The penultimate round of the 2023 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s has arrived in what will potentially be the defining weekend of the season.
Round 29 could see top spot and the relegation qualification place confirmed making it a blockbuster set of fixtures.
Here’s what to expect.
Sydney FC v Rockdale Ilinden FC
7:30 pm, Friday 18 August, Valentine Sports Park
Sydney FC kick off the round on Friday night at Valentine Sports Park against Rockdale Ilinden.
The young Sky Blues have been in a patchy run form, winning on two of their past five matches.
The side made it back-to-back defeats in the competition with a 3-0 defeat to league leaders APIA Leichhardt last Sunday.
They went into halftime 1-0 down before conceding a further two goals in the latter stages of the second period.
Coach Jimmy van Weeren was missing plenty of his stars with the Sydney FC first team in Australia Cup action at the same time as the APIA match.
Sydney sit in sixth on the table going into the final two rounds, but with Wollongong Wolves just three points behind, the pressure is on for them to keep that spot.
The pressure is also on Rockdale on Friday night where their title hopes could be dashed even if they win.
If APIA win their match in round 29, it won’t matter what Ilinden do here but to give themselves the best chance, three points is a must.
Alec Urosevski proved the match-winner again for Rockdale last weekend netting a first-half brace to guide his team to victory against NWS Spirit.
This is set to be a thrilling opening to the round with both teams needing the points.
NWS Spirit FC v APIA Leichhardt FC
5:30 pm, Saturday 19 August, Christie Park
NWS Spirit will look to deny APIA Leichhardt the NPL NSW Men’s title at Christie Park on Saturday night.
Spirit’s form has dropped off in the final part of the season, most recently going down 2-0 to Rockdale Ilinden in Round 28.
It leaves the team with only one win in their last six games seeing them fall towards the bottom places.
APIA would confirm their title with a victory against Spirit this Saturday giving them ample incentive.
After two defeats in a row beforehand, the side have pulled together a couple of monumental wins in the last two rounds.
Franco Parisi’s team made light work of Sydney FC getting up 3-0 last Sunday.
Rory Jordan scored a brace while Jason Romero also found the net after scoring twice in the Australia Cup last Wednesday.
APIA produced a 5-0 battering of their opponents at Lambert Park back in round 14 and will be eager to do the same this time around.
This a must-watch encounter in round 29 with conclusive implications for the title race.
Sutherland Sharks FC v Bulls FC Academy
6:30 pm, Saturday 19 August, Seymour Shaw
Sutherland Sharks take on Bulls FC Academy at Seymour Shaw eager to finish the season on a high.
The departure of coach Damir Prodanovic has seen a slip in results for the Sharks who have only one win in their last twelve matches.
Last weekend, Sutherland suffered a second-half slip against St George City going down 3-1.
Jonty Busch scored a late consolation for the Sharks but couldn’t prevent the side’s 13th loss of 2023.
The Bulls extended their winless streak to 18 matches in the competition with a 2-0 defeat to Blacktown City last Saturday.
A goal in each half did the damage to the Bulls as they lost their 20th game of the season.
With only 12 points all season for the Academy, a struggling Sutherland presents the team’s best chance for some late joy before they are relegated.
There’s little on the line for these teams at the bottom, but they’ll want to end the season as brightly as possible.
Marconi Stallions FC v Sydney Olympic FC
7:00 pm, Saturday 19 August, Marconi Stadium
Marconi Stallions host Sydney Olympic at Marconi Stadium on Saturday night in an intriguing game between two powerhouses.
The Stallions have recovered from a blip in their season, winning their last two matches.
In round 28, the side edged past Mount Druitt Town Rangers 2-1 with Christopher Hatfield and a Jackson Bandiera own goal sealing the result.
The side will need to fight to hold onto third place as they are level on points with Blacktown heading into the final two games.
Olympic fought back from two goals down against Wollongong Wolves to draw 2-2 last Sunday.
Oliver Puflett came off the bench to score an important brace which took his tally to nine for 2023.
It’s seen the team drop down to 10th on the table, but there’s still a chance they could finish in the top half with two wins in their last two games.
