After a week off we’re back in action in the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition and with the finish line in sight Round 19 is set to be another thrilling week of fixtures.
Marconi Stallions took out the Waratah Cup last week with a hard fought 2-1 win against Sydney United 58, however in the league they are locked in a seven team battle for the remaining two finals spots.
United 58, Sydney Olympic, Manly United, Rockdale City Suns, Sutherland Sharks, Mt Druitt Town Rangers and the Stallions are split by only six points with every single result impacting the playoff picture.
At the competition summit, Wollongong Wolves need only two wins from their final four games to secure the Premiership and they could wrap it up should APIA lose.
APIA still hold out hope of a miraculous late run to snatch top spot but they will need to win all four of their remaining games and hope Wollongong drop points in nearly all of theirs.
It’s a long shot but crazier things have happened in this competition.
Wollongong Wolves v Sutherland Sharks, 6pm Saturday at WIN Stadium
With one hand already on the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Premiership trophy, Wollongong Wolves will be out to move a step closer to a near flawless season with victory against Sutherland Sharks on Sunday.
The Luke Wilkshire coached outfit has led the league from week one and needs only five points from the remaining four matches to clinch the title.
Finding a way to win when things aren’t going their way has been the Wolves secret this season. Boasting two of the league’s most prolific strikers has also helped the team from the NSW South Coast.
Thomas James and Lachlan Scott create major headaches for opposition defences. While it was golden boot leader James who was having the most luck in front of goals at the start of the year, the extra attention he has received from opposition teams in recent weeks has given Scott more time and space to operate.
The Sharks will have their work cut out for themselves this week and come into the game on the back of their first defeat in 10 weeks.
They will also have to do so without star defender Liam McGing who has linked up with A-League club Wellington.
How Sutherland coach Terry Palapanis reshapes his backline in McGing’s absence will be vital to their playoff chances.
The Sharks are four points outside the top five and will need to almost win out their remaining games to sneak into the finals.
Sutherland has shown they are a very different team to the one which went 10 games without a win at the start of the season and against Wollongong it will take nothing short of their best.
The Wolves will be favourites for this contest but anything can happen with so much on the line.
Marconi Stallions v Mt Druitt Town Rangers, 7pm Saturday at Marconi Stadium
Newly crowned Waratah Cup Champions Marconi Stallions will be hoping their recent success can kickstart a late run into the finals, starting on Saturday night against Mt Druitt Town Rangers.
Hopefully it is proof the Stallions are finding form at the right time as they remain three points outside the top five and a place in the playoffs.
In league action they have only one win and two losses from their past four matches.
They will once again be without suspended star Mitch Mallia who still has two games to serve of his four game ban though Marko Jesic has been on absolute fire.
They will take on at Mt Druitt side which remain an outside chance of making the finals in their first season in the NSW state league top flight.
They come into the game on the back of a two game skid after winning their previous four.
Goalkeeper Carlos Saliadarre saved the day against Sydney United 58 in Round 18 to earn himself a spot in the team of the week. If he can deliver another big showing then the Rangers will stand a big chance of collecting all three points.
Marconi will be favourites for this clash but they will need to be at their best if they are to get past a Mt Druitt team with nothing to lose.
It is sure to be a thrilling contest.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers v Sydney Olympic FC, 3.30pm Sunday at Lambert Park
It will be another grand final rematch as APIA Leichhardt takes on Sydney Olympic at Lambert Park on Sunday.
APIA still have slim hopes of snatching the Premiership from Wollongong but need to win all four of their remaining games and have Wollongong drop points in nearly all of their matches.
There will be extra motivation when they take on Olympic as APIA have lost their last two games against the Abbas Saad coached outfit including the 2018 Grand Final and their round eight contest this season.
Veteran midfielder Franco Parisi has been in inspired form the past month and he will once again be the leading light for APIA.
Olympic will be banking on their good form against APIA to help the reigning premiers cling onto their spot in the top five.
Striker Alex Sanchez will have a tough time against APIA Leichhardt’s defence but he is Olympics most dangerous player in attack and can score from the toughest of half chances.
