The finals of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition have arrived and the stakes couldn’t be higher with Championship glory only three games away.
The first week of the playoffs features two thrilling match-ups on Saturday including a fierce derby match between Sydney United 58 and Marconi Stallions, as well as a clash of the titans with APIA Leichhardt Tigers going head to head with Blacktown City.
All four teams have given everything to make it this far in the competition and won’t be happy to bow out early.
Now is the time for teams to make their mark so strap in for a huge weekend of finals football action.
Sydney United 58 v Marconi Stallions, Saturday 4pm at Sydney United Sports Centre
Expect plenty of fireworks on Saturday afternoon as fierce rivals Sydney United 58 and Marconi Stallions face off for finals football survival at Sydney United Sports Centre.
There has been a lot of feeling between these two teams this season and the extra pressure of finals elimination will only turn the heat up even more on these two historic opponents teams
Saturday’s match will be the fourth time they have clashed in 2019 with their most recent being Marconi’s 2-1 Waratah Cup final win last month.
The Stallions have had the upper hand winning two of three matches against United this season including a 5-0 thrashing at Marconi Stadium back in April
Sydney United 58 come into this game full of confidence after snatching fourth spot from Marconi to secure a home final with a 3-1 win in their final regular season game against Manly United last weekend.
The victory was a real message of intent from a Reds outfit which has struggled for consistency over the back end of the campaign.
Coach Miro Valstelica could have a few tough selection decisions to make with the possible loss of star midfielder Glen Trifiro to injury who will be touch and go.
The former Central Coast Mariners player struggled to limp off the field after suffering what appeared to be a serious knee injury during the second half.
Tariq Maia could be the man brought in to replace him with Patrick Antelmi returned to the starting line-up to fill Maia’s spot.
Defeat last week proved costly for Marconi Stallions as they lost the chance to host this match but they have still been one of the form teams during the back half of the campaign.
Coach Peter Tsekenis has his star studded Stallions side firing when it matters most and if they can continue that form are a dark horse to go all the way.
A few of Marconi’s big names didn’t play last week including Mitch Mallia while former Hakoah attacking dynamo Anthony Frangie is slowly working his way back from injury giving the Stallions another weapon going forward.
With the loser eliminated from the finals expect both teams to give everything to avoid a premature end to the season and their Championship hopes.
If their previous match-ups are anything to go by this game is must see football.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers v Blacktown City, Saturday 7pm at Lambert Park
Two of the league’s heavy hitters will go toe to toe on Saturday night as APIA Leichhardt Tigers take on Black town city in the preliminary semi-final at Lambert Park.
Both APIA and Blacktown have featured regularly during the finals stage of the competition over the past five years and will be once aiming for nothing short of Championship success.
Saturday’s match will be the second time they have faced off this season with both matches being tightly contested 1-1 draws.
A much changed APIA team suffered a shock loss to Mt Druitt Town Rangers in the final round which is sure to give coach John Calleja a few extra things to ponder coming into the finals.
One major concern for Calleja is key defender Josh Symons who suffered a hamstring injury in their 2-2 draw with Sydney FC.
He is unlikely to feature much during the finals if early reports prove accurate meaning Themba Muata-Marlow will return to marshal the centre of defence alongside Paul Galimi while Tynan Diaz will most likely fill the gap at right back.
Adrian Ucchino will also return to the starting line-up after playing off the bench against Mt Druitt.
One player that will want to make statement in this match will be the Tigers sharpshooter Chris Payne.
Payne missed out by a solitary goal for the Golden Boot award to Thomas James and he will no doubt have that fire in his belly to give it his all in earning his club a spot against the Wolves.
Blacktown also dropped points in the final match of the regular season as they were held to a 1-1 draw against Hakoah Sydney City East.
City boss Mark Crittenden most likley won’t take too much away from that result with a number of his regulars either rested or given less minutes.
A full strength team is expected to take the field on Saturday with veteran striker Joey Gibbs key to their success.
After a slow start to the season, veteran striker Joey Gibbs has hit top form over the second half of the campaign and has played a massive role in Blacktown’s climb to third.
Look to Pacy wingers such as Leroy Jennings to make the most of Gibbs hold up play while the number 9 will also be hoping to get on the end of a few crosses.
These two teams have been the gold standard in the NPL NSW Men’s competition for the last few seasons and that has not ceased to be the case in 2019.
Expect a tense arm-wrestle with neither side giving much away.
Chances will be at an absolute premium and wasted opportunities could prove costly.
While defeat won’t mean elimination, the pressure is still on and neither APIA or Blacktown will want to start their finals game with a loss.