It’s Round 20 in the National Premier Leagues NSW 2018 season and with only three games left the race for the Premiership is heating up.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers come into this week’s matches on top of the table but clinging on ahead of Sydney Olympic FC only thanks to a superior goal difference.
They have a potentially title defining clash with third placed Sydney United 58 on Sunday with anything less than a win putting their chances of defending their Premiership crown in jeopardy.
Olympic will also need to collect three points if they have any aspirations of finishing the season on the top of the table but Sutherland Sharks will be out for an upset.
Fifth placed Rockdale City Suns can potentially end the race for the last finals spot if they win on the road against Blacktown City and other results go their way.
The pressure is on all teams and with so much on the line it is sure to be an exciting weekend of football.
Bonnyrigg v Hakoah Sydney City East FC, 7pm Saturday at Bonnyrigg Sports Club
A big finish to the season is on the agenda for Bonnyrigg White Eagles and that starts with a win against the visiting Hakoah Sydney City East on Saturday night.
Ninth placed Bonnyrigg come into the clash still in with a slim chance of making the finals but the cards are stacked against them after a 2-1 loss to fierce rivals Sydney United 58 last week.
Under new coach Milan Susak, the White Eagles will need to win out their final three games and hope other results go their way.
But the first challenge will be getting all three points against a tough opponent in Hakoah.
Sadly for Gavin Rae’s Easter Suburbs side, the wheels have fallen off as the season comes to a close with the team suffering defeat after defeat despite take early leads in matches.
Hakoah’s inability to close out games is sure to be an area Susak will target and with the quality of Ray Miller and Jewook Woo, as well as Aaron Peterson off the bench, he has the players to get a result.
Bonnyrigg will need to watch out for Andre De Jong and Anthony Frangie as the two attacking players, on their day, are some of the best in the competition.
Hakoah’s finals hopes are all but over and they are playing for pride in these last games of the campaign. That doesn’t mean they won’t be a challenge and could create plenty of problems for Bonnyrigg.
Manly United FC v Wollongong Wolves FC, 7pm Saturday at Cromer Park – LIVE ON THE NPL FACEBOOK PAGE
The slim finals hopes of Manly United FC and Wollongong Wolves FC go on the line this Saturday as the two sides face off at Cromer Park.
Sitting in sixth and eighth spot respectively, Manly and Wolves both need wins if they are going to make a surprise appearance in this season’s finals series.
Manly scraped trough an incredible last gasp win in Round 19 as Sam Wilson netted in the dying stages to help his team to a 1-0 win on the road against Sutherland Sharks.
Wollongong also claimed a big result as they took a point away from their match with league leaders APIA Leichhardt Tigers.
Manly has sailed under the radar this season and has failed to reach the heights of last season’s Championship winning team.
The return of coach Paul Dee has failed to inspire the players to new heights as they suffered somewhat of a Grand Final win hangover.
Veteran striker Dylan Macallister could be the man to carry them to glory against the Wolves as the former A-League player certainly knows his way to goal.
Wollongong looked to make a big splash this campaign with a number of big name veteran signings.
However, it has not worked as the South Coast club would’ve planned and they are in an uphill battle to make the finals.
This game has plenty riding on it and perhaps it is this sort of pressure which inspires one of these sides to take their game to another level.
Sydney Olympic FC v Sutherland Sharks FC, 3pm Sunday at Belmore Sports Ground
The Premiership is in touching distance for Sydney Olympic FC and they will be determined to mount their claim for competition silverware with victory against Sutherland Sharks on Sunday.
A few slip-ups in the past few weeks opened the door for APIA Leichhardt Tigers to steal top spot from Olympic but last week’s 3-2 win for the Abass Saad coached side proved they’re not giving up without a fight.
Sutherland Sharks have had a frustrating season with Grant Lee’s side struggling to find consistency and live up tot their potential.
Alejandro Sanchez will be the key to this game and Olympic’s Spanish striker will looking to add to his incredible goalscoring tally.
