Round 6 of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition has arrived, and we’re now at the halfway point of the rebooted 2020 season.
Sydney FC is the surprise competition leaders after an incredible start to their campaign winning four of their first four matches including a 2-1 win against Manly United last week.
However, the chasing pack is hot on their tail with an undefeated Rockdale only one point behind in second place, while Sydney Olympic and Marconi Stallions sit in third and fourth two points behind the ladder leaders.
This week’s matches get underway on Friday night at Comer Park as Manly United host APIA Leichhardt.
Two matches have been scheduled for Saturday with Marconi Stallions taking on Sydney Olympic FC, while Mt Druitt Town Rangers go up against North Shore Mariners.
The round wraps up on Sunday with three matches scheduled including Wollongong Wolves at home against Blacktown City, Rockdale Ilinden against Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney United 58 in a clash against Sydney FC.
Manly United v APIA Leichhardt FC, 7.30 pm Friday at Cromer Park
The finals hopes of Manly United and APIA Leichhardt go on the line on Friday night when the two sides go head to head at Cromer Park.
Both Manly and APIA sit two games outside the top five and will need a near-perfect run home if they are going to secure an unlikely finals berth.
With new coach Adam Griffiths at the helm, Manly will be looking to their young squad to find a way to secure the three points.
Luca Kmet found himself on the scoresheet last round, following the goalscoring heroics of up and coming stars James Georgaklis and Jordan Devries a week earlier.
If their young players can find their touch alongside veterans Scott Balderson and Brendan Cholakian, then the struggling APIA defence could be in for a difficult night.
APIA has been a shadow of themselves since the competition restart, and the side is in a precarious position after only five matches with only four points to their name.
Injuries and suspensions have wreaked havoc on the squad which as resulted in the club playing some up and coming youngsters with the likes of Nicholas Azzone and Camil Abouchaaya getting some senior game time.
Coach John Calleja will need his players to find something extra if they are any hope of resurrecting their campaign.
Chris Payne will be determined to find the back of the net while the experienced heads of maestro Franco Parisi, Adrian Ucchino and Sean Symons will need to spur the team back to winning ways.
With their finals hopes fading away, will it be Manly or APIA who find a much needed second wind when it matters most?
Marconi Stallions V Sydney Olympic, 4 pm Saturday at Marconi Stadium
Two of the league’s most potent attacks will square off on Saturday afternoon as Marconi Stallions host Sydney Olympic at Marconi Stadium.
Third-placed Olympic and fourth-placed Marconi have both won three of their first four games and are both on ten points.
The winner of this clash could potentially finish the round in top spot if other fixtures go their way.
Home side Marconi were big winners in Round 5 as they collected a 3-0 victory against rivals Blacktown City.
The Peter Tsekenis coached side scored three goals which all could be contenders for the best of the season including a sublime solo run from Martin Fernandez.
With Marko Jesic, Anthony Frangie and Mitch Mallia all in form, expect the Stallions to create plenty of chances.
Olympic was held to a scoreless draw in a grinding contest against Rockdale last week.
Pacy winger Adam Parkhouse and veteran Wideman Fabio Ferreira were both unable to make the most of their chances against a suffocating Rockdale defence.
Thomas Whiteside was in good form against Rockdale and will be busy in the centre of defence this week.
Expect fireworks from this blockbuster clash which could be the best of the weekend’s matches.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers v North Shore Mariners, 7 pm Saturday at Popondetta Park
Back-to-back wins for Mt Druitt Town Rangers have the confidence sky-high at Popendetta Park, and they will be determined to make it three when they host bottom side North Shore Mariners on Saturday night.
The Rangers have started to buy into new coach Franco Cosentino’s style, and they are reaping the rewards on the pitch as highlighted in their 3-1 victory against local rivals Western Sydney Wanderers.
Jack Stewart is playing some of his best football for the Rangers and has three goals in his past two matches.
It has helped take the pressure off fellow attacker John Roberts who has also been in good form.
Looking to stop them is a North Shore Mariners team who would be buoyed after holding APIA to a scoreless draw last week.
Mitch Smith was dangerous for the Mariners as was Lawrence Frederick.