Their is plenty riding on this match for both APIA and Olympic so expect a hard fought contest which goes down to the wire.
Rockdale City Suns v Blacktown City FC, 4.30pm Sunday at Ilinden Sports Centre
A desperate Rockdale City Suns outfit will be determined to keep their season alive when they host third placed Blacktown City at Ilinden Sports Centre on Sunday.
The Suns have slumped massively since the midway point of the competition suffering through a run of humiliating defeats.
However, their early season success has them still with a slim chance of making the finals but they’ll need a huge turn around and fast.
One positive for the Suns is the return of experienced defender Trent McClenahan after a lengthy stint on the sidelines. He return couldn’t come at a better time with Rockdale’s defence screaming out for a leader to help end the constant leak of goals. While there may be a chance Panny Nikas may return to the field this Sunday after recovering from a long injury lay-off.
Their opponents Blacktown City have quietly been going upon their business this season and are starting to find their groove when it matters most.
Coach Mark Crittenden has a knack for getting the most from his players and he has done that again this season especially after losing so many of his regular starters in the off-season.
Defence has been the corner stone of Blacktown’s success this campaign and they will rely on stars Grant Lynch and Matt Smith to help marshal the back line.
Striker Joey Gibbs is starting to rediscover his eye for goal after a lean start and he will play a big role moving forward.
Blacktown go in favourites for this clash and should take home the points if Rockdale is unable to shake off their recent struggles.
Hakoah Sydney City East v Manly United FC, 5pm Sunday at Hensley Athletic Field
Hakoah Sydney City East will be out to play the role of disruptor on Sunday as they take on Manly United at Hensley Athletic field.
Anchored to the bottom of the table, Hakoah’s season has been a bit of nightmare but they will try to find consolation in finishing the season on a high note and hope it is enough to avoid relegation.
Hakoah can be proud of their defensive effort this season with captain Brad Walker marshalling a defence which is tough to break down. The performances from keeper Ryan Norval have also been impressive.
However, at the end of the day you need to score goals to win football games and Hakoah’s limp attack has offered very little going forward. They will need to solve that problem fast if they are to taste success across their final four matches.
Their opponents Manly United have also hit the skids in recent weeks and will be hoping a clash against the league’s bottom team is a chance to get back in the winners circle.
Three straight defeats and four in their last five games has seen Manly drop out of the top five and left them needing a rapid turn around to avoid missing out on the post season.
Both defence and attack needs improvement with Manly conceding eight goals in their past three while scoring only two.
Coach Paul Dee will need to find the solution fast as time is running out for the boys from the Northern Beaches.
Sydney United 58 v Sydney FC, 3pm Sunday at Sydney United Sports Centre
A big bounce back performance is on the cards from Waratah Cup runners-up Sydney United 58 as they host Sydney FC on Sunday at Sydney United Sports Centre.
Last week’s defeat in the cup final was a heartbreaking result for The Reds but they will need to quickly refocus to ensure they don’t slip out of the top five.
It hasn’t been the best of runs for United in the league either with three frustrating draws from their past three games.
The Reds outfit has been blunt in attack and it has cost them dearly. They have scored only one goal in their last four league fixtures.
They will be without Uruguayan creator Sebastian Gallegos for their final four matches as he has returned back to his homeland while Matthew Bilic will also miss the match after receiving a red card against Marconi in the Waratah Cup final.
Tomislav Uskok is expected to return to the lineup after a week off.
The pressure will be on Glen Trifiro and Peter Simonoski to discover a solution to the team’s scoring woes.
Their opponents Sydney FC come into the match riding high after a big 3-1 win against Sydney FC in the last round.
It ended a five game losing streak for the Young Sky Blues who have struggled over the back end of the competition.
Coach Jim van Weeren has had a tough time playing a full strength squad each week but has done well to make the most of a tough situation.
Sydney FC have remained energetic and enthusiastic in all of their matches but have been let down by moments of inexperience or a drop in concentration.
United 58 will be favourites for this contest but don’t write of Sydney FC who have shown they have what it takes to push the league’s best teams.