We’re nine weeks into the 2021 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition, and the Premiership race is heating up.
Rockdale Ilinden holds first place going into round nine, but there is a chasing pack hot on their tail.
Manly United, Sydney United 58 and Blacktown City are only a few points behind the competition leaders, making every result a big one in the premiership battle.
This week’s matches kick-off on Friday night as Manly United host Sutherland Sharks, while APIA Leichhardt is also at home against Wollongong.
Just one game is scheduled for Saturday, with Marconi Stallions taking on Mt Druitt Town Rangers at Marconi Stadium.
On Sunday, three matches will occur, starting with Sydney FC travelling out to Lily Homes Stadium to play Blacktown City, Rockdale Illinden at home against Sydney United 58 and finally Sydney Olympic going head to head with Northbridge Bulls.
Remember, if you can’t make it out to the grounds, you can catch all the action live on NPL.TV.
Manly United v Sutherland Sharks FC, 7.30pm Friday at Cromer Park
Manly United will be determined to keep the pressure on top spot with a win against Sutherland Sharks on Friday.
The boys from the Northern Beaches are in second position on 15 points, only two points behind competition leaders Rockdale Ilinden.
A thrilling 4-3 win last week against Northbridge Bulls was a brilliant bounce-back victory for Manly, and they’ll be out to keep their winning ways against a struggling Sharks side.
Seiya Kambayashi scored an injury-time winner for the second time this season, continuing his strong form and asserting himself as one of the finds of the year thus far.
Dejan Pandurevic and James Georgaklis are another two players who have been in fine fettle, and coach Adam Griffiths will be hoping for another strong showing from the pair this week.
They will be up against a Sutherland Sharks side that has gone winless over their past four matches.
Slumped at the bottom of the table, the Sharks desperately need a change of fortunes if they are to fight themselves out the wooden spoon spot.
Despite the struggles, James Andrew has been a bright spark for Sutherland, as has midfielder Chris McStay.
Coach Nick Dimovski will need those two stars to lead from the front if they are any chance of an upset.
Manly United will be favourites for this battle of the beaches, but stranger things have happened.
One thing for sure is it is a match you won’t want to miss.
APIA Leichhardt v Wollongong Wolves, 7.30pm Friday at Lambert Park
APIA Leichhardt will be battling for back to back wins for the first time this season when they host Wollongong Wolves at Lambert Park on Friday night.
Midfield maestro Franco Parisi led the side to a 3-2 win against Sydney FC in Round 8 with a brace which helped the side climb off the bottom of the table.
Coach Paul Dee will be hoping it is the start of a change in fortunes for his APIA side, which has struggled to live up to their potential.
The return of Paul Galimi from injury in recent weeks has given the Leichhardt based side some much-needed steel in defence, while the midfield is starting to find their rhythm.
Skipper Sean Symons started up-front for APIA and we could well see him there again should Blake Powell not recover in time from injury while the return from suspension of David D’Apuzzo will certainly add more steel to the squad although the former A-League player will be sidelined through injury following the club’s FFA Cup match against Connells Point Rovers last week.
They will be up against a Wollongong Wolves side who are also desperate to get their season back on track.
The Luke Wilkshire coached outfit come into this game on the back of a 5-0 thrashing at home to Blacktown city.
After keeping a clean sheet in their previous two matches, the round eight defeat was a major regression for the Wolves, who sit only one point ahead of APIA on the competition ladder.
They will be without young attacker Marcus Beattie for this clash after he was sent off against Blacktown. Simultaneously, there are questions marks around the availability of veteran defender Darcy Madden after he was forced off through injury less than 20 minutes into last week’s match.
Lachlan Scott is the man that will carry the burden of delivering for the visitors at Lambert on Friday.
This is a tightly placed contest with both teams in desperate need of three competition points.
Marconi Stallions FC v Mt Druitt Town Rangers, 6pm Saturday at Marconi Stadium
Goals, goals, goals will be the message from Marconi Stallions coach Peter Tsekenis as his side prepares to take on Mt Druitt Town Rangers this Saturday night at Marconi Stadium.
The Stallions battled out a scoreless draw against Sydney Olympic last week but paid the price for their lack of a clinical edge in attack.
It was Marconi’s sixth draw of the season, and they are in dire need of a win to keep in touch with the top five as the Stallions have been given the nickname the “Draw Specialists’.
Midfielder Connor Evans has been in strong form for the Stallions in the middle of the park, while Nathan Millgate’s presence at set-pieces provides Marconi with a real goal-scoring threat from dead-ball situations.
They come up against a Mt Druitt Town Rangers side which has seemingly found their feet after a bumpy start to the campaign.
The Rangers shared the spoils with Sydney United 58 last round after a scoreless draw in a feisty fixture at Popondetta Park.
