It’s the penultimate round of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s season for 2019 and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
The finals race is set to go down to the wire with as many as six teams set to slug it out for two remaining finals spots.
Wollongong Wolves also have the chance to wrap up the title in Round 21 after an unexpected slip up last week. The need only one point from their remaining two games to secure the Premiership.
Action gets underway on Saturday night at Lambert Park with Sydney FC against Sutherland Sharks while Mt Druitt will also host Hakoah Sydney City East.
The biggest game of Saturday’s fixtures is a grudge match between Marconi Stallions and Blacktown City at Marconi Stadium.
Sunday will feature three matches including Manly United hosting APIA Leichhardt Tigers and Sydney Olympic against rivals Sydney United 58 at Belmore Sports Ground.
The weekend’s action wraps up at Ilinden Sports Centre as Rockdale City Suns face off against league leaders Wollongong Wolves.
Sydney FC v Sutherland Sharks FC, Saturday 7pm at Lambert Park
An undermanned Sydney FC squad will be determined to continue their strong close season form when they host Sutherland Sharks at Lambert Park on Saturday.
The Young Sky Blues have exceeded expectations over the past fortnight with big results against Sydney Untied 58 and APIA Leichhardt Tigers despite a number of players unavailable.
Coach Jim van Weeren has been required to call on players from the club’s under-18 team but it has not stopped them from playing some of their best football of the campaign.
Tom Heward-Belle and Marco Tilio will be required to lead the charge for Sydney FC in their match as they set out to well and truly end Sutherland Sharks finals hopes.
While Benjamin Koop will also be in around the action after his equaliser last weekend.
The Terry Palapanis coached side has lost their last three games conceding 11 goals and scoring only two.
Veterans Marc Warren and Mateo Poljak will need to use all their experience to inspire the Shire based side to victory and finish the season on a high note after their finals dream was scuppered last week.
Sutherland won’t go down without a fight but Sydney FC have shown their enthusiasm and energy can be a handful for even the best teams in the league.
Marconi Stallions v Blacktown City FC, Saturday 7pm at Marconi Stadium
The finals hopes of Marconi Stallions go on the line as they take on Blacktown City at Marconi Stadium on Saturday.
The Stallions hold onto fifth spot after three straight wins and victory this round will all but secure their place in the playoffs.
They have seemingly found their groove at just the right time after an up and down season.
Mitch Mallia’s return from suspension proved to be game changing last week as the former Perth Glory and Sydney FC player scored the winner.
Against his former side he will be required to lead the charge in what is sure to be a thrilling sub plot.
Blacktown City are another team hitting their peak when it matters most as was proven in their upset of Wollongong Wolves last Sunday.
Few expected Mark Crittenden’s side to be so high up the ladder at this point of the season but the veteran coach has built a squad which is both hard to break down and is stocked with match winners.
Marconi will be a big test for City but they will be determined to prove themselves against a team stocked with so many of their former stars.
Expect a few fireworks in a match with so much riding on it.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers FC v Hakoah Sydney City East, Saturday 7pm at Popondetta Park
Mt Druitt Town Rangers will be hoping to cap off a brilliant first season in the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition with a finals berth and the must beat Hakoah Sydney City East to make it reality.
The Rangers are five points out of the top five and will need to win both of their last two games while also hope results go their way.
The pressure will be on their experienced stars Toufic Alameddine and Fabricio Fernandes to fire.
Last week’s win ended a run of three games without victory for the Rangers.
They take on a Hakoah team who are destined to finish with the wooden spoon and will be without a coach after Gavin Rae’s departure from the club after their defeat to Sydney United 58 on Sunday.
The Eastern Suburbs based side has little to play for in the final two games so it will be interesting to see their intensity on Saturday.
Goalkeeper Ryan Norval has been one of few standouts in what has been a horror season for Hakoah and expect him to be busy against a dangerous Mt Druitt attack.
Mt Druitt will be expected to cruise to victory in this game but can Hakoah shake things up and end the Rangers finals dream?
Manly United FC v APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC, Sunday 3pm at Cromer Park
Nothing less than victory will be enough for Manly United when they host APIA Leichhardt Tigers at Cromer Park on Sunday.
Defeat last week means that only a perfect two wins from Manly’s final two games will secure them a shot at a top five finish.
It will take a mammoth turn around from the boys from the Northern Beaches to get the job done with the side losing four of their last five games.
Charles Mendy could be the man to turn their fortunes around with the Pacy striker a matchup nightmare for opposition defences.
They take on an APIA Leichhardt side reeling from their shock 2-2 draw against Sydney FC last round.
Coach John Calleja may need to shuffle his squad around with Corey Biczo and Josh Symons suffering injuries in that match.
APIA have already secured their place in this season’s finals series, but will need to ensure they don’t drop anymore points if they are to hold off a fast finishing Blacktown City team from knocking them out of second spot.
Manly’s season is on the line in this clash so don’t expect anything less than a desperation performance.
Sydney Olympic v Sydney United 58, Sunday 4pm at Belmore Sports Ground
Traditional rivals Sydney Olympic and Sydney United 58 are set to face off at Belmore Sports Ground on Sunday in a match with plenty of finals implications.
Sydney Olympic sit outside the top five in sixth position and will need to reverse their current form if they have any hope of leapfrogging fifth placed Marconi Stallions.
Coach Abbas Saad has made some risky selection decisions in recent weeks with a number of his experienced players unavailable. .
Last season’s standout defender Tom Whiteside was a shock omission from last week’s team and his demotion to the Under-20 side, despite the absence of Will Angel and Mitchell Stamatellis, had Olympic fans asking plenty of questions.
They take on a Sydney United 58 side which finally broke through their recent struggles in a 3-0 win against bottom side Hakoah Sydney City East.
A midweek FFA Cup game will mean coach Miro Vlastelica has some big decisions to make to ensure his side is in the best shape after a busy week.
A red card to Yianni Fragogiannis in the dying stages of the match against Hakoah was a sore spot for Vlastelica who will likely be without the defender for Sunday’s match.
Matches between these two sides are always full of spice and expect Sunday’s clash to be no different as they both battle to secure their place in the post season.
Rockdale City Suns v Wollongong Wolves, Sunday 4.30pm at Ilinden Sports Centre
Rockdale City Suns have the chance to spoil the premiership party of Wollongong Wolves when the two sides come head to head at Ilinden Sports Centre on Sunday.
The Suns need to take all three points from the match if they are to keep their finals hopes alive and will look to their last match against the Wolves where they were shock 2-0 winners as inspiration.
A 2-0 win against Manly in Round 20 was Rockdale’s only win from their past five matches with the side struggling at the back end of the campaign.
Despite this they are still in with a chance of a top five finish but it will require two wins from their final two games.
It hasn’t been the season Panny Nikas would’ve envisioned when he made his high profile move to the Suns in January but the mercurial attacker has the chance to make an impact in these crunch matches.
Alec Urosevski and young striker Jonathan Grozdanovski are other key contributors to watch for.
For The Wolves a draw is enough for them to claim the Premiership and coach Luke Wilkshire is sure to have the team fired up especially after their shock defeat last round.
It was a rare poor performance from Wollongong and with the chance of securing history it is unlikely they have another bad showing this week.
Striker Thomas James will be looking to extend his lead in the Golden Boot race with a few goals after APIA front man Chris Payne closed the gap to only one strike.
A lot is riding on this match for both teams so expect a thrilling clash with plenty of attacking football.