It’s Round 7 of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition and with only five matchdays remaining in the regular season, the pressure is on to make every game count.
Sydney Olympic lead the competition coming into this week’s fixtures after leapfrogging Sydney FC at the top of the table.
This week’s matches get underway with two big games on Friday night as a resurgent Manly United host North Shore Mariners while Sydney FC will be out to bounce back when they go up against the bottom of the table side Blacktown City.
Marconi Stallions will also be on the hunt for a return to the winner’s circle when they host Mt Druitt Town Rangers on Saturday afternoon.
On Sunday there will be three matches with Sydney Olympic taking on local rivals APIA Leichhardt, Sydney United 58 going up against Western Sydney Wanderers and in the final match of the round Rockdale Ilinden playing host to Wollongong Wolves.
The battle for the Premiership is very much alive with only a few points separating the top six teams. It’s building up to be another blockbuster weekend of NPL NSW Men’s action.
Manly United v North Shore Mariners, 7.30 pm Friday at Cromer Park
Manly United will be fighting to stay in the hunt for finals football when they host North Shore Mariners at Cromer Park on Friday night.
Manly has found their groove in recent weeks winning two of their past three games and scoring nine goals in the process.
It’s a stark contrast from their opening three matches of the season where the Northern Beaches based side was unable to find the back of the net at all.
Last week Manly scored five goals in a 5-2 drubbing of APIA Leichhardt which was sure to put a smile on the face of their new coach Adam Griffiths.
Veteran attacking stars Brendan Cholakian and Dejan Pandurevic delivered exceptional performances in the win and displayed how dangerous they can be when in form.
Griffiths will be hoping the pair can carry that level of play into this match while also helping rising stars Luca Kmet and Jordan Devries who have also found their scoring touch.
Manly comes up against a North Shore Mariners side languishing towards the bottom of the table after a difficult return to action during the rebooted season.
A 1-1 draw against Mt Druitt last week was somewhat of a bittersweet result for the Joe Haywood coached side after they had taken a 1-0 lead in the match.
Haywood will be looking to Manny Peters to take his game to another level over the closing weeks of the campaign after a slow start from the talented attacker.
Manly will be favourites to take this match at home but will need to avoid complacency against a competitive Mariners outfit.
Blacktown City FC v Sydney FC, 7.30 pm Friday at Lily Homes Stadium
Blacktown City will be determined to fight their way off the bottom of the table with a win against Sydney FC at Lily Homes Stadium on Friday night.
It’s been a season which has gone from worse to worse for Blacktown and coach Mark Crittenden will be scratching his head as he tries to put his finger on what has gone wrong since the season restart.
A 2-0 defeat on the road against Wollongong made it four straight defeats for City who have only scored one goal during that run.
Finding a way to the back of the net seems to be Blacktown’s biggest challenge with Charles Mendy and Hassan Jalloh the club’s only goalscorers so far this campaign.
Improved contributions from attackers Mario Shabow, Leroy Jennings, Rhett Desilva, Dakota Askew and Daniel Araujo are needed if Blacktown are to improve in their final few matches.
They will be up against a Sydney FC side which has had no such issue scoring and will be driven towards reclaiming their spot on the top of the competition ladder.
A 4-2 loss against Sydney United 58 last round would’ve been a bit of a reality check for the Young Sky Blues who had been flying high since the start of the rebooted season.
Coach Jim van Weeren faces an important test in this match as he is tasked with getting his young team back on track.
Patrick Wood continues to go from strength to strength this campaign with his tally of seven goals this campaign a big part of Sydney FC’s success.
Blacktown will offer plenty of resistance in front of their fans but if Sydney FC can rediscover their scoring touch then it may be a tough night at the office for the home side.
Marconi Stallions FC v Mt Druitt Town Rangers, 4 pm Saturday at Marconi Stadium
A heartbreaking defeat last round will have Marconi Stallions fired up for victory when they host Mt Druitt Town Rangers on Saturday afternoon at Marconi Stadium.
Despite a dominant first-half performance, the Stallions suffered a dramatic defeat last round against Sydney Olympic who staged an incredible fightback to snatch a 2-1 victory in the final seconds of the match.
Mitch Mallia’s performance in the opening 45 minutes last week was arguably one of the best-attacking displays seen this season. If he can replicate that this week then the Rangers could be in for a tough match.
