Thursday, 30 October 2014

A-League Round 4 Preview

Melbourne City v Adelaide United
AAMI Stadium, Melbourne
Friday, October 31
6.40 PM (AEST)
With the sun quickly setting on David Villa’s brief A-League sojourn ‘Down Under’, City fans will be extra keen to see the Spanish star deliver his adopted club their first win of the season. The task is ahead of City as the Reds have exploded out of the blocks from the very first whistle. They play an entertaining and attacking brand of football and have now firmed into favourites ($2.40) to win the inaugural FFA Cup title. This should be a highly charged match to kick off the weekend’s fixtures, but I just can’t go past Josep Gombau’s men from getting the three points.
Pick: Adelaide United (Draw No Bet)

Perth Glory v Newcastle Jets 
nib Stadium, Perth
Saturday, November 1
6.30 PM (AEST)
This is a tough match to predict given that both teams are coming off disappointing away losses last round. The Glory appeared flat at Coopers Stadium and will relish the return home to nib Stadium. I was expecting a better showing from the Jets against Wellington last Sunday, and feel the long travel burden will prove too much to turn around their poor form against a strong attacking Glory outfit. Progressing to the FFA Cup semi-finals in a thrilling extra time win over the Victory mid-week will now put plenty of ‘Fremantle Doctor’ wind into the Glory’s sails. The Glory’s Andy Keogh recorded a hat trick against the Roar two weeks ago and backed it up with a mid-week brace in the FFA Cup. He will again be hard to go past in the first goal scorer market.
Pick: Perth Glory (H2H)   
Sydney FC v Central Coast Mariners
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Sunday, November 2
This game sees the master versus the apprentice as the two former colleagues in Graham Arnold and Phil Moss line up on opposite ends of the technical area. Arnold’s tactics against the Roar were to the letter and this game will be no different. Sydney’s defensive structures of the past are on the improve, which gives a rise in confidence to the attack up front with Alex Brosque in startling form. With all the money coming for Sydney FC, the goal margin (SYD by 2+ Goals) market might deliver a little more value. Brosque is a nice option (To Score a goal) given his current form.
Pick: Sydney FC (Goal Margin 2+ Goals)
Melbourne Victory v Wellington Phoenix
AAMI Park, Melbourne
Monday, November 3
6.30 PM  (AEST)
The Victory, together with Adelaide Utd and Sydney FC, are the only teams still undefeated in the A-League at the end of three rounds. After travelling across to Perth for their mid-week FFA quarter final defeat, Victory take on a Phoenix side on Melbourne Cup Eve still smarting from an impressive 4-1 defeat over a sluggish Jets outfit. The Phoenix sit in unfamiliar territory on the ladder (4th) and will be eyeing off an injury ravaged Victory side with Berisha, Delpierre, Thompson all in doubt for Monday night’s match. To add to Kevin Muscat's woes, Adrian Liejer and Daniel Georgievski are suspended. The Phoenix have proven on their day they can knock off more fancied teams, and will still have last season’s shock 5-0 triumph to give them hope of an upset.
Pick: Wellington Phoenix (Draw No Bet) is excellent value in a multi given the potential number of quality outs for the Victory.
 Al Hilal v Western Sydney Wanderers
King Fahd Stadium, Riyadh
Sunday, November 2
3.30 AM (AEST)
It doesn’t get much bigger than this for the Western Sydney Wanderers. After a massive first leg result, they now hold the advantage, but more importantly, no away goals were conceded by their ever-reliable veteran keeper Ante Covic. The second leg will be a different proposition with the crowd, heat and distinct lack of travelling support on hand, shifting favoritism back toward their Saudi opponents. The Wanderers have proven all throughout the campaign they can shut out teams, and despite the huge task ahead, I think the 'Sydney westies' can sneak home against the giant Al Hilal “Blue Wave “on the back of the away goal rule.
 Pick: Wanderers (Double Chance) Western Sydney/Draw

I’ll be on The TattsBet Brekky show @tattsbetbrekky every Friday and Monday morning around 7:45am AEST over the course of the entire @Aleague season with my previews and reviews of every game.