They will be without Zac Sfiligoi who was sent off for a cynical challenge on Franco Parisi in the dying stages of their Round 5 contest.
Mt Druitt is full of confidence and playing at home, which makes them a tough team to beat. However, don’t write off the Mariners who may be able to pull off an upset.
Wollongong Wolves FC v Blacktown City FC, 2.30 pm Sunday at Albert Butler Memorial Park
Wollongong Wolves will be out to make a quick return to the winner’s circle when they host Blacktown City at Albert Butler Memorial Park on Sunday.
The Wolves suffered a costly 3-1 defeat on the road against Sydney United 58 last week and lost rising star striker Bul Juach to a severe injury in the process.
Juach’s injury will force a shake-up of the Wolves attack, but what better replacement to have than none other than 2019 Player of the Year and Golden Boot winner Thomas James who returns to the club following his tough short-term deal at the Perth Glory.
Blacktown is struggling all over the park during this rebooted season, and coach Mark Crittenden won’t be happy with the poor discipline shown by his side.
City is in desperate need of a confidence-boosting win.
Last week Matt Lewis broke the club’s appearance record, and it will be on the club captain to inspire his side to victory.
Wollongong will be favourites at home but don’t expect Blacktown to take it easy.
Rockdale Ilinden v Western Sydney Wanderers, 3 pm Sunday at Ilinden Sports Centre
Undefeated Rockdale Ilinden will have the top spot in their sights when they host Western Sydney Wanderers at Ilinden Sports Centre on Sunday.
Only one point behind ladder leader Sydney FC, Rockdale will be driven to keep the pressure on their Premiership title rivals.
Last week the Steve Zoric coached side battled out a scoreless draw against Sydney Olympic at Lambert Park clinging on in the dying stages to secure a point.
Incredibly, Rockdale’s defence has yet to concede a goal since the competition restart with the partnership of Banri Kazizumi and Daniel Petkovski proving more reliable than ever.
The return of Micheal Neill and Alec Urosevski in recent weeks has only boosted Rockdale and given their long-suffering fans hope that this season could be their year.
Looking to end Rockdale’s unbeaten run is a Western Sydney Wanderers side who have shown glimpses of brilliance since being promoted into the state league top-flight for this rebooted season.
Rory Jordan continues to improve week to week with his dribbling and form in front of goals proving deadly.
However, the Wanderers will have a new face in charge with coach Arthur Diles departing the club after snaring a coaching position overseas in Greece.
Rockdale has been in great form this campaign and will go into the match as favourites, but the plucky Wanderers are a formidable outfit and might be the side to cause an upset.
Sydney United 58 v Sydney FC, 3 pm Sunday at Sydney United Sports Centre
Sydney United 58 will we be out to topple league leaders Sydney FC when the two sides clash on Sunday afternoon at Sydney United Sports Centre.
Bolstered by the return of star striker Patrick Antelmi, whose brace led United 58 to a 3-1 win last week was the main headlines last weekend.
Antlemi was as sharp as ever leading the attack and his stint with A-League side Western United appears to have taken his game to all new highs.
With support from Devante Clut, Glen Trifiro and Matt Sim, United 58 have the personnel to push for championship success.
The main headline that will dominate this match also will be the new face in United 58’s coaching dugout with Zeljko Kalac bidding farewell and Anthony Crea stepping in as interim coach.
Kalac is set to join Tony Popovic in Greece with second division outfit SKODA Xanthi, leaving Crea with a huge first up match against a hungry young Sky Blues outfit.
One side who will have a big say in any title talk for United 58 is current competition leaders Sydney FC.
The Young Sky Blues have been sensational since the rebooted season kicked off winning four of the first five games and scoring 12 goals in the process.
While Patrick Wood has been claiming most of the headlines for his goal-scoring heroics, coach Jim van Weeren is indeed most proud with the fact that it has not just been one playing carrying the load.
Antonio Saracino was the latest young star to stand up as he scored and help set up another in Sydney’s 2-1 win against Manly last week.
This game could be a significant litmus test for Sydney FC, and they will be determined to prove their success is no flash in the pan.