccarone and 30-year-old Eric Bautheac from France’s Ligue 1 drafted into the side.
The Roar have an interesting side, with the likes of proven winners Corey Gameiro, Brett Holman and Fahid ben Khalfallah new additions.
Melbourne City are $2.00 favourites at Sportsbet, with Brisbane Roar $3.20 outsiders. The draw at $3.60 looks the most tempting of the three options in the win-draw-win market, as both sides will not want to lose their first match of the season.
Prediction: Melbourne City and Brisbane Roar to draw at $3.60
Melbourne Victory versus Sydney FC
Saturday, 7 October, 7:55pm at AAMI Park, Melbourne
A rematch of the 2016-17 A-League Grand Final kicks off the seasons of both the Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC on Saturday night.
Victory will be looking to overturn last season’s Grand Final result, where they went down 4-2 on penalties.
The Sky Blues of Sydney looked impressive in an FFA Cup win over Melbourne City just three weeks ago, with Polish signing Adrian Mierzejewski appearing an astute pick-up.
The losses of Rhyan Grant and Danny Vukovic have been replaced by former Socceroos Luke Wilkshire and Alex Cisak, bolstering Graham Arnold’s front line and goal line respectively.
The challenge for Sydney FC this season will be maintaining their consistency, with FFA Cup and Asian Champions League commitments to deal with throughout the season.
Melbourne Victory will be seeking redemption on Saturday night, but they will be without James Troisi, Mark Milligan and Kosta Barbarouses to international duty.
Kevin Muscat’s side will once again be thereabouts towards the end of the season, with the return of Barbarouses from Wellington Phoenix and imports Matias Sanchez and Leroy George strengthening their squad.
With three key players missing, Melbourne Victory are $2.63 outsiders at Sportsbet, with Sydney FC installed as $2.40 favourites. The draw is paying $3.50.
Early season FFA Cup form showed Sydney FC have picked up right where they left off and without some of their most influential players, Melbourne Victory will struggle to keep up with the Sky Blues.
Prediction: Sydney FC to win $2.40 at Sportsbet
Western Sydney Wanderers versus Perth Glory
Sunday, 8 October, 6:00pm at Spotless Stadium, Sydney
The Western Sydney Wanderers 2017-18 season was rocked by the news that inaugural coach Tony Popovic would be leaving the club immediately to coach Turkish side Karabukspor.
The A-League and Asian Champions League winning coach will leave Western Sydney on the eve of their first game, when they host Perth Glory on Sunday night.
The Wanderers looked to have addressed some of their shortfalls of last season, adding quality in attack, to balance the teams historically strong defensive resolve.
Numerous additions have been made to the squad including Chris Herd, Mark Bridge, Roly Bonevacia and Michael Thwaite.
Perth Glory have traditionally been a strong attacking side, and that looks set to continue this season, with the likes of Adam Taggart, Diego Castro and youngster Jake Brimmer, the 19-year-old who has spent the last five seasons at Liverpool returning to Australia.
The question mark for Perth Glory will be in defense, with Kenny Lowe struggling to replace the experience of Rhys Williams and Josh Risdon during the off-season.
The crowd at Spotless Stadium will be energetic as always, with the Wanderers $2.00 favourites at Sportsbet to start their season with a win. Perth Glory are $3.20 and the draw is $3.60.
The Wanderers will have a point to prove at home on Sunday night and look set for victory.
Prediction: Western Sydney Wanderers to win $2.00 at Sportsbet
Round 1 Fixtures
Melbourne City $2.00 Brisbane Roar $3.20 Draw $3.60
Central Coast Mariners $2.50 Newcastle Jets $2.70 Draw $3.30
Melbourne Victory $2.63 Sydney FC $2.40 Draw $3.50
Wellington Phoenix $2.37 Adelaide United $2.75 Draw $3.40
Western Sydney Wanderers $2.00 Perth Glory $3.20 Draw $3.60
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