Blacktown City wrapped up the Premiership in convincing style last weekend, and now head home to Lilys Homes to take on Sutherland Sharks in a game that could well act as a preview to a future finals matchup.
Sydney FC are looking to secure a second-place finish against Marconi Stallions, while Wollongong, Hakoah and Sydney United 58 all remain in the race for the last two finals places. The Match of the Round sees APIA Leichhardt take on Hakoah Sydney City FC at Lambert Park, with the visitors needing a win to ensure they make the five without relying on results elsewhere.
Match of the Round: APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC v Hakoah Sydney City FC, Sunday 1pm at Lambert Park
APIA Leichhardt Tigers narrowly missed the top five in 2018 but can still have an effect on the finals one way or another should they cause trouble for their opponents in the final round of the regular season.
Hakoah Sydney City East will kick off at Lambert Park an hour after Sydney United 58 do in their match against Sydney Olympic, and know that a United draw or loss would seal their place in the finals regardless of the result against APIA.
Still, they will be determined to make the five of their own accord. Hakoah won 3-0 against Rockdale last week while APIA head into this one on the back of a 2-1 win over Bonnyrigg White Eagles, both goals coming late to snatch a fantastic comeback win for the Tigers.
Hakoah won 1-0 when these sides met at Hensley Athletic Field back in May: a repeat result on Sunday at Lambert Park would serve them well.
Sydney Olympic FC v Sydney United 58 FC, 12pm at Belmore Sports Ground
Sydney United 58 will look to carry a brilliant run of form into their final match of the regular season against Sydney Olympic, needing a result to ensure they challenge Wollongong and Hakoah above them for a spot in the five.
United sit a point off both fourth and fifth ahead of their Round 22 clash with Olympic, following a 2-0 win over Manly United last weekend. They have a better goal difference than Hakoah and are two goals behind Wollongong, meaning a win would give them a fighting chance of beating one of the two sides above them – depending on results elsewhere, of course – while a draw could also be enough.
A 3-1 win in this fixture at Sydney United Sports Centre in May bodes well for the visitors, as does Olympic’s recent record. The side from Belmore sit four goals above bottom-of-the-table Rockdale on goal difference, and will be eager to avoid the thrashing their opponents would surely like to deal out on Sunday.
Manly United FC v Bonnyrigg White Eagles, 1pm at Cromer Park
Manly United’s season came to an end with a crushing defeat at the hands of Sydney United 58 last weekend, though any late charge for the finals was dependent on a near-perfect run-in in any case.
They return home to Cromer Park on Sunday afternoon for a match against a team in a similar position to their own; Bonnyrigg sitting only six points behind their Round 22 opponents after a 2-1 loss to APIA Leichhardt last weekend.
Both sides should be keen to end their respective seasons on a high, particularly given Bonnyrigg’s relegation to the NPL 2. This fixture ended in a scoreless draw when these sides met at Bonnyrigg Sports Club back in May.
Rockdale City Suns FC v Sydney FC, 1pm at Ilinden Sports Centre
Sydney FC might have been playing for the Premiership this weekend but a 4-0 loss to Blacktown City in Round 21 handed the title to the team from Lily Homes Stadium, leaving Giancarlo Italiano’s men potentially fighting to hang onto second place heading into the final round of the regular season.
Still, they should be confident of beating Rockdale City Suns on Sunday, despite a 2-2 draw at Lambert Park earlier in the season.
The Suns come into their final match for 2018 bottom of the ladder on goal difference behind Sydney Olympic, and on the back of their fourth-straight loss following a 3-0 defeat to Hakoah.
With a series of shocks in recent weeks shaking up the scramble for places in the top five, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Rockdale keen to finish their season on a high – Sydney FC would be wise to stay focused even as they look ahead to the finals.
Blacktown City FC v Sutherland Sharks FC, 1pm at Lily Homes Stadium
Blacktown City have the opportunity to put an extra gloss on their Premiership on Sunday afternoon when they take on Sutherland Shark at Lily Homes Stadium.
This match might’ve decided the title had Sutherland’s form not dipped so severely in the final weeks of the regular season – the Sharks now sit six points behind their Round 22 opponents despite having led them in first place for much of the year.
Blacktown thrashed Sydney FC 4-0 to secure the Premiership last weekend, while Sutherland’s bid for the title was ended with a 1-0 defeat against Marconi. A re-match in the finals is a definite possibility, so neither side will want to concede ground here.
Marconi Stallions FC v Wollongong Wolves FC, 1pm at Marconi Stadium
Wollongong Wolves sit in fourth place heading into the final round of the regular season after a 1-0 win over Sydney Olympic last weekend, but will need a win against Marconi on Sunday to be absolutely certain of their place in the top five.
The Wolves have a better goal difference than both Hakoah and Sydney United below them but arguably face the toughest opponent of any of the three teams in Round 22, travelling up to Marconi Stadium to take on the Stallions.
Marconi narrowly missed out on the finals and have won four of their last five matches, their latest result a stunning 1-0 win over Sutherland Sharks which helped secure the Premiership for Blacktown City.
Wollongong won 3-0 when they hosted Marconi at WIN Stadium back in May. A league double over the Stallions in 2018 would surely be the perfect way to head into the finals.
-By Max Grieve