Marconi got up in a six-goal thriller when these teams met earlier in the season, and it could be just as exciting in this late-season matchup.
Match of the Round: Western Sydney Wanderers FC v Mount Druitt Town Rangers FC
1:00 pm, Sunday 20 August, Wanderers Football Park
Western Sydney Wanderers go head-to-head with Mount Druitt Town Rangers at Wanderers Football Park in what will likely decide who finishes in the relegation playoff place.
Western Sydney gave up a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Manly United in round 28.
Nicolas Milanovic and Oscar Priestman had the team 2-0 up by the half-hour mark, but the team conceded twice in what remained.
The Wanderers currently sit four points behind Mount Druitt, meaning avoiding defeat would confirm their place in the NPL NSW Men’s for next season.
Mount Druitt were left to pick up the pieces of another defeat going down 2-1 to Marconi Stallions.
However, one positive for the team has been the recent form of forward Anthony Frangie who has four goals in his last four in all competitions.
The Rangers edged out their opponents back in round 14 with a 2-1 result and doing same again couldn’t be more important for the side.
This is the crunch game in the relegation battle so there is everything at play on Sunday.
Central Coast Mariners FC v Manly United FC
3:00 pm, Sunday 20 August, Pluim Park
Manly United travel to Pluim Park to face Central Coast Mariners looking to end a two-game winless run.
The side shared the points with Western Sydney Wanderers in a 2-2 draw in round 28.
They found themselves 2-0 down after by the half-hour mark, but goals to Matthew Sim and Bruno Mendes got them to level terms by fulltime.
Manly dropped down to ninth after that result, now three points away from the top half of the table.
The Mariners’ rut continued over the weekend going down 2-1 to Sydney United 58.
The team were 2-0 down before Jordan Segreto pulled a goal back with an hour played.
Central Coast remain in 12th after that result and could drop to 14th if they don’t pick up their form in their last couple of weeks.
The game was played on two different occasions when they met earlier in the season with Manly eventually getting up 2-0.
With both these teams guaranteed a place in next year’s competition, there is little but pride on the line on Sunday.
Sydney United 58 FC v St George City FA
3:00 pm, Sunday 20 August, Sydney United Sports Centre
Sydney United 58 play St George City at Sydney United Sports Centre on Sunday following another home win.
Last weekend, United 58 downed Central Coast Mariners 2-1 with Leroy Jennings and Alessandro Lacalandra on the scoresheet.
They moved up to eighth after that win giving them a chance of finishing seventh come season’s end.
United 58 will also have their attention on their Australia Cup Round of 16 tie in the next few weeks.
St George City also earned three points in round 28 with a strong second-half performance in a 3-1 win against Sutherland Sharks.
Presley Ortiz was once again the star for the side, scoring a quickfire brace at the start of the second half.
It’s all but certain that City will hold on to fifth spot, representing an incredible first season in the NPL NSW Men’s.
The side were edged out 1-0 by United 58 earlier in the season, so they’ll want to make amends for that this Sunday.
Blacktown City FC v Wollongong Wolves FC
3:00 pm, Sunday 20 August, Landen Stadium
Landen Stadium hosts an emotional tie between Blacktown City and Wollongong Wolves, with Matthew Lewis playing his final match.
Lewis has been a stalwart of the City team featuring for over a decade and winning the lot.
He started last weekend’s 2-0 victory over Bulls FC Academy, which kept the team in fourth.
With City out of the title race, they’ll now want to keep their superb unbeaten going to finish the season.
Wollongong were left to rue missed chances in their 2-2 draw with Sydney Olympic.
The Wolves were on top for most of the match, which saw them take a 2-0 lead courtesy of a Jake Trew brace.
However, they let the game slip conceding a stoppage-time equaliser seeing them remain in seventh.
Trew has been an effective attacking signing for Wollongong scoring 10 goals with two matches to play in 2023.
These teams couldn’t be separated earlier in the campaign, sharing the points in a 0-0 draw at WIN Stadium.
Preview by Timothy Gibson, on Twitter @Timg123_