It’s Round 9 in the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition and it’s crunch time in the race for the Premiership.
With only three games to play, there are still six teams in contention to finish the rebooted regular season on top making every match a potential premiership decider.
The week’s action gets underway on Friday night with Blacktown City FC hosting competition leaders Sydney United 58.
A triple header will take place on Saturday starting with Marconi Stallions at home against Manly United FC.
Saturday will also feature Sydney Olympic up against North Shore Mariners and Mt Druitt taking on Sydney FC.
Western Sydney Wanderers will travel to take on Wollonong Wolves this Sunday before Rockdale will go head to head with APIA Leichhardt in the final match of the round.
Blacktown City FC v Sydney United 58 FC, 7.30 pm Friday at Lily Homes Stadium.
Blacktown City will be out to prove they have turned a corner with victory against league leaders Sydney United 58 on Friday.
It has been a horror campaign for City who linger in second last place, but last week’s win against Manly has given hope they have rediscovered their magic touch.
In that match it was a pair of first half goals courtesy of captain Matt Lewis and striker Suleyman Bangura which was the difference as Blacktown made the most of their fast start to the match.
It will take a similar recipe if City are to pull off an upset this week, with early goals from the attack of Leroy Jennings, Hassan Jalloh and Charles Mendy needed to shake the usually unflappable United 58 defence.
United 58 come into this game in impressive form winning their last four matches to fly to the top of the table.
Striker Patrick Antelmi has proven unstoppable with six goals in only four games.
However, it is United 58’s dynamic midfield of Yianni Perkatis, Matt Sim and Glen Trifiro which has been the real powerhouse behind the club’s recent success.
The trio’s combination to set up Antelmi last week in the 2-1 win against Marconi is the perfect example of how easy they can dismantle a well organised defence.
United 58 will go in to this match as overwhelming favourites, but don’t write off Blacktown as they will be determined to put a spanner in the works of their rival’s premiership aspirations.
Marconi Stallions v Manly United FC, 4 pm Saturday at Marconi Stadium
A bounce back win will be on the agenda for Marconi Stallions when they host Manly United at Marconi Stadium on Saturday.
The Stallions went down 2-1 to rivals Sydney United 58 last week which put a big dent in their chase for the premiership.
However, The Peter Tsekenis coached side are only five points behind the ladder leaders and will believe they can win all of their remaining games to snatch an unlikely title triumph.
This game will be all about how fast Marconi can take advantage of a young Manly defence with attackers Anthony Frangie, Marko Jesic and Mitch Mallia key to their success.
Nathan Millgate has been a solid performer in the backline for Marconi in recent weeks and will provide a stable platform for the team to build off.
Their opponents are a Manly United team which has struggled for consistency as demonstrated in last week’s 2-1 defeat against a struggling Blacktown City outfit.
The boys from the Northern Beaches have shown they are capable of bringing it against the league’s best but are equally capable of conceding important goals at the worst possible occasion.
Captain Brendan Cholakian has for many years been one of the most dynamic midfield players in the competition and his recent form has only reinforced that.
He will need to lead from the front if Manly are to cause an upset along with young gun attacker Marley Peterson.
Marconi will be favourites for this clash but their own lapses in concentration this season could open the door for Manly if they are not careful.
Sydney Olympic v North Shore Mariners, 7 pm Saturday at Lambert Park
Nothing less than three points will be considered an acceptable result when Sydney Olympic host bottom side North Shore Mariners on Saturday night.
After leading the competition going into last round, Olympic now sits in third spot after a 1-0 defeat against Wollongong Wolves.
The pressure is on coach Ante Juric and his Olympic team to make a statement this round with a big win.
This match is a chance for the attacking trio of Fabio Ferreira, Charles Lokolingoy and Adam Parkhouse to shine.
Standing in their way is a Mariners side which has shown marked improvement as the season has progressed, but still linger at the foot of the table.
The form of Mitchell Smith has been a bright spot this campaign for the Mariners and they will rely on him to add to his goal tally this round.