However, defensive consistency will be the message from coach Peter Tsekenis who will be hoping the loss to Olympic has taught his side the importance of staying composed for the full 90 minutes.
They go up against a Mt Druitt side whose improving performances have seen them fly under the radar into finals contention.
Coach Franco Cosentino has a team capable of testing the leagues best.
Goals have no been a concern for Mt Druitt with stars Jack Stewart and John Roberts playing impressive football in recent weeks.
Marconi will be the favourites for this match but if they let their guard down as they did last week, Mt Druitt has the firepower to cause an upset.
Sydney Olympic FC v APIA Leichhardt, 3 pm Sunday at Lambert Park
Niceties will be put aside when traditional rivals Sydney Olympic and APIA Leichhardt face off at Lambert Park on Sunday afternoon.
Olympic sits on top of the table after an incredible comeback win last week as they scored a last-minute goal to snatch a 2-1 victory against Marconi.
The star-studded squad coached by Ante Juric is getting better by the week and demonstrated their winning edge in last weeks triumph.
The trio of Adam Parkhouse, Charles Lokolingoy and Fabio Ferreira is an attack that sends chills down the spine of any opposing defence, while club veterans Thomas Whiteside, Jason Madonis and Chris Gligor provide plenty of steel in midfield and defence.
Their opponents APIA have experienced far different fortunes since the season restart as they go into this match slumped down in tenth on the ladder.
A tough 5-2 loss to Manly United last week was the latest frustrating result for the reigning champions who have struggled to find their feet since the competition restart.
APIA coach John Calleja has been forced to rotate his squad extensively this season due to long term injuries and suspensions with a total of24 players seeing minutes so far, the most of any NPL NSW team.
Veteran star Franco Parisi is one of only five players to have appeared in every game and his experience will be imperative if APIA is to pull off an upset.
Olympic will be heavy favourites for this match but if APIA bring their top form it could down to the wire.
Sydney United 58 v Western Sydney Wanderers, 3 pm Sunday at Sydney United Sports Centre
Sydney United 58 will be looking to make it three wins in a row when they host Western Sydney Wanderers at Sydney United Sports Centre on Sunday afternoon.
The departure of coach Zeljko Kalac last week could’ve derailed United 58’s season but instead they took their game to the next level with a dominant 4-2 win against premiership hopefuls Sydney FC.
It was the perfect start to new gaffer Anthony Crea’s tenure at Sydney United Sports Centre and he will be hoping for another brilliant display of attacking football this week.
Patrick Antelmi has been seemingly the final piece of the puzzle for United 58 with the returning striker taking his side’s attack to a new level.
Yianni Perkatis, who also returned to the United 58 side after an A-League stint, has also impressed in recent matches.
They will go up against a Western Sydney side full of confidence after they last week pulled off a stunning 3-1 upset of Rockdale Ilinden.
After weeks of narrow defeats, the Wanderer’s were rewarded for their enterprising play as they downed Rockdale.
Kostas Grozos scored and provided an assist to his brother Peter Grozos last week in a performance he will be determined to replicate this round.
His combination with Rory Jordan has been imperative to the Wanderers success and the pair will look to make an impact against United 58.
United 58 will be the favourites at home but Western Sydney has taken the contest to every team they’ve come up against.
This game is sure to go down to the wire.
Rockdale Ilinden FC v Wollongong Wolves, 4 pm Sunday at Ilinden Sports Centre
A big bounce-back performance will be on the agenda for Rockdale Ilinden when they host Wollongong Wolves on Sunday.
After going undefeated for six straight games without conceding a goal, Rockdale let it all go in Round 6 as they slumped to a 3-1 defeat against Western Sydney Wanderers.
Coach Steven Zoric would have been very frustrated with his side’s performance last week and will be making sure they bring nothing but their best this time around.
Captain Daniel Petkovski will need to lead from the back in this match against one of the league’s best attack.
Wollongong has been in strong form since the competition restart and sit in second place only one point behind league leaders Sydney Olympic.
They eased to a 2-0 win against Blacktown City last week with Josh Bingham delivering a clinical performance leading the line.
Last week featured the return of Thomas James for Wollongong who will be determined to make up for lost time after a disappointing stint with A-League outfit Perth Glory.
A very evenly matched tie, Rockdale will need to bring their best defensive effort if they are going to stop Wollongong’s high-powered attack.