James ‘Hamez’ Clark

Thursday, 23 October 2014

A-League Round 3 Preview

Brisbane Roar v Sydney FC
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Friday, October 24

The Roar find themselves in uncharted waters as they share bottom spot of the A-League ladder with Grand Final opponents Western Sydney Wanderers. The task is huge for the Sky Blues as they plan for their third game in less than a week. I felt the Roar was solid in patches, but some key defensive lapses cost them on the back of a stand-out striking performance by Irish import Andy Keogh for the Glory. Sydney’s extra-time quarter final FFA Cup loss against Adelaide United will be a bitter pill to swallow, but I feel Brisbane are very good value to notch up their first win of the season
Pick: Brisbane Roar (H2H)

Melbourne Victory v Melbourne City
Etihad Stadium, Melbourne
Saturday, October 25
6.30 PM (AEST)

Last week saw a record attendance for the #SydneyDerby but the hype now moves to Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium for Melbourne’s version. David Villa will add an extra special feel to the encounter, as emotions are always high to claim bragging rights. Big name player often step up to the plate in big games and I see no reason why it won’t happen in this one. Carl Valeri has been an important ingredient in linking the attacking talent at the Victory and I just feel Kosta Barbarouses is very close to getting on the stats sheet.
Pick: Melbourne Victory (H2H). A Red card being handed out is always a big possibility and good value in derby games!

Wellington Phoenix v Newcastle United Jets
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Sunday, October 26

The Phoenix returns back across the ditch to the ‘Cake-tin’ after a rare away win in Gosford. Ernie Merrick will be looking to go back-to-back against a team (Jets) with whom they enjoy their best win record against (59%). Newcastle were impressive, and probably should have claimed the three points, against Melbourne City after some wayward chances in front of goal. With the attacking weapons of Jeronimo Neumann, Marcos Flores and Joel Griffiths up front, I’m thinking they could pull off an upset on Sunday.
Pick: Newcastle (H2H) on the back of an unexpected and impressive performance last weekend.

Adelaide United v Perth Glory
Coopers Stadium, Adelaide
Sunday, October 26

I for one am looking forward to this match up. Andy Keogh (Glory) collected a hat trick against the Roar last Sunday and is a clear leader in the ‘Golden Boot’. Adelaide could show signs of fatigue after travelling to Allianz Stadium mid-week for their FFA Cup quarterfinal against Sydney FC. With plenty of youth players filling the void, and hosting back at Coopers Stadium, this could be the tonic to notch their second win of the season. Confidence is sky high in the Glory camp and their top spot on the ladder should see a steady return of support in the west.
Pick: Perth Glory (Draw No Bet) is awfully good value for an undefeated team atop the ladder!

Western Sydney Wanderers  v Al Hilal
Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta
Saturday, October 25
6.30 PM (AEST)

The A-League takes a back seat this weekend for the Wanderers as they host the first leg of the Asian Champions League final at Parramatta. Tony Popovic is remaining positive despite a slow start to the local competition, but it is obvious one eye has been focussing on this challenge. The reward is massive for the winning club as it opens the door to a potential meeting with Real Madrid in the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco later this year. For now, it is all be about the win and not conceding the away goal to their Saudi opponents. The first leg is always a window to the soul of the manager’s strategy, and with the #MelbourneDerby telecast at the same time, it will be hard to choose which game to watch. That’s easy I’ll watch both!
Pick: Wanderers (Draw No Bet). If he starts, Tom Juric is a solid choice in the '1st Goal Scorer'!

I’ll be on The TattsBet Brekky show @tattsbetbrekky every Friday and Monday morning around 7:45am AEST over the course of the entire @Aleague season with my previews and reviews of every game.

James ‘Hamez’ Clark

Thursday, 16 October 2014

A-League Round 2 Preview

Adelaide United v Melbourne Victory

Adelaide Oval

Friday, October 17

6.40 PM (AEST)

This promises to be a tough 'top of the table' clash between two fierce rivals. The match has been moved to the Adelaide Oval and may favour the visitors. Confidence is high in the Victory camp after the 4-1 domination of a heavily burdened Wanderers, but Adelaide is a different proposition after a successful winning road trip against Brisbane Roar. Bruce Djite was unlucky not to get a brace for the Reds and returned to sparkling form up front. Sergio Cirio is a handy choice in the ‘To Score a Goal’ market on TattsBet after some impressive pre-season form that netted two goals. Victory’s Kosta Barbarouses was hard to handle on the wing in the opening round and will be itching to get on the scoresheet.

