A-League returns after break

The A-league resumes on Friday night with the opening clash of Round 16 between Perth and the Central Coast at Gosford’s Bluetongue Stadium.

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For Central Coast the match will be a welcome return home after playing five consecutive matches on the road.

The Mariners will now host five of their next seven matches, which could help Lawrie McKenna’s side to build a steady base for a finish among the top four.

The home side is currently in fourth place on the competition table and it goes into the match against fifth-placed Perth high on confidence.

Central Coast has conceded only nine goals in the previous 15 rounds and recently the Mariners have also discovered their goalscoring form.

Following a four-nil thrashing of Melbourne in Round 13, the side was again clinical in front of goal last week, thumping a hapless North Queensland 5-1 in Townsville.

Perth, meanwhile, has ended a four-match winless streak by defeating high-flying Sydney FC on Sunday.

Glory must quickly recover

The Glory has had just a few days to recover before another long road trip across the continent.

And the club’s striker, Socceroo Mile Sterjovski, admits it’s not an ideal preparation.

“It’s a difficult turn-around travelling that far, only five days apart”, he said. “I think the scheduling could have been better for us, but you know we have to deal with that and I’m sure we will put in a good performance.”

Meanwhile Central Coast captain Alex Wilkinson will become just the fourth player in history to reach 100 A-League appearances when he lines up against Perth, but he says the occasion will not be a distraction.

“Regardless of the occasion, it’s a huge game for us. After Perth winning last weekend, they are only two points behind us now, and if we can get a win over them, that puts us right up in the mix and it puts a bit of a gap between us and the rest of the field”

On Saturday, league leader Melbourne hosts third-placed Gold Coast.

Melbourne has moved to the top of the A-League standings with a hard-fought 1-0 win in Brisbane last weekend.

That win made it seven from the last nine matches for Earnie Merrick’s side.

Melbourne’s home form an issue

The one sticking point for Melbourne though is their patchy home form.

The defending champion has only managed two wins from nine matches at Etihad Stadium thus far.

And defender Adrian Leijer admits it’s crucial for Melbourne to return to winning ways on its home ground.

“If we can get that home form right and get wins at home, than we can go on and do very well in this league.”

Two strugglers meet in Townsville

Saturday’s second clash pairs two struggling sides in Townsville

The home team, North Queensland, is anchored at at the bottom of table, while Adelaide is in seventh spot, only two points clear of the Fury.

To make matters worse for Adelaide, coach Auerlio Vidmare will be forced to watch from the stands, after the club banned him for two matches for his slur about SAUDI ARABIA at a press conference last week.

Sunday serves up another double-header, starting with Sydney versus Newcastle.

The Sky Blues will be pleased to be back home at the Sydney Football Stadium after losses on the road to the Gold Coast and Perth.

Those results have also seen Sydney fall to second on the ladder, two points behind Melbourne.

Newcastle’s faces Sydney

Newcastle, meanwhile, has only won two of their past 11 matches and Branco Culina’s team is second last on the table, just a point clear of North Queensland.

The head-to-head clashes between the clubs also favour Sydney

The Sky Blues have won eight and drawn five of the sides’ 15 meetings thus far and in nine meetings at the S-F-S, the Jets are are yet to win.

Elsewhere, Brisbane hosts Wellington in the final clash of the round.

Following last week’s 1-nil win at Newcastle, Wellington has consolidated its position in the top six.

Brisbane could miss finals

Brisbane, meanwhile, is in danger of missing out of the finals after slipping to eighth place on the competition table.

When these two teams last met in Round 3 it was a feisty encounter that ended in a 1-1 stalemate.

Referee Chris Beath dished out five yellow cards and a red card to Brisbane and booked two players from the Phoenix.

Wellington striker Paul Ifill anticipates another physical encounter, but he insists his side won’t be intimidated by the Brisbane.

“Some teams are like that, you know, they put their foot in it and fair play to them, but I think we go there again knowing what they are like. I thought we acquitted ourselves well the last time and we nicked a goal late but we dominated for the last period of the game and if we go there and acquit ourselves like we did on the weekend, I’m sure we will be fine.”

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