This match could be a one sided affair but if the Mariners dig in and frustrate Olympic early they could be in with a shot of pulling off one of the upsets of the season.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers v Sydney FC, 7 pm Saturday at Popondetta Park
Mt Druitt Town Rangers will be out to end Sydney FC’s finals hopes when the two sides face off this Staurday night at Popondetta Park.
The Rangers are coming off a 1-0 loss to APIA Leichhardt but a return home should be the perfect remedy as they push for a bounce back win.
Club Captain Carlos Saliadarre has been a rock for Mt Druitt in between the posts this season and the club captain will be up for another big game this week.
The possible return of John Roberts, who missed out last week, could be the difference maker for the Rangers with his dynamic play up front likely to test the inexperienced Sydney FC defence.
The Young Sky Blues have hit a few hurdles in recent matches which has seen them drop from first down to sixth on the ladder.
They remain only five points off top spot and will be pushing hard for at least a maiden finals berth.
The combination of Patrick Wood and Antonio Saracino at the top of the attack will be key if Sydney are to take all three points.
Mt Druitt has proven a tough side to beat this season and Sydney FC will need to rediscover their early season magic if they are to take all three points from this contents.
Wollongong Wolves v Western Sydney Wanderers, 2.30 pm Sunday at Albert Butler Memorial Park
Wollongong Wolves will be out to keep their premiership defence on track with a win against Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday.
The Wolves knocked off last week’s ladder leaders Sydney Olympic in a hard fought 1-0 victory to keep their title hopes alive and will be determined to keep the winning run going starting with the clash against the Wanderers.
Takeru Okada has quickly become a key cog in the Wolves side with his ability to both score and assist proving invaluable.
His service to strikers Josh Bingham and Thomas James will be imperative in this match and all of Wollongong’s remaining games – James in particular will be hungry to open his goalscoring account after missing from the spot against Olympic last weekend.
Defender Nick Littler should return to the side this week after serving his suspension following his red car in Round 7.
They face off this week against an exciting Western Sydney team which has shown they are more than capable of causing an upset.
Ali Auglah scored a brace last week in a 2-1 win against North Shore Mariners and he will be one to watch this week.
Rory Jordan is another player who has earned plenty of plaudits this season and offers the Wanderers a dynamic option in attack while Dean Pelekanos has been a warrior in midfield winning aerial battles and challenges keeping his team competitive.
Wollongong is arguably the toughest road trip in the competition and the Wolves have had an incredible home record because of this.
Western Sydney have shown they don’t give up and it could be this fighting spirit which helps them snatch an unlikely victory.
Rockdale Ilinden v APIA Leichhardt, 3 pm Sunday at Ilinden Sports Centre
Rockdale Ilinden will be determined to put their horror record against APIA Leichhardt to bed when the two sides go head to head at Ilinden Sports Centre on Sunday.
APIA has been a bogey team for Rockdale for the past few seasons, but with a possible premiership on the line the Steven Zoric coached side will be more driven than ever to take all three points.
Rockdale are second on the ladder, only one point behind league leaders Sydney United 58.
Tomoki Wada will be key to victory in this match, with the Japanese import becoming arguably the most important player in Rockdale’s line up.
The dynamic midfielder has shown the full gamut of skills in the centre of the park as well as incredible game IQ as demonstrated with his sensational goal last round as he chipped the keeper from 45 yards out after some brilliant quick thinking.
The strike force of Amaury Gauthier, Alec Urosevski and Nikola Taneski have also been in fine form as have the defensive unit of Michael Neill and Daniel Petkovski.
Looking to stop them will be an APIA side which should be full of confidence after a narrow victory last week.
It has been a difficult season for the reigning champions and with finals all but out of the picture, APIA will be focused on ending their season on a high note.
Chris Payne was a tough customer for the Rangers defence last week and will be looking to test Rockdale’s backline.
He broke the deadlock last Friday and will be hoping to extend his goalscoring run.
The club is hoping to see more of its experienced stars return with Themba Muata-Marlow looking at getting back to the pitch after an injury layoff.
APIA will use their stunning winning record against Rockdale to give themselves a mental edge but they will need more than that if they are to snatch victory on Sunday.