Now with the FFA Cup Round of 32 matches announced, Round 17 has arrived in the National Premier Leagues NSW competition and with only five weeks remaining in the regular season, the pressure is heating up.
Sydney Olympic lead the race for the Premiership by four points ahead of second placed APIA Leichhardt Tigers.
Sydney United 58 have moved into third spot ahead of a struggling Blacktown City FC.
While Wollongong Wolves enter this week in fifth, The battle for the last finals spot is an all out battle with five teams all within four points of potential finals football.
Sutherland Sharks v Bonnyrigg White Eagles, 6.30pm Saturday at Seymour Shaw – Live streamed on facebook
Sutherland Sharks will be desperate to keep their slim finals hopes alive with victory when they host Bonnyrigg White Eagles on Saturday.
The Grant Lee coached side sit in 10th position on the ladder five points outside the top five.
Last week the Sharks slumped to their third straight defeat with a 3-1 loss on the road against Sydney United 58.’
Their opponents this week Bonnyrigg are also coming into the match on the back of a defeat after they went down 2-1 in a shock loss to bottom side Sydney FC.
Despite showing positive signs earlier in the campaign, Sutherland has slumped in the second half of the season and has lacked the spark and discipline displayed during the opening 12 matches.
One player who could be a game changer for the Sharks is midfielder Josh Da Silva. His tricky feet and long range shooting could be the little bit of magic his team needs to break open a match.
For the White Eagles, Korean import Je Wook Woo will be the man to watch with his performances this season a shining light for an inconsistent Bonnyrigg side.
This is a very evenly matched contest and could go either way. It is a game which will likely be decided by one moment of brilliance.
The White Eagles also will be preparing for its FFA Cup Round of 32 clash when they take on Hakoah Sydney City East with a date TBA – The team will need to back up against the Sharks this week as following its Waratah Cup Semi-Final match against Hakoah on Wednesday evening at Valentine Sports Park.
Hakoah Sydney City East v Marconi Stallions, 7pm Saturday at Hensley Athletic Field
Hakoah Sydney City East has fallen out of the top five but will be focused on regaining that finals qualification position when they host Marconi Stallions on Saturday.
Gavin Rae’s side has been a tough side to break down this season and at home will be confident of collecting a much needed three points.
Recent good form was undone in Round 16 with a 2-1 loss at the hands of Wollongong Wolves.
Marconi were also defeated in round 16 as they fell 2-1 in a hard fought contest against league leaders Sydney Olympic.
The man to watch for Hakoah will be young attacker Anthony Frangie.
Last season was a breakthrough campaign for Frangie and he has continued his development this season becoming a vital cog in the Hakoah machine. His ability to break a game open with his dribbling and eye for goal will make him one to keep an eye on.
Marconi has been bulking up their attacking stocks in recent weeks with the addition of young strikers Hassan Jalloh and Charles Mendy.
Both strikers posses lighting speed and can shred defences at will.
Hakoah’s defence will have their work cut out if Marconi’s new signings take to the field.
This matchup has the potential to be a really entertaining affair with both sides very evenly matched.
Hakoah never gives up and they will need to show all of their fighting spirit against a Marconi team stacked with talent.
Both teams also found their FFA Cup Round of 32 fate with Hakoah taking on the Bonnyrigg White Eagles while Marconi will travel to Melbourne to take on Avondale FC.
Sydney FC v APIA Leichhardt Tigers, 7.45pm Saturday at Lambert Park
Sydney FC will be out to spiring a massive upset when they host APIA Leichhardt Tigers at Lambert Park on Saturday night.
Despite languishing at the bottom of the table, they Young Sky Blues will be driven to claim a momentous result against reigning Premiers APIA.
Sydney stunned Bonnyrigg White Eagles 2-1 last week and will be fired up to make it back to back wins.
The Tigers also come into the game after a win with Billy McColl’s side claiming a comprehensive 4-1 win against Rockdale City Suns in Round 16.
