It’s Round 9 in the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition and another weekend of thrilling on field action awaits with six more blockbuster fixtures on the schedule.
Wollongong Wolves remain the league leaders going into the ninth week of the season and with a four point lead ahead of second placed APIA Leichhardt Tigers they will be feeling pretty confident heading into the midway point of the campaign.
Marconi Stallions and Sydney United 58 have been the big movers in recent weeks and they will be determined to maintain their impressive form.
Rockdale is another side on the ascendency and with three straight league wins behind them they could soon be back challenging the league leaders.
This week features three games on Saturday and three on Sunday starting with Sydney FC hosting APIA at Lambert Park.
United 58 close out the weekend’s games when they take on Hakoah at Sydney United Spot centre in Sunday’s late match.
Sydney FC v APIA Leichhardt Tigers, 7pm Saturday at Lambert Park
It will be a battle for Lambert Park bragging rights as Sydney FC take on APIA Leichhardt Tigers at Lambert Park on Saturday.
The Young Sky Blues will be out to shock their more favoured rivals and break a run of three straight defeats.
While Lambert Park is intrinsically linked to APIA, Sydney FC have performed well at the ground they have used as their home since earning promotion to the NSW top tier in 2018 and will be out to stake their claim.
Jimmy van Weeren’s team showed early promise last round scoring early against Sydney United 58. However, they were unable to maintain the intensity conceding three goals in a 3-1 loss.
Thomas Heward-Belle has been in spectacular form for Sydney with the gloveman delivering impressive performance in his last two matches.
Van Weeren may have to shuffle his attacking options this week with Jordan Swibel suffering an injury against United 58. Hamish Lamberton has shown he is up to the task of leading the line and may be called upon once again.
Ryan Teague will need to be on his game in midfield as he takes on a pretty solid Tigers outfit.
While it might be a bit bizarre for APIA to use the away locker rooms, it shouldn’t deter them from getting back to winning ways after a three game slump of their own.
The Tigers suffered a painful 2018 grand final flashback last week as they were stunned by Sydney Olympic 3-1 while John Calleja’s had only managed draws against Hakoah and Blacktown City in the previous two matches.
Calleja will have some selection issues of his own with club stalwart Franco Parisi likely earning a return to the starting line-up. The APIA boss will need to find the best way to get Parisi and Kiwi international Andre de Jong on the park at the same time with the pair so fair being used as interchange for each other.
There are whispers that former Golden Boot award winner and APIA fan favourite Blake Powell may be on his way to the Tigers which will only boost the club’s scoring stocks albeit forming a deadly partnership with Chris Payne.
Despite being the away side, expect APIA to be the favourites for this clash but Sydney FC could easily catch them by surprise.
Marconi Stallions v Sydney Olympic FC, 7pm Saturday at Marconi Stadium
A return to the winners circle and the top three will be on the agenda for Marconi Stallions when they host Sydney Olympic FC at Marconi Stadium on Saturday.
Marconi made a lucky escape in round 8 with a last gasp equaliser deep into added time to stretch their undefeated streak to four games.
The Stallions have taken their game to a new level in that time and quickly become on of the teams to beat in the NPL NSW.
The strike force of Marko Jesic and Mirjan Pavlovic was already a fearsome challenge for opposition defences and the return to form of Mitch Mallia only bolsters Marconi’s threat in front of goal.
Coach Peter Tsekenis has not needed to make many changes to his starting lineup in recent weeks but still has talented veterans Nathan Millgate and James Baldacchino on the bench as well as rising star Martin Fernandez who has done very well coming on.
Their opponents Sydney Olympic come into the clash riding high on confidence after a 3-1 win against APIA Leichhardt Tigers.
The return of Spanish sensation Alex Sanchez was a game changer for Olympic with the striker scoring twice in the victory.
Olympic have had a stuttering start to the campaign but the win against rivals APIA could be a turning point for Abbas Saad and his players.
At home Marconi will be favourites for this clash but an Olympic side at full strength will be tough to beat.
Mount Druitt Town Rangers v Sutherland Sharks, 7pm Saturday at Popondetta Park
It may be a little premature to talk about this game being a battle of the cellar dwellers but Mount Druitt Town Rangers clash against Sutherland Sharks at Popondetta Park on Saturday has all the makings of a thrilling encounter.
Both team’s come into this clash after holding league leaders Marconi and Wollongong to draws last round.