Sutherland has developed a reliance on Jacob Tratt this campaign with the former A-Leage defender being a huge part of what the Sharks do both in attack and defence.
Anything less than a win will be considered a bad result for Olympic so they will come out all guns blazing.
If Sutherland can hold tight than perhaps an upset could be on the cards.
Blacktown City FC v Rockdale City Suns, 3pm Sunday at Lily Homes Stadium
Blacktown City will be focused on hitting their best form ahead of the finals and it will start with victory against Rockdale City Suns on Sunday.
The Mark Crittenden coached side has not been at its clinical best this campaign but by no means are they out of the Championship race.
A win last round against Hakoah proved they can still take the game to their opposition and shouldn’t be underestimated.
Rockdale on the other hand is in prime position to lock up the final spot in the playoffs with the fifth placed side needing a run of good results to close out the campaign.
Joey Gibbs is finding form at the best possible time with the striker coming into Round 20 after a match winning double against Hakoah. His goals will one again be vital if Blacktown are to claim all three points.
Rockdale could be without star forward Alec Urosevski for this crunch match after he was forced off early last round with injury.
If Urosevski is unavailable then the challenge will be for Bai Antoniou and Aleks Canak to fill the void.
Both teams are in a strong position ahead of the finals but need good results to ensure they finish the regular season in the best possible shape..
Blacktown will be the favourite but this game could very easily go either way.
Marconi Stallions v Sydney FC, 3pm Sunday at Marconi Stadium
Marconi Stallions have the chance to play finals football in their first season back in the National Premier Leagues NSW competition, but it will only be possible if they collect victory against Sydney FC on Sunday.
The Stallions are come into the round in seventh position, two points behind fifth placed Rockdale and level on points with sixth placed Manly United.
A loss last week against Rockdale City Suns was a dent in their finals aspirations but the dream is far but over for Peter Tsekenis’ side.
Their opponent this week is bottom team Sydney FC who were unlucky not to claim a shock win against Sydney Olympic in Round 19.
Rob Stanton’s team pushed the Premiership hopeful’s all the way in a tight 3-2 defeat.
Marconi’s Sean Rooney has the skill and x-factor to be a major influencer in matches. The Stallions will be looking to him for a moment of magic.
Sydney FC have had a long campaign and it’s starting to show. The young side has a National Youth League season ahead to prepare for and a strong finish to the National Premier Leagues NSW will be on their agenda.
Marconi will be very confident they will be able to get the win at home in this match.
However, if they are too confident the Young Sky Blues have what it takes to shock them.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC v Sydney United 58 FC, 4pm Sunday at Lambert Park – LIVE ON THE NPL FACEBOOK PAGE
An incredible Premiership defence is in APIA Leichhardt Tigers’ hands and they will be driven more than ever as they take on an inform Sydney United 58 team at Lambert Park this Sunday.
Both teams come into the game on incredible unbeaten streaks and are arguably the form sides in the competition.
However, APIA were forced to settle for a draw against Wollongong Wolves in Round 19 with Sean Symons getting the Lambert Park based side out of trouble.
United 58 on the other hand made it five wins from as many games as they claimed a 2-1 win against fierce rivals Bonnyrigg White Eagles.
Last week’s draw meant APIA’s lead at the top of the competition has been reduced to only goal difference with Olympic securing a win to move level on 39 points.
While their competition lead sits precariously, APIA are still in control of their fate which is something envied ball all other teams in the league.
APIA striker Jordan Murray has been a revelation for the Tigers in 2018 and is on track for a record goal haul this campaign. While many other APIA players have stepped up their game this season, the importance of Murray’s exploits in front of goal can’t be matched.
United 58 have also benefitted from an in-form front man with Chris Payne rediscovering his impressive form inside the 18-yard box.
This match will feature plenty of battles across the pitch but the clash of the star strikers could potentially decide this years’ Premiership.
It’s a blockbuster clash and one not to be missed.