Over the Australia Day long weekend, the A-League’s top four sides face off in round 18.
The way the season has gone so far the makeup of the semi finals (beyond Sydney FC) appears to be very much up in the air.
As is the norm on January 26, we will be treated to a Big Blue as first placed Sydney FC faces fourth placed Melbourne Victory.
Last year it was Sydney getting by 2-1 but the Victory will feel as though their opponents are vulnerable and want to take advantage of that.
To kick off the round however, we have second placed Newcastle ready to face third placed Melbourne City.
Melbourne City Vs Newcastle Jets
Thursday 25 January, 7:50pm, AAMI Park
AAMI Park has been a relatively happy hunting ground of late for City, winning three of their last four at the ground including last week’s 5-0 demolition of Adelaide United.
Marquee man Martin Budzinski bagged a first half brace before Dario Vidosic and Ross McCormack blew out the score line in the last ten minutes.
They put on a late show to get by the Jets in December and would dearly love to repeat that performance.
This will be Newcastle’s first trip outside of New South Wales in almost four weeks so they should be refreshed after three straight home games.
Even so, City should still be able to get the job done at home in this one.
Back Melbourne City to Win @ $2.10
Melbourne Victory Vs Sydney FC
Friday 26 January, 7:50pm, AAMI Park
An Australia Day tradition as the second Big Blue of the season takes place at AAMI Park.
The first meeting took place in round one and it was an own goal by Thomas Deng that proved to be the difference in an otherwise dour affair.
While Sydney began the year looking almost invincible, the blueprint is certainly out on them with Newcastle, Adelaide and Central Coast all taking points off them.
Such is the nature of the A-League this season that the Victory are now a part of the chasing pack thanks to five wins in their lsat seven matches, most recently a resounding win over the Wanderers.
As one of the marquee matches of the A-League calendar this fixture has seen some tremendous contests and this game will be too hard to pick a winner as both sides should do enough to avoid a loss.
Back the Draw @ $3.40
Wellington Phoenix Vs Adelaide United
Saturday 27 January, 4:35pm, Emirates Stadium
Despite sitting on the bottom of the ladder, the Phoenix are starting to put a run together, going three matches without a loss for the first time all season.
Their new signing Matija Ljujuc has wasted no time in announcing his arrival with two stunning long range strikes to help boost the Phoenix goal tally.
Adelaide meanwhile will be left wondering what has happened after showing such encouraging signs the week before against Sydney.
Wellington are a much better side at home than away which should have them good for a couple of goals while Adelaide desperately need a boost and this road trip might be seen as an opportunity for that.
Back Over 2.5 Goals @ $1.73
Central Coast Mariners Vs Brisbane Roar
Saturday 27 January, 7:50pm, Central Coast Stadium
Brisbane are in desperate need of a bounce back after their embarrassing loss in the Champions League midweek and with John Aloisi promising changes, the Roar look set to play a youthful team in this game.
The Mariners are going to make the most of one of their rare home games in the Saturday night feature slot and will be ready to put on a show in this game.
It will also be an opportunity for Mariners attacker Petros Skapetis to have a crack at the club he left just over a week ago.
Back the Mariners to Win @ $2.00
Perth Glory Vs Western Sydney Wanderers
Sunday 28 January, 8:30pm, NIB Stadium
Perth will have had plenty of time to straighten things out after their Thursday night loss in Brisbane.
It was their fifth straight loss, their last win coming at that same venue on December 21.
One small consolation is that they have been able to score in their last two games, finding the back of the net twice in both games.
With new acquisitions Neil Kilkenny and Dino Djulbic on board they will ideally be able to help shore up a leaky defensive group.
The Wanderers were riding high before being brought back to earth by the Victory.
Expect a few goals in a wild game to close out the round.
Back Over 3.5 Total Goals @ $2.40
The Brisbane Roar and Sydney FC have already played twice this season and they will face-off in ‘State Of Origin 3’ this weekend.
