Blacktown City could soon wrap up the 2019 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 20s Premiership, but will be made to work for their prize as the season turns into the final straight.
The leaders are four points clear of second place with a game in hand, but this week face a Rockdale City Suns side determined to stake its claim for a place in the finals. Marconi Stallions are still holding out hope as they prepare to host Mt Druitt Town Rangers, while in this week’s Match of the Round fifth-placed Sydney Olympic travel to Lambert Park to take on sixth-placed APIA Leichhardt Tigers.
Match of the Round: APIA Leichhardt Tigers v Sydney Olympic, Sunday 1.15pm at Lambert Park
Everything is on the line as APIA Leichhardt gear up to host Sydney Olympic on Sunday afternoon, with just three points separating the sixth-placed Tigers from fifth-placed Olympic ahead of their blockbuster clash at Lambert Park.
APIA could well find themselves heading into Sunday’s match in fifth after their make-up game against Sydney United on Wednesday night; a fixture the Tigers will need to win to keep a finals place in their hands over the last few weeks of the regular season.
Anything less than three points against United will hand Olympic a significant advantage in the run-in, with just three rounds of the regular season remaining after this match.
Olympic have won two of their last three games ahead of their trip to Lambert Park, including a Round 18 win over Manly United courtesy of a goal from Brian Sutomo.
Wollongong Wolves v Sutherland Sharks, 4pm at Win Stadium
Wollongong Wolves will be looking to finish their season on a high when they welcome Sutherland Sharks to Win Stadium on Saturday afternoon, while their visitors will have their eyes on the finals – and second place in particular.
Wollongong head into this match on the back of a 3-1 win over Hakoah Sydney City East, with goals from Jason Pappas, Stefan Dimoski and Tatsuki Nagatsuka.
Still, the Wolves sit seven points off the top five with three rounds remaining, and will need to lift their game again against a determined Sutherland side.
The Sharks travel south in second, four points behind Blacktown City and three in front of Rockdale City Suns, having played one game more than their fellow top-five challengers.
A goal from Thomas Aquilina helped Sutherland to a 1-0 win over Sydney FC last Friday, a result that stretched the Sharks’ winning streak out to four matches in a row.
Marconi Stallions v Mt Druitt Town Rangers, 5pm at Marconi Stadium
They’ll be doing the maths at Marconi Stadium ahead of the visit of Mt Druitt, but for the Stallions the equation should be more-or-less straightforward: win, and Marconi can hold onto their finals hopes for another week. Lose, and their season would appear to be over.
Marconi sit five points off fifth spot, and trail sixth-placed APIA by three points (though the table will likely look different after the Tigers play their game in hand on Wednesday night).
The Stallions were beaten 1-0 by Sutherland in their last match while their opponents on Saturday afternoon, Mt Druitt, managed to spring a surprise on Sydney United; a 3-2 win at Popondetta giving them their second win on the trot.
The Rangers trail the Stallions by just one point ahead of this match, but the pressure is on Marconi to rebound from their last defeat and keep themselves in the hunt for a place in the finals.
Rockdale City Suns v Blacktown City FC, 2.30pm at Ilinden Sports Centre
Rockdale City Suns should be confident of finishing their season among the top five, but the next three weeks will be crucial to their season.
Rockdale have three matches at home to see out the regular season, including fixtures against Wollongong Wolves and Sutherland Sharks. This weekend, they welcome Blacktown City to Ilinden Sports Centre; an opponent clear in first place but struggling for form as the finals approach.
Blacktown have won just one of their last five matches, a run which includes three draws and a shock defeat to Sydney FC. Still, the leaders are four points clear of second-placed Sutherland Sharks and have a game in hand.
These sides drew 1-1 when they met at Lilys earlier in the season, with Daniel Colosimo and Noah Botic trading goals.
Hakoah Sydney City East FC v Manly United, 3pm at Hensley Athletic Field
Hakoah Sydney City East are limping towards the finish line but should look to make the most of their final few matches of the 2019 season, particularly as they look to avoid finishing with the wooden spoon.
Hakoah are seven points clear of last-placed Sydney United 58, though United have a game in hand to play against APIA Leichhardt on Wednesday night.
With six defeats in their last eight games, including a 3-1 loss to Wollongong in their last outing, Hakoah will be aiming for a respectable end to their season as they prepare to take on Manly United on Sunday afternoon.
Manly sit just five points in front of Hakoah in tenth place, and are equally hamstrung as the season turns into the final straight. A place in the top five is still mathematically possible, but would require such a swing in form from the teams above them – and an unbeaten end to the season – that it’s barely worth a mention.
Sydney United 58 FC v Sydney FC, 1pm at Sydney United Sports Centre
Sydney FC sit third ahead of their visit to Sydney United on Sunday afternoon; their spot in the top five as precarious as ever with just three rounds of the regular season remaining.
Sydney are five points clear of Sydney Olympic and seven points ahead of sixth-placed APIA Leichhardt, though both teams below them have games in hand over the Sky Blues (Olympic have two, while the Tigers have three).
Sydney FC won their last match against Sydney Olympic to end a run of consecutive defeats, helping them keep their spot behind Sutherland Sharks after previously occupying second place.
Sydney United, for their part, will simply look to avoid slipping to their sixth defeat in a row. They sit seven points behind eleventh-placed Hakoah Sydney City East, and have a game in hand to play against APIA Leichhardt on Wednesday night.
-By Max Grieve