Sutherland claimed a very credible 2-2 result against top team Wollongong Wolves while Mt Druitt were held to a thrilling 3-3 draw against Marconi.
Toufic Alameddine was again a star performer for Mt Druitt in his second game back from injury and is sure to remain a key part of the Rangers line-up in weeks to come.
Sutherland have not tasted victory in seven weeks and will have earmarked this clash as a perfect opportunity to break their winless streak.
Former A-League star midfielder Matteo Poljak made a late cameo for Sutherland last week. Expect Terry Palapanis to use him a more featured role when he is back to full fitness.
Rising star Quivi Fowler also made a late cameo as he too completed his return from injury.
Despite their struggles this season, Sutherland and Mt Druitt have shown glimpses of what they are capable of and will be wanting to put on a show this Saturday night.
Wollongong Wolves v Blacktown City FC, 3pm Sunday at WIN Stadium
League leaders Wollongong Wolves can stretch their undefeated streak to nine games with victory against Blacktown City at WIN Stadium on Sunday.
Luke Wilkshire’s side escaped with a draw thanks to a spectacular diving scorpion kick goal from Nikola Djordjevic against bottom side Sutherland Sharks that gained national attention on social media.
However, Wollongong’s result still allowed them to stretch their lead at the top of the competition to four points.
Wilkshire has had the luxury of keeping a constant lineup each week and few, if any, changes are likely for the game against Blacktown.
City travel to Wollongong after a frustrating 1-0 loss to Rockdale City Suns.
A lack of goals has been an issue for Blacktown this season however a watertight defence has kept them in the running for finals football.
Mark Crittenden may look to shake up his attack this week after failing to hit the back last week.
A trip to Wollongong is always a tough away game and no more so than now while the Wolves are at the top of their game.
Blacktown will need a big bounce back performance in what is sure to be a hard fought encounter.
Rockdale City Suns FC v Manly United FC, 4.30pm Sunday at Ilinden Sports Centre
Interim boss Nick Porecca will hope to inspire his Rockdale City Suns side to their fourth straight league win when they host Manly United at Ilinden Sports Centre on Sunday.
Porecca has helped transform Rockdale back into a finals contender after the side battled through horror run of results to start the season which cost former coach Paul Reid his job.
The Suns have looked like a different side in their last three matches with more discipline in both attack and defence.
Injury has plagued Rockdale this season but they are slowly returning to full strength with Panny Nikas’ comeback from injury the one Suns’ fans are anticipating the most.
Alec Urosevski has been kept in cotton wool as he recovers from a groin injury but his impact off the bench, including last week’s match winner, has been a big part of Rockdale’s recent success. a return to the starting lineup is surely imminent.
Manly have climbed back into the top five and will be determined to stay there with another win.
While a late own goal helped them past Hakoah last round, United have been flying under the radar with solid performances this season to remain in contention for the finals.
Manly coach Paul Dee has been fairly consistent with his selections so far and using Nikola Taneski and Charles Mendy as weapons off the bench.
Expect an exciting clash with a spot in the top five going on the line.
Sydney United 58 FC v Hakoah Sydney City East FC, 5pm Sunday at Sydney United Sports Centre
Sydney United 58 will be looking to add to Hakoah Sydney City East’s struggles when they face off at Sydney United Sports Centre on Sunday.
The 5-0 loss to Marconi has been long forgotten by United 58 as they’ve climbed up to third position with a run of much improved performances.
Peter Simonoski has been a major addition to Miro Vlastelica’s squad with five goals in two games after his return from injury.
Uruguayan Sebastian Gallegos had his best game in a Sydney United jersey last week against Sydney FC and has gone a step further to cement his spot as a must start player.
Hakoah has gone off the boil after a strong start to the campaign and coach Gavin Rae will be doing everything he can to return the team to winning ways.
Last week’s defeat to Manly after Hakoah scored a late own goal was a heartbreaking result and is sure to have had a big hit to team confidence.
Amaury Gauthier’s return to the point of the attack has given Hakoah some extra bite back when they go forward and Rae would likely be looking to feed the frontman as much as possible.
Shohei Okuna is another man to keep an eye on with his dribbling skills able to open up a game and create chances fro Hakoah.
United 58 will be favourites at home but Hakoah have the formula to frustrate opponents and could be able to pull off an upset.