In the second edition of the Monday Rundown, we look at the finals credentials of each A-League side, and assess the likelihood of finals football for each of the 10 teams fighting over only six spots.
1. BRISBANE ROAR - 45pts
Certain. Brisbane Roar cannot miss the finals. End of story. What remains to be seen is what Roar side will turn up in the finals; the team that beat Sydney FC 5-2 and Melbourne Victory 3-0, or the team that lost to the Jets on all three occassions throughout the season? Only time will tell.
2. MELBOURNE VICTORY - 36pts
A strong performance in Perth showed that the Victory are the real deal. Successfully balancing Asian Champions League commitments with a lengthy travel across three timezones to WA showed the Victory have the squad depth to be competitive at the seasons end. Look for them at the business end of the A-League finals series.
3. WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS - 35pts
Although no huge difference in players, WSW are currently a shadow of the formidable team Tony Popovic assembled last year. A much maligned rotation policy has the Wanderers limping towards the finals series, and another dour performance like the one served up at a similarly dour Pirtek Stadium on Saturday night, could be detrimental to the club earning a home semi final. Finals football is all but assured.
4. CENTRAL COAST MARINERS - 33pts
Our Mariners lifted another gear for the F3 Derby on Saturday, however it only lasted the first five minutes. Phil Moss' men rode the hype from their famous 2-1 win in the ACL midweek, and only just got over the line against a Jets outfit who lacked conviction in the final third. The Gosford club have to start to turn up for the full 90 minutes to be a force in the finals, however I dont want to be added to the list of people who wrote the Mariners off. With a track record like ours, who would? Look for them to surprise a few form teams in the finals.
5. SYDNEY FC - 32pts
It seems like only yesterday Frank Farina was skating on thin ice, or more likely melting ice, as the heat surrounding the most expensive football side in the A-League rose like a muffin in the oven. Now, though hardly assured, Farina looks to have steared the side to the holy grail, bringing finals football back to the harbour city. It is hard to see the current top 6 as it stands changing to much heading into Round 27, but the A-League likes to throw a curveball just when something seems certain. How else do we explain the Grand Final of 2010/11?
6. ADELAIDE UNITED- 31pts
The Reds famed "Tiki Taka" has gotten Josep Gombau a long way since the infamous "sh*t goalkeeper" remarks, and after enjoying talk of title contendership only last week, now sit in 6th after two poor showings on the park. Such is the tight nature of the A-League; unforgiving yet humbling. The Reds will play finals football, but was it too early to sing the praises of their spaniard coach?
7. NEWCASTLE JETS - 29pts
The season has very much taken the form of a rollercoaster for the team from the Hunter, seeing striker Adam Taggert lead the Golden Boot award for the league, but a lack of support means the results just havent been coming for the Jets. Newcastle face Melbourne Victory and Adelaide Utd in the last two matches of the season, and if there was ever a time for Clayton Zane's men to grab results, it is there. Wins in each could see the Jets challenge for the sixth spot in the finals.
8. WELLINGTON PHOENIX - 28pts
The men from over the ditch have once again fought valiantly for finals football, going on a streak mid season where they knocked off three of the current top four teams in the league. Travel seems to once again have plagued the side, and a spot in the top six seems a sweet dream but nothing more for the 'Nix. Ernie Merrick has the squad to go far, but it seems it will take someone special to work out how to balance continuity and stability with travel.
9. MELBOURNE HEART - 25pts
When the Heart went on a 5-game unbeaten run, it made for the feel good story of the season. Off the back of the sacking of John Aloisi and the investment of Manchester City into the club, the Heart enjoyed a revival. Too little too late it seems, though, as the gap between themselves and the top 6 seems too wide to bridge in four games.
10. PERTH GLORY - 22pts
Isnt it wonderful. Finally, after years of waiting, Perth Glory are weeks away from winning something in the A-League. The wooden spoon. The Alistair Edwards incident proved a speedbump in a road that just needed to be smooth for the Glory as their form has slumped dramatically since his departure. A rebuilding phase in the offseason will be required to return to their former 'glory'.
Leave your comments below on where you think each team will be heading into the finals series.