Sydney FC will need nothing short of their best performance of the season if they are to snatch victory and if they do captain Sam McIllhatton will be at the centre of it.
The central midfielder’s energetic performances have been a regular feature of Sydney FC games with the young rising star the fulcrum of both attack and defence.
For APIA the focus will once again be league leading goalscorer Jordan Murray. The affable striker may have a relaxed easy going demeanour off the park, but don’t be mistaken as the frontman means business between the lines.
With 14 goals already this season, don’t be surprised to see Murray on the scoresheet this Saturday.
It is a mighty task facing Sydney FC this round but they shouldn’t be written off. Robbie Stanton’s side has the enthusiasm and energy to run any team off the park. If they can find a clinical edge to their game an upset could be on the cards.
Blacktown City v Sydney Olympic, 3pm Sunday at Lilly Homes Stadium – Live streamed on facebook
Blacktown City will be driven to get out of their funk and return to the winners circle with victory when they host league leaders Sydney Olympic FC on Sunday.
Mark Crittenden’s City side haven’t had a win since May 19 and have slipped down the table to fourth position.
Against Olympic they will be out to prove their Championship credentials by stopping the Premiership favourites in their tracks.
Last round Blacktown’s struggles continued with a 1-1 draw on the road against Manly United.
Olympic come into the game after snatching a narrow win against Marconi Stallions at Lambert Park.
Right back Giorgio Speranza has been a consistent name on the Blacktown team sheet throughout all their successful seasons and he remains one of the first players picked.
Speranza offers an attacking outlet from the back line while also a solid presence in defence. He will make life difficult for Olympic’s wingers with his energetic performances.
Olympic striker Alejandro Sanchez netted his 11th goal of the season last round and is hitting peak form just before the business end of the season.
His movement with and without the ball will keep Blacktown’s defenders very busy all afternoon.
This is set to be a blockbuster clash between two of the competitions strongest teams.
Wollongong Wolves v Sydney United 58, 3pm Sunday at WIN Stadium
Back in the top five, Wollongong Wolves will be out to consolidate their spot in the finals with a win against Sydney United 58 on Sunday.
A 2-1 win against Hakoah Sydney City East was the win Wollongong needed and keeps them in control of the destiny heading into the final weeks of the season.
Sydney United claimed their second big win in as many weeks with a 3-1 victory against Sutherland.
Peter Simonoski led the line for the Wolves last week and scored the match winner with a quality finish deep into injury time.
Simonoski has become an important part of the Wollongong attack and if he fires again this round the Wolves will be a good chance to win.
Sydney United are in inspired form the past few weeks and are a team to watch come finals time.
One player who has really impressed has been Matt Sim. the fomer A-League player provides an extra dimension to United 58’s attack and is tough to tackle when he runs at the defence.
Wollongong are traditionally tough to beat at their WIN Stadium fortress but an in form United 58 could be the team to do it.
Rockdale City Suns v Manly United, 5pm Sunday at Ilinden Sports Centre – Live streamed on facebook
Rockdale City Suns will be out for victory on Sunday as they host Manly United on Sunday.
Paul Reid’s side have lost two on the trot after starting the second half of the season with three straight wins.
Last week they were embarrassed 4-1 by APIA Leichhardt Tigers and will need three points against Manly to keep their finals hopes alive.
Manly United are in a similar predicament and last week’s 1-1 draw against Blacktown City wasn’t the result they would’ve been looking for.
Alec Urosevski goes from strength to strength this season and he netted once again in Round 16 for the Suns.
The winger is arguably the best in his position in the competition and will be tough to stop.
Rockdale will be buoyed by their FFA Cup Round of 32 clash when they tackle A-League heavyweights Sydney FC in the pick of the bunch.
Manly defender Kieran Paull was the standout last round for the Northern Beaches based side and will be out for another big showing this week.
Paull’s crossing from the flanks created headaches for Blacktown and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Manly coach Paul Dee asks for a lot of the same this week.
With both teams fighting to keep their finals hopes alive expect this game to have plenty of twists and turns.