The half-way point of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition is looming and their is no more early season excuses as Round 8 kicks off on Thursday.
Wollongong Wolves have sat at the competition summit since the start of the season and will look to extend their hold on first spot for a ninth week.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers have missed chances to leapfrog into the top position on the ladder over the past two weeks and will need to return to winning ways if they are to keep pace with Marconi Stallions who are in-form and hot on their tail.
Reigning Premiers and Champions Sydney Olympic have struggled for results so far but a logjam in the middle of the table means they are only a game or two away from being back in finals contention.
Round eight gets underway with a Anzac Day Grand Final rematch blockbuster between Olympic and APIA before bumper Saturday and Sunday match days close out the weekend’s action.
Sydney Olympic FC vs APIA Leichhardt Tigers, 4.45pm Thursday at Belmore Sports Ground
APIA Leichhardt Tigers will be out to seek some revenge from the 2018 Grand Final defeat to Sydney Olympic when the two sides face off at Belmore Sports Ground on Thursday.
While it was Olympic who were all smiles after taking the win on Grand Final day last season, their start to the 2019 season has been less enjoyable with good results proving hard to come by.
APIA on the other hand are in second spot after seven rounds but have slipped up in their chase for first with back to back draws.
One positive for Olympic has been the discovery of dynamic forward Dimi Petratos who has been in inspired form scoring in consecutive matches.
Cousin to Dimi Petratos at the Newcastle Jets, Olympic’s Petratos has been in fine form coming off the bench.
The Abbas Saad coached side could be without striker Alex Sanchez and midfielder Haji Gligor who both missed last week’s clash due to injury.
Despite taking only two points from their past two matches, APIA are unlikley to make any big changes to their side for this clash.
Josh Symons made a return to the starting lineup last week moving the in-form Paul Galimi out from his preferred central defensive position to right back.
Tynan Diaz was dropped to the bench against Blacktown but the veteran’s speed and crossing ability could be preferred by APIA coach John Calleja against Olympic.
Andre de Jong has had a solid start to his time in Leichhardt but is being eased into the team with three appearances off the bench. Calleja could very well feel the time is now to unleash the Kiwi international from the opening whistle while getting fan favourite Franco Parisi to come off the bench to run havoc.
Matches between these two sides are always packed with excitement and drama with this match likley going to be no different.
It will be a big day for the Blues who have labelled this the “Anzac Day Double Header” as following the Men’s match the NPL NSW Women’s clash will showcase Sydney Olympic taking on Manly United at 6:45pm.
There will also be a special Anzac Day service set to take place at 4:35pm.
Sydney FC v Sydney United 58, 1pm Saturday at Lambert Park
Sydney FC will be gunning for a shock upset when they host Sydney United 58 at Lambert Park this Saturday.
The Young Sky Blues were let down by a lapse midway through the second half of their 2-1 loss to Rockdale City Suns last week and will be determined to make up for what was a frustrating result.
Jimmy van Weeren’s players showed plenty of resilience to hold out a surging Suns attack for most of the match with shot stopper Thomas Heward-Belle seemingly unbeatable for large portions of the clash.
Marco Tilio was another Sydney player who stood up with his silky dribbling skills and explosive first step creating plenty of headaches.
Van Weeren could be tempted to give Ryan Teague more minutes with the talented midfielder delivering an impressive cameo off the bench at Ilinden Sports Centre.
Sydney FC will have it’s hands full against United 58 who are flying high after a 3-1 win against Mt Druitt Town Rangers.
Peter Simonoski marked his first full match after injury for United with a hat-trick and will be in the mood for goals on Saturday.
Coach Miro Vlastelica will also be pleased with the improvement of Uruguayan playmaker Sebastian Gallegos who on Monday delivered his best performance in a Sydney United shirt.
Club captain Nick Stavroulakis also provided that experience the team was missing when the Reds were humiliated by the Marconi Stallions 5-0.
The short five day turnaround could be a factor for Vlastelica’s players and the coach may want to reshuffle his line-up and reinstate Patrick Antelmi, Mat Sim and Glen Trifiro to the starting team.
Sydney FC are no easy beats and an upset could very well be on the cards if United 58 don’t bring their ‘A’ game.
Sutherland Sharks FC v Wollongong Wolves, 6.30pm Saturday at Seymour Shaw
Ending a painful six game winless streak will be the top priority for Sutherland Sharks on Saturday when they host league leaders Wollongong Wolves at Seymour Shaw.
