It’s round 18 of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition and the pressure couldn’t be higher the regular season enters the final straight especially after Football NSW announced that it will be hosting the 2019 Grand Final at the wonderful Bankwest Stadium on Saturday August 31st.
There is only five games left meaning every match counts.
Wollongong Wolves remain in pole position and could wrap up the premiership title by round 20 if results go their way.
However, APIA Leichhardt will be out to stop them starting with their match against third placed Blacktown City on Sunday.
It is an even split of matches across Saturday and Sunday this week with three games on each day starting with Sutherland Sharks clash with Marconi Stallions at 6.30pm on Saturday.
Sutherland Sharks v Marconi Stallions, 6.30pm Saturday at Seymour Shaw Park
The incredible late season run of Sutherland Sharks will be tested on Saturday as they take on Marconi Stallions at Seymour Shaw Park.
The Sharks are only one point outside the top five and a possible playoff spot and have gone their past nine game undefeated including three wins from their past five.
It is a spectacular turnaround from the Sutherland Shire based team who incredibly went ten games without a win to start the season.
Coach Terry Palapanis has the team firing on all cylinders and that was none more obvious than last week’s 5-0 away win against Manly United.
What would’ve been most satisfying for Palapanis from the result is the performance of the club’s veterans with Raul Romero and Mateo Poljak both contributing goals.
They will be needed to put in other big showing this week to get past a driven Marconi outfit.
Another player that stood out was former Sky Blues midfielder Jerry Skotadis.
He was everywhere against Manly United, and come Saturday, will be a marked man.
The Stallions have had a disappointing season but still hold their finals hopes in their hands.
A hard fought scoreless draw after being reduced to ten-men demonstrated a resolve many would’ve felt didn’t exist in Marconi’s star studded outfit.
As a result of the red card last week, Marconi will be without influential attacker Mitchell Mallia this week which will force a reshuffle in attack.
The result of this match could play a huge part in deciding the finals fate of either team with only five games left in the regular season.
Expect a game where everything is put on the line in chase of victory.
Sydney FC v Rockdale City Suns, 7pm Saturday at Lambert Park
Sydney FC will be determined to end their five game losing streak when they take on Rockdale City Suns at Lambert Park on Saturday.
It’s been a horror second half of the season for Sydney FC but at home against a Rockdale City Suns team going through a slump of their own they will be hopeful of collecting all three points.
A plucky performance against Blacktown City in a 3-1 defeat showed their is signs of life for the Jimmy van Weeren coached team.
Young midfielder Ryan Teague has been tipped for a promising professional career and he has been in good form in a losing side.
Teague, alongside Luke Ivanovic and Joel King offer Sydney FC plenty of quality and they will need to get the most out of the trio if they are to win.
Rockdale have slumped to one of the lowest points of their campaign losing five of their past six games.
In that time their defence has once again came under the spotlight after conceding 16 goals.
Interim coach Nick Porecca is scrambling for answers and he will need to find them quick if they are somehow to sneak into the finals.
It’s a big game for Rockdale but Sydney FC won’t be easy beats. It’s a match which could go either way.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers v Sydney United 58, 7pm Saturday at Popondetta Park
A four game winning streak may have come to an end but Mt Druitt Town Rangers shouldn’t be written off when they host Sydney United 58 on Saturday.
The Rangers were on the wrong side of a Wollongong Wolves onslaught in round 17 4-1 defeat.
This week will be about a bounce back showing and they will look to veterans Mirjan Pavlovic and Fabricio Fernandez to deliver the X-factor required.
Coach Aidan Desmond will need to make a few changes after the send-off of Blake Thompson last week meaning he will be unavailable for this clash.
United 58 come into the game after a frustrating 0-0 draw with rivals Marconi last round.
Despite the Stallions playing most of the match with only ten-men, United couldn’t break them down and had to settle for a point in a match they probably should have won.
Reds gaffer Miro Vlastelica will have big decisions to make to help re-ignite his team’s season after their recent stumbles.
United 58 will be favourites but the result is far from a sure thing with Mt Druitt at home a tough team to beat.
Manly United v Sydney Olympic, 3pm Sunday at Cromer Park
A shock thrashing at the hands of Sutherland last week will be the driving force pushing Manly United towards a big bounce back performance against Sydney Olympic on Sunday.
It was the second straight loss for Manly and was a tough reality check for the team from the Northern Beaches.
The pressure will be on coach Paul Dee to spark new life into his hot and cold United team.
Travis Oughtred will slot back into the team after receiving a red card last round as his one match suspension was served during the TAFE NSW Waratah Cup Semi Final match against Marconi Stallions played out on Wednesday.
Sydney Olympic come into the contest after breaking into the top five last round with a win against Rockdale City Suns.
Abbas Saad’s side may not be playing the same football which guided them to a premiership and championship double last season but improved form in recent weeks has given them hope of making the finals.
Star striker Alex Sanchez will be a key omission from the squad as he is serving a one week suspension which means a lot of pressure will now ride on the likes of skipper Jason Madonis and Radovan Pavicevic, while look to Nicola Kuleski for a big game in midfield.
It’s a match not to miss with plenty riding on the result.
Blacktown City v APIA Leichhardt Tigers, 3pm Sunday at Lily Homes Stadium
It will be a clash of the titans at Lily Homes Stadium on Sunday when second placed APIA Leichhardt Tigers travel to take on Blacktown City.
four points separate the two sides on the ladder and a loss in Sunday’s match could all but end Blacktown’s hopes of a potential top two finish.
A 3-1 win against Sydney FC in round 17 was a big result for City headlined by a highlight reel bicycle kick goal from Joey Gibbs to clinch the result.
Coach Mark Crittenden has used a more conservative game plan this season to help cover the exodus of attacking stars from last season’s team and it appeared to stifle their attack all together in the first half of the campaign.
However, Blacktown has found their groove and the goals are now flowing freely with Gibbs closing in on top form.
APIA on the other are in near finals form and three straight wins is proof of that.
A big part of that form is 36-year-old veteran playmaker Franco Parisi who has played the house down in all three matches including a return of three goals and three assists.
The Tiger’s defence has also stood up conceding only one goal in their past three games.
Themba Muata-Marlow could be reintroduced to the centre of defence after serving a one game suspension but he will have a tough time to fight his way into the team.
This is the standout match of the round and one not to miss.
Wollongong Wolves v Hakoah Sydney City East, 3pm Sunday at WIN Stadium
League leaders Wollongong Wolves will be determined to stretch their lead at the top of the table when they host Hakoah Sydney City east in a special NAIDOC themed clash at WIN Stadium on Sunday.
The Wolves will play in a special commemorative strip for the match in honour of NAIDOC Week and will hope it helps them to another great performance.
A second-half flurry helped the Luke Wilkshire coached outfit to a 4-1 win against Mt Druitt Town Rangers in round 17.
While Golden Boot leader Thomas James added another goal to his tally, it was Lachlan Scott who stood out scoring two goals and proving Wollongong’s attack is more than one dimensional.
Expect to see both Scott and James desperate to find the back of the net this week.
It has been a horror season for the competition’s bottom team Hakoah with only four wins all season.
They will be in for an almighty challenge with a tough road trip away to the Wolves.
Last week, they suffered yet another defeat as APIA cruised to a 3-0 win.
Goals have been one of the biggest weaknesses of Hakoah’s season with the Gavin Rae coached time scoring only 10 goals in 17 games.
Against the leagues best defence Hakoah’s front third could be in for another frustrating display.
Wollongong are strong favourites for this match but if Hakoah can snatch an early goal and remain disciplined then an upset could be on the cards.