Pick: Adelaide (Draw No Bet)


Central Coast Mariners v Wellington Phoenix

Central Coast Stadium, Gosford

Saturday, October 18

4.00 PM (AEST)

The Mariners have had a busy week after Mitch Duke slotted home the added time winner to snatch three important points in the #F3Derby at Gosford. They return home still high from a mid-week FFA Cup five-goal rout of NPLQ Champions Palm Beach Sharks. It will be intriguing to monitor if Mariners boss Phil Moss will start with Matt Sim after his outstanding four goal heroics off the bench. The big question is what Phoenix away team will turn up given their appalling 61% away loss stat? Expect a close contest, but I think the home team with prevail.

Pick: Central Coast Mariners (H2H), or Half/Full Double: Draw/CCM good value!

Sydney FC v Western Sydney Wanderers

Allianz Stadium, Sydney

Saturday, October 18

6.30 PM (AEST)

This is the big one! The #SydneyDerby looks a certain sell-out at Allianz Stadium and Graham Arnold’s ‘Sky Blue’ outfit is looking to take advantage of a Wanderers squad preparing for a very busy few weeks juggling A-League and Champions Leagues commitments. Sydney’s attack was patchy last week against Melbourne City and could consider themselves lucky to get away with a point from that game. They will need to be on song against the very experienced and match hardened Wanderers defensive unit. With a tight market the Draw looks attractive but I’m leaning towards the Sky Blues to build on last weeks opening stalemate.

Pick: Sydney FC (Draw No Bet)

Melbourne City v Newcastle Jets

AAMI Park, Melbourne

Sunday, October 19

2.00 PM (AEST)

David Villa’s arrival last week has all the City fans in a tailspin and should ensure plenty turn up to watch the Spanish star play his first home game at AAMI. He’s already lived up to his reputation with a classy strike to share the points with Sydney. I see no reason why he can’t replicate it or go better this weekend against a team equal favourite in the ‘Wooden Spoon’ market. Clearly I think City will deliver his club’s first A-League win as a new entity but by how much is the big query?

Pick: Melbourne City (H2H)

Perth Glory v Brisbane Roar

nib Stadium, Perth

Sunday, October 19

4.00 PM (AEST)

This is a tough road trip for the Roar coming off their loss to Adelaide at Suncorp. A fascinating contest awaits with the combinations between Youssouf Hersi, Adam Keogh and Mitch Nichols already displaying great promise for the Glory. After a long flight home from across the ditch, Glory play a Roar team with whom they’ve enjoyed a healthy rivalry since the 2012 Grand Final. The Roar’s timing was slightly off against the Reds, but if they find the net early, I’m confident they can get the three points.

Pick: Roar (H2H) & 'Will there be a penalty' YES is also worth a go in rivalry games!

I’ll be on the @tattsbetbrekky Friday and Monday morning around 7:45am AEST over the course of the entire @Aleague season with my previews and reviews of every game for @tatts_sport

James ‘Hamez’ Clark


Thursday, 9 October 2014

A-League Round 1 Preview

Melbourne Victory v Western Sydney Wanderers

Etihad Stadium
6.40pm (AEST) 10/10/14

The Victory have enjoyed a fruitful pre-season qualifying for the FFA Cup quarter finals whilst maintaining an unbeaten run of 10 games and conceding only two goals in the process. Besart Berisha will be looking to add to his impressive goal scoring strike rate for his new club and is the clear favourite in the first goal scorer market. With an Asian Champions League final at the forefront of the Wanderers minds, the Victory looks the better option at home in front of their passionate fans.

Tip: Victory H2H

Gui Finkler good value to score a goal for Victory!

Central Coast Mariners v Newcastle Jets
Central Coast Stadium
4pm (AEST) 11/10/14

The old “F3 Derby” in Gosford will ensure plenty of feeling with Marcos Flores heading to his old home in what could spark a fiery start to the season. The Jets have recruited heavily in the off-season, but whether combinations have formed this early is questionable. With defensive structures not at their peak just yet, the market for a penalty or red card is always good value with teams keen to secure early competition points. Mitch Duke has been training the house down and impressed in the FFA Cup. He's a handy choice for first goal scorer.