It has been a horror start to the season for Terry Palapanis and the Sharks who have gone from bad to worse since their round one win.
The early promise has well and truly departed the Shire based squad and they will need to find an all new level if they are to stun Wollongong.
Sutherland have been hit by injury in recent week’s with their young squad struggling for depth.
Jeremy Cox is hoping to get amongst the scorer’s charts once more while the club will be missing their number one keeper Anthony Bouzanis who has been ruled out with injury.
To make matters worse the Wolves are playing their best football in years with striker Thomas James leading the golden boot race with ten for the season. Along with James, the likes of Takeru Okada and Guy Knight have been in fine form for the Wolves as has keeper Justin Pasfield and Nick Littler in the back.
Wollongong coach Luke Wilkshire is unlikely to make any changes to his starting line-up from the team which defeated Hakaoh last week.
It will be an almighty task for Sutherland but anything can happen in football.
Mount Druitt Town Rangers v Marconi Stallions, 7pm Saturday at Popondetta Park
A return to Popondetta Park could be the driving force that inspires Mt Druitt to victory when they host Marconi Stallions on Saturday.
The Rangers have gone four games without a win and have conceded 14 goals in that period.
They have however competed in most of its matches thus far and have been able to get amongst the goals.
Coach Aidan Desmond will be desperately searching for answers as they face off against a Marconi team full of confidence and hungry for goals.
One upside for Mt Druitt is the return of Toufic Alameddine from an ankle injury with the skillful attacker making a cameo appearance off the bench last week.
Desmond will surely be tempted to return Alameddine to the starting side as well as Alex Boyadjian ho has also performed well this season.
The Stallions have arguably been the best performing team over the last two rounds scoring eight goals including a five goal demolition of Sydney United 58 in Round 6.
Nathan Millgate might get a return to the starting side after being relegated to the bench last match on his return from a two game suspension.
Mirjan Pavlovic and Marko Jesic can’t stop scoring and will be expected to lead the line once again for Marconi.
Plenty of goals could be on the menu if the Stallions are in the mood for it come Saturday night which means Mt Druitt defence could be in for a busy night.
Manly United FC v Hakoah Sydney City East, 3pm Sunday at Cromer Park
Manly United will be hoping to give their fans plenty to cheer about when they return to Cromer Park on Sunday to take on Hakoah Sydney City East.
Last week Paul Dee’s side were agonisingly denied a win by Sydney Olympic who snatched a 1-1 draw with a goal only two minutes from full-time.
The boys from the Northern Beaches have been solid so far this season but have been unable to turn their performances into consistent results.
Dee has made few changes to his starting team in recent weeks so expect a similar looking side to the one which ran out onto Belmore Sports Ground on Good Friday.
Charles Mendy and Nikola Taneski are dangerous players off the bench and could be the game changers in this clash against a stout Hakoah defense.
Gavin Rae’s Hakoah team pushed APIA all the way in Round 6 but had no answers for league leaders Wollongong last round.
Bradley Walker’s return to the centre of defence has helped steel the back line of the Eastern Suburbs outfit.
Amaury Gauthier’s return last week also provided extra spark to the attack.
Hakoah can be a prickly customer and Manly won’t want to slip up if they are secure the win in front of their fans.
Blacktown City FC v Rockdale City Suns, 3pm Sunday at Lily Homes Stadium
Blacktown City will be hoping to reclaim third spot on the ladder with victory against a resurgent Rockdale City Suns outfit at Lily Homes Stadium on Sunday.
Blacktown fought back to snatch a draw against APIA Leichhardt Tigers last week thanks only seven days after snatching a win with some more heroics in the late stages against Sydney FC.
Mark Crittenden’ side has maintained the never say die attitude which helped the veteran coach lead the club to numerous titles this decade.
Expect few if any changes to his side for this match but if any player possibly earning themselves a promotion to the starting side it is James Demetriou who has scored twice in as many weeks after coming off the bench.
Star midfielder and former A-League player Devante Clut was an unused substitute against APIA so he may be another player who could be elevated into the line-up.
Rockdale come into the game on the up and up with two straight wins under interim coach Nick Porecca.
Much improved performances from the Ilinden Sports Centre based side has given hope to Rockdale fans and they will be determined to stretch their new success as far as possible.
However, one headache for Porecca will be managing star player Alec Urosevski’s groin injury which has limited the prolific winger’s involvement in recent weeks.
Expect an exciting contest which could go down to the wire.