Tarek Elrich and Jack Stewart both nearly snatched a late winner for Mt Druitt as the Stewart Montgomery side found a second wind in the closing stages.
Montgomery said post-match he considered the result two points lost and will surely be pushing his side to take their game to the next level this week.
Both teams are stacked with game-changing players so that this match could come down to a single moment of brilliance.
This contest has the potential to be a match of the round and is one you won’t want to miss.
Blacktown City v Sydney FC, 3pm Sunday at Lily Homes Stadium
Blacktown City will be determined to continue their climb up the competition ladder with a win against Sydney FC at Lily Homes Stadium on Sunday.
City powered to their biggest win of the campaign so far last week with a 5-0 thrashing of Wollongong and will be brimming with confidence going into this week.
Travis Major added to his goals tally for the season with a pair of headed goals against the Wolves, while a return from injury Charles Mendy opened his 2021 goal scoring account.
Coach Mark Crittenden will be happy with the spread of goals across his squad this season and will be pushing his team to carry on their free-scoring ways against a Sydney FC defence that has struggled to keep out opposition attacks.
The Young Sky Blues have not won in six weeks and are in desperate need of a victory.
Despite a bright start to the season, Sydney FC’s campaign has taken a downward turn, and it will take a mammoth performance this week to stop the slump.
One upside has been their ability to find the back of the net, scoring five goals in the past four games.
The goals have been shared around the side with Jaiden Kucharski (2) the leader of the pack while the likes of current Sky Blues senior A-League first graders Patrick Wood, Jordi Swibel, Luke Ivanovic, Harry Van Der Saag and Callum Talbot have all netted this year.
Blacktown will be big favourites at home for this contest with the pressure on Sydney FC to find their form fast if they are to cause an upset.
Rockdale Ilinden v Sydney United 58, 3pm Sunday at Rockdale Ilinden Sports Centre
It is a battle of the Premiership contenders this weekend as Rockdale Ilinden hosts Sydney United 58 in a grand final rematch at Rockdale Ilinden Sports Centre this Sunday.
Flying high at the top of the table is Rockdale, who powered to a 4-0 win against Sutherland last week.
Kyle Cimenti scored a brace and is top form which only makes Rockdale’s attack all the more dangerous.
Alec Urosevski has remained a leading light for Ilinden and is capable of creating goals on a whim.
The clean sheet last round led by keeper David Bradasevic was also a bright spot for Rockdale and one they will be hoping to replicate this week.
They come up against a Sydney United 58 side, which has not tasted victory in a month with two draws from their past two games as well as seething from an FFA Cup shock exodus at the hands of NPL 3 NSW Men’s side Bankstown City FC.
Coach Tomi Vidovic will need his players to rediscover the clinical edge, which has been absent in recent matches.
They will be without Anthony Tomelic, who suffered a horrific broken arm against Mt Druitt who has all but been ruled for the season while Chris Payne continues to serve his suspension.
Goalkeeper Daniel Nizic was a standout against a dangerous Rangers attack, making many key saves and keeping a clean sheet.
This is a matchup of two of the competition heavyweights and is one you won’t want to miss.
Sydney Olympic v Northbridge Bulls FC, 4pm Sunday at Belmore Sports Ground
A return to the winner’s circle will be on top of the agenda for Sydney Olympic on Sunday afternoon as they take on Northbridge Bulls at Belmore Sports Ground.
It has been three weeks since Olympic last tasted victory, and they need a three-pointer if they are going to break into the top five and remain in contention for finals football.
Marconi mostly stifled Olympic’s attack in a 0-0 draw in round 8, but Brendan Cholakian offered their best chance of scoring.
The midfielder has been an attacking dynamo since arriving at the club in the preseason and has been a standout player in what has been an inconsistent campaign for the club.
Coach Ante Juric will need more players to stand up with big performances on a regular basis if they are to be in with a shot of finals football.
They come up against a dangerous Northbridge Bulls outfit who have been a difficult opponent for everyone they’ve played.
An injury-time goal from Manly United stunned the Bulls in a 3-2 defeat, but the Mile Sterjovski coached side have plenty to be positive about despite the loss.
Walter Scott was a standout player for Northbridge last week, providing dangerous crosses into the box as well as being a threat from set-pieces.
Northbridge will have their work cut out if they are to win this match against a tough Olympic side on the road, but if anyone is capable of pulling off an upset, it’s the Bulls.
Former Blues youth player Theph Theph has been in outstanding form and will love nothing more than to put one up his ex-club. The Bulls have been an exciting prospect to watch and when you have the likes of Rory Jordan, Lachlan Sepping, Michael Ruhs, Moudi Najjar and Jake Hollman lining up, you know you are in for an entertaining match.