Tip: Mariners H2H

(Yes Red Card given or Yes Penalty kick are good value)

Sydney FC v Melbourne City
Allianz Stadium
 6.30pm (AEST) 11/10/14

This looks to be a very close encounter on paper as the new look Melbourne City brand makes its A-League debut at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium. The Sky Blues under new coach Graham Arnold are under enormous pressure to deliver this season and I think they will come out of the blocks and be too strong for City. The uncertainty over star import David Villa’s availability and indifferent pre-season form is too big a query and I will need more convincing before investing in them.

Tip: Sydney FC H2H

(Correct Score: Sydney FC 2-0)

Wellington Phoenix v Perth Glory
Westpac Stadium, 2pm (AEST) 12/10/14

Often dubbed the “Distance Derby”, this is probably the toughest match in the round to come up with the winner. The Phoenix have always struggled away from home and visiting teams seem to relish travelling across the ditch. With a disappointing couple of seasons behind them, and the loss of Carlos Hernandez and Paul Ifill, the only way appears up for Wellington. This is probably a good game to avoid in the head-to-head market. I’m more in favour of taking the classy new Irish striker Andy Keogh (Glory) to score a goal in his official A-League debut for his new club.

Tip: Perth Glory (Draw No bet)

Brisbane Roar v Adelaide United
Suncorp Stadium
 4pm (AEST) 12/10/14

The Premiers and Champions (Brisbane) return to the scene of last year’s Grand Final triumph (Suncorp Stadium) to take on an Adelaide United side brimming with confidence after a recent 2-0 Round 16 FFA Cup win over the Roar. For the Roar, there is much change to last season, but plenty that remains the same. No Berisha means they must look to Henrique, Mensur Kurtisi and Dimi Petratos to fill the gap in goals. On paper, the Roar are clear-cut favourites, but I can’t help but think that a draw this early in the season is wonderful value. Adelaide has a fine record in Brisbane, only tasting defeat 3 times from 14 outings and is responsible for their lowest losing percentage of all away venues.

Tip: Draw

I’ll be on the TattsBet Brekky Show @tattsbetbrekky every Friday and Monday morning over the course of the entire @Aleague season with previews and reviews of every game for @tatts_sports

James ‘Hamez’ Clark

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

A-League 2014-15 Season Preview

This season marks the very proud 10th anniversary of the Hyundai A-League. The unprecedented growth of soccer/football in this country is mirrored by record crowd participation which is helping 'the world game' become a very popular fixture on the Australian sporting landscape.

Lets take a brief look at each club and their key signings, and play a sporting version of Nostradamus by attempting to predict where each club will finish at the end of Round 27.

The big news to grace the league is the addition of David Villa to the newly branded Melbourne City franchise for the opening 10 weeks of competition. The news follows on from the exit of immensely popular imports ADP, Shinji Ono and Emile Heskey. Villa is very much at the peak of his game and his enormous pulling power will ensure healthy crowds gather to watch the former Spain, Valencia, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid star in the flesh.

Adelaide United

Spanish coach Josep Gombau’s second year at the helm will hopefully see the fruits of his labour in converting the club to a possession/tiki-taka branded philosophy. Losing star striker and crowd favourite Jeronimo Neumann to the Newcastle Jets will put the focus squarely on the shoulders of new recruit Pablo Sanchez Alberto and club stalwart Bruce Djite to help deliver a positive goal differential and a top four birth or better. I’m looking for big things from the Reds this season.

Prediction: Fourth

Brisbane Roar

Last season’s Premiers and Champions are never short on confidence and self-belief, and is the reason they are the most successful club in the A-League. The loss of enigmatic Albanian striker Besart Berisha to the Victory has plenty of fans wondering if incoming Macedonian import Mensur Kurtisi can help fill the net with some of the 13 goals from 20 games Berisha delivered last season. The loss of Ivan Franjic to Torpedo Moscow is immense, but the experience of Smith, Mackay, and Henrique, paired with the best import player this country has seen in Thomas Broich, ensures the Roar will again be the benchmark of the competition.

