Round 18 is here and as we get closer to the end of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s season there is everything to play for.
Finals football is on the line and the Premiership title is well and truly up for grabs with just four points separating first and sixth place on the league ladder.
Manly United FC v Marconi Stallions FC
7:00pm, Friday 1st July, Cromer Park
Manly United will be looking to hold on to the top spot when they face up with Marconi on Friday night to kick off the Round 18 action.
A win for Marconi will see them overtake Manly and sit at the top of the table, although it may only be for a short time depending on other results over the weekend.
Connor Evans scored a stunner for Marconi on the weekend and featured in the Team of the Week, as did Manly’s Bruno Mendes, who scored against Wollongong for Manly.
With plenty of goal-scoring potential and defensive experience within the team, it’s set to be a high-calibre match for the Match of the Week.
If the Stallions are serious about securing the Premiership, this is a must-win game for them, but the pressure will be on Manly to stay on top.
Wollongong Wolves FC v Rockdale Ilinden FC
7:30pm, Friday 1st July, WIN Stadium
Four draws in a row will have the Wolves hungry for a win as they host Rockdale Ilinden on Friday night at WIN Stadium.
Wollongong have managed to hold up against some of the most dangerous teams in the league over the last month and will be firing on all cylinders as they look to keep Rockdale out of the Premiership and finals race.
The win for Rockdale would be crucial to their 2022 aspirations and after an inconsistent season it would do wonders for their confidence heading into the pointy end of the season.
Jake Lavalle’s goal for the hosts earned him Team of the Week accolades while Rockdale didn’t have a representative after their 3-3 draw with Sydney United 58, however they certainly have goal-scoring potential in the bank.
Rockdale have everything to fight for, but will it be enough for them to hold out the Wolves?
Northbridge Bulls FC v Mt Druitt Town Rangers FC
3:00pm, Saturday 2nd July, Sydney United Sports Centre
12th will come up against 10th in this fixture as the Bulls fight to get away from the dreaded wooden spoon.
Having been in strong form lately, holding out some of the league heavyweights, Mt Druitt will be a tough challenge for the young Northbridge side.
Solomon-Johnn Monahan-Vaiika was a standout for the Rangers in their draw with Marconi, as was Jack Stewart, who has proven his danger in front of the goal time and time again throughout the season.
Northbridge will be focusing on development for the rest of the season and will be looking to see how they can improve and grow in the competition.
Will Mt Druitt be able to take their run to six games unbeaten or will Northbridge bounce off the bottom of the table with a win?
Sutherland Sharks FC v APIA Leichhardt FC
3:30pm, Saturday 2nd July, Seymour Shaw
APIA Leichhardt will travel to Sutherland on Saturday afternoon to take on the Sharks in their Round 18 fixture.
After two consecutive draws, the Inner West side will be hunting for a win as they continue to chase the Premiership title.
Ivan Necevski featured in the Round 17 Team of the Week after his performance against Sydney FC and the experienced custodian will be a pillar of strength for the visitors this week.
Diego Celis and Jason Romero have been real threats for APIA throughout the season, while James Andrew, Jason Madonis and Lukman Ahmed-Shaibu have been attacking threats for Sutherland.
As they look to stay off the bottom of the table the Sharks will be hoping to hold up against one of the toughest teams in the competition in front of their home fans.
APIA need to get maximum points, and hope other results fall their way, if they want to take back the top spot.
Sydney Olympic FC v Sydney United 58 FC
4:00pm, Sunday 3rd July, Belmore Sportsground
In a huge clash against former NSL heavyweights, Sydney Olympic will host Sydney United 58 on Sunday afternoon.
In what is sure to be a fiery match up United 58 will be looking to climb back into finals contention with a win, while Olympic will be hoping for maximum points to help their Premiership chase.
Adam Parkhouse and Benjamin Van Meurs were selected to the Team of the Week for their roles in Olympic’s 4-1 defeat of Sutherland last week, while Tariq Maia was chosen from United 58’s 3-3 draw with Rockdale, but with two experienced teams taking to the park there will be plenty of talent and experience to keep an eye on.
With plenty on the line and a long history of football to build on this is a must-see match for football fans.
Sydney FC v Blacktown City FC
6:30pm, Sunday 3rd July, Rockdale Ilinden Sports Centre
Sydney FC will be hoping to knock down a reinvigorated Blacktown City on Sunday evening.
With the return of Travis Major giving Blacktown some fresh legs with plenty of experience scoring goals, they are a force to be reckoned with coming into the final stage of the season.
The striker made a statement with a hat-trick on his return last week and will be looking to back it up this week.
Major featured in the Team of the Week in Round 17, alongside teammate Grant Lynch, both of whom will be standing in the way of the young sky blues ambitions.
Sydney FC will need to break down the experienced defence of Blacktown and hold out the goal-scoring prowess of Major in order to secure a win they’ll need if they want to play finals football this year.
In a tight race for finals maximum points are crucial for either side in what is expected to be an entertaining match of high-calibre football.