Saturday’s action is highlighted by this year’s third edition of the Melbourne Derby at Etihad Stadium, while the action concludes on Sunday afternoon when the Central Coast Mariners host Adelaide United.
There are a host of winning bets to be found in the A-League this weekend and we have previewed all five games below.
Brisbane Roar Vs Sydney FC
Friday 3 February, 7:50pm, Suncorp Stadium
Sydney FC extended their lead on top of the A-League ladder with their win over the Melbourne Victory and they will go into this clash with the Brisbane Roar as clear favourites.
Sydney FC recorded a comfortable win over Brisbane at the end of last year and they have now won seven of their past nine games as away favourites for a clear profit.
Brett Holman scored a late winner to get Brisbane home against the Western Sydney Wanderers last weekend, but that did overshadow what was a fairly lacklustre Roar performance.
Brisbane have only started one game as home underdogs over the past 12 months and they came away with a draw and they generally have an excellent record at Suncorp Stadium.
It really is tough to bet against Sydney FC in their current vein of form and they should be able to continue their winning ways.
Back Sydney FC To Win @ $2.30
Wellington Phoenix Vs Western Sydney Wanderers
Saturday 4 February, 4:35pm, Yarrow Stadium
This is a very open clash and an intriguing contest from a betting standpoint.
Wellington will start this clash as favourites and have the home ground advantage even though they have elected to take this clash to New Plymouth.
The Phoenix have won three of their past six games as home favourites for a narrow loss and they have generally been a tough team to trust in front of their home fans.
Western Sydney went down to the Brisbane Roar last weekend and they have now won just one of their past 11 games as away underdogs.
The Wanderers have been able to take a point from five of these clashes and backing the draw in each of their games this season has proven to be a profitable play.
Another stalemate looks likely in this clash and the $3.50 on offer for the draw is well over the odds.
Back The Draw @ $3.50
Melbourne Victory Vs Melbourne City
Saturday 4 February, 7:50pm, Etihad Stadium
The Melbourne Derby is always a hotly contested affair and the market has trouble splitting this duo.
Melbourne Victory have lost three games on the trot, but they will still go into this clash as narrow favourites.
The Victory have won ten of their past 20 games as favourites this season for a loss and they have been a tough team to trust as the punter’s elect.
Melbourne City have been very inconsistent in recent weeks and they suffered a disappointing defeat at the hands of the Newcastle Jets last weekend.
Melbourne City have won two of their past seven games as underdogs for a loss and they are a tough team to trust from a betting perspective on their recent form.
It really is tough to split these two teams and because of that it is the $3.60 on offer for the draw that stands out from a betting standpoint.
Back The Draw @ $3.60
Perth Glory Vs Newcastle Jets
Saturday 4 February, 9:00pm, NIB Stadium
Perth had their unbeaten run ended by the Central Coast Mariners last weekend, but they will still start this clash with the Newcastle Jets as clear favourites.
The Glory have been consistent at NIB Stadium this season and they have won five of their eight games as home favourites for a narrow profit.
Newcastle produced another impressive effort with their win over Melbourne City and they have not taken sixth spot in the A-League finals.
In saying that, the Jets have been still tough to trust from a betting perspective and they have won just two of their past 12 games as away underdogs for a clear loss.
Perth really should be able to get the job done and they are one of the safest betting plays of the weekend.
Back Perth To Win @ $2
Central Coast Mariners Vs Adelaide United
Sunday 5 February, 4:00pm, GIO Stadium
Central Coast were able to return to winning form last weekend, but it is Adelaide United that will start this clash as clear favourites.
Adelaide were unable to take the three points from their clash with the Wellington Phoenix and they have won just one of their past eight games.
Their record as away underdogs is a very poor 2-3-4 and it is impossible to get them anywhere near as short as his current quote.
Central Coast were finally able to end their losing streak with a tough effort against Perth Glory, but they are still a tough team to trust betting wise.
The Mariners have won just two of their past 12 games as home underdogs and have not recorded back-to-back wins over the past 12 months.
Both these teams are impossible to trust and I am more than happy to stay out of this contest.