Prediction: Second

Central Coast Mariners

Despite their impressive on field successes over the past four seasons, the Mariners are always underrated in terms of predicting where they will finish each season. A strong club with a wonderful culture, the off-field financial murmurings often dominate the headlines. The dressing room and its management have always driven the club, and this year will be no different. In nine seasons, the club has only missed finals football twice, and has played in four Grand Finals, tasting victory in 2012/13.

Prediction: Sixth

Melbourne City

The off-season has seen a new owner, new name, new jersey and one of the biggest names in world football agreeing to terms for a 10 weeks stint. Melbourne City are hoping David Villa fills stadiums across the country, but more importantly delivers a winning culture to a club in desperate need of success. The problem isn’t in how the new City story begins, but how it ends in season 10. That ultimately pleases the growing fans base and their wealthy owners.

Prediction: Seventh

Melbourne Victory

Kevin Muscat took over from Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou and one could probably consider him unlucky of not going further last season. Signing Besart Berisha is a huge plus, but the combination (Muscat and Bersiha) could be more potent than nitro & glycerine. If the mix works on the pitch, Muscat can deliver the proud club its third Champions and Premiers title. Muscat has brought in giant French defender Matthieu Delpierre to strengthen the back four, but his height could also add some tall timber to the all-important set pieces.

Prediction: First

Newcastle Jets

The Jets have a new look aircraft configuration and pilot to fly them this season, with a squad virtually unrecognisable compared with seasons past. Their Golden Boot winning striker Adam Taggart has shifted to English Championship side Fulham, plus they've lost defenders Connor Chapman and Josh Mitchell. However, the key signings of Marcos Flores, Jeronimo Neumann and Edson Montano will fill the void. The big question mark facing new manager Phil Stubbins is how long will it take for his new band of merry men to sing from the same song sheet? I hope they prove my prediction wrong, as this fertile footballing nursery needs the Jets winning.

Prediction: Ninth

Perth Glory

They say you need to reach rock bottom before you start your march back to the top, and last year certainly proved a difficult one for the fans, players and coaching staff alike. Some great acquisitions in Youssef Hersi, Mitch Nichols and Republic of Ireland International striker Andrew Keogh could be just what the doctor ordered for a team that haemorrhaged badly last season with their fair share of on and off-field dramas. A poor away record always weighs this club down as they load up on frequent-flyer miles, but their distance away from the Eastern seaboard often helps them operate in their own protected bubble.

Prediction: Eighth

Sydney FC

By far the club under the most pressure and expectation by fans and their own board is Sydney FC. With the departure of ADP and the constantly under siege former manager Frank Farina, the Sky Blues are now looking to the expertise of experienced man manager Graham Arnold to guide the club to their second Championship/Premiership double since the success of the 2009-10 season. Shane Smeltz, Marc Janko, Bernie Ibini and Alex Brosque will all add starch to the forward line, but will it be mid-field defensive fragilities of the past that again haunts goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic at the back. I’m guessing with Arnie in charge they will improve on last season’s overachieving fifth spot.

Prediction: Third

Wellington Phoenix

I would love to see Wellington Phoenix play finals football this season, but a disastrous away record coupled with a home ground that visiting teams enjoy rather than fear, I’m at pains to predict them not holding the wooden spoon this season! But with a strong manager in Ernie Merrick, and the experience of Nathan Burns up front, they can often be a thorn in the side of teams needing points to qualify for finals football.

Prediction: Tenth

Western Sydney Wanderers

The Wanderers are the envy of many clubs with wonderful fan support and an impressive Asian Champions League Final berth in only their second season. Tony Popovic has overseen a change in personnel that sees a great balance between youth and experience. The addition of talented Brazilian midfielder Vitor Saba may add more spice to an attack that has lost the likes of Youssef Hersi, Shinji Ono and the defensive experience of Michael Beauchamp. Write the Wanderers off at your own peril, as it will still take a quality side to take three points off them each week, especially in front of their passionate home fans.

Prediction: Fifth

James Clark @cleansheetoz
TattsBet Brekky Show @tattsbetbrekky
TattsBet.Com @tatts_sports