2017-18 Season Preview Part 3- The opposition

With the new season just days away from beginning it’s time for our annual season preview where we take a look at the 2017-18 team. Today in part 3 we’ll look an in depth look at how the other nine A-League clubs shape up.

Adelaide United
Last season- 9th

Ins- Johan Absalonsen, Daniel Adlung, George Blackwood, Lachlan Brook, Ersan Gulum, Paul Izzo, Vince Lia, Daniel Margush, Karim Matmour.

Outs- Eli Babalj, Marcelo Carrusca, Sergio Cirio, Eugene Galekovic, John Hall, Kim Jae-Sung, Iacopo La Rocca, Jesse Makarounas, Marc Marino, Dylan McGowan, Riley McGree, George Mells.

After a disappointing title defence Adelaide have undergone a major overhaul ahead of the new season as new coach Marco Kurz seeks to return to the finals. The Spanish armada in Adelaide has moved on, with Danish winger Johan Absalonsen, Algerian international Karim Matmour and German attacker Daniel Adlung all arriving to add some quality and experience to a predominantly youthful and home-grown roster.

Likely Best XI

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Expectations
After a dismal title defence where they failed to get anywhere close to the finals, the goal this year will be for a return to the semi-finals at a minimum. With the influx of fresh new attacking talent to go alongside Papa Diawara the talent is there to push for a top four finish, and the lack of Champions League this time around will be an advantage. Their run to the semi-finals of the FFA Cup also indicates that the methods of the new boss are beginning to take hold for the Reds.

Central Coast Mariners
Last season- 8th

Ins- Asdrubal, Alan Baro, Wout Brama, Daniel de Silva, Tom Glover, Antony Golec, Tom Hiariej, Andrew Hoole, Ben Kennedy, Josh Rose, Kye Rowles.

Outs- Jake Adelson, Jacques Faty, Fabio Ferreira, Scott Galloway, Paul Izzo, Nick Montgomery, Ivan Necevski, Michael Neill, Roy O’Donovan, Jacob Poscoliero, Mikel Tavares.

Paul Okon has transformed the Mariners in his first full pre-season in charge and there can be little doubt this is now his team. The core of young players the club has developed over the past two seasons remains in tact, however visa flops Mikael Tavares and Jacques Faty have been replaced by Dutch duo Tom Hiariej and Wout Brama. The addition of Spanish striker Asdrubal will hopefully offset the departure of top scorer Roy O’Donovan, who has headed up the F3 to Newcastle.

Likely Best XI

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Expectations

While Central Coast were bundled out early in the FFA Cup by Blacktown, a late pre-season win over a strong Melbourne Victory side hints at progress. Having fixed the defence and midfield with the arrival of Hiariej, Brama and ex Victory defender Alan Baro, the biggest question regarding the Mariners is if they will have enough goals in their line-up. The loss of top scorer O’Donovan –in addition to Fabio Ferreira- leaves them looking for alternatives, with the likes of Connor Pain, Daniel de Silva, Trent Buhagiar and Andrew Hoole expected to step up on that front. If they can a return to the finals is a possibility.

Melbourne City
Last season
– 4th

Ins
– Marcin Budzinski, Marcelo Carrusca, James Delianov, Eugene Galekovic, Scott Jamieson, Iacopo La Rocca, Stefan Mauk, Ross McCormack, Connor Metcalfe, Ramy Najjarine, John Roberts, Bart Schenkeveld.

Outs- Anthony Caceres, Nicolas Colazo, Ivan Franjic, Corey Gameiro, Steve Kuzmanovski, Paulo Retre, Josh Rose, Thomas Sorensen.

Melbourne City have strengthened their side with a host of experienced overseas players along with some of Australia’s better young players ensuring they have an interesting mix. Of the experienced new signings, a lot will be expected of Marcin Budzinski who arrives as marquee player, while Ross McCormack has the task of filling in for club captain Bruno Fornaroli. Interestingly enough City’s recruitment has an Adelaide feel to it, with five of their recruits calling the South Australian capital home in the past.

Likely Best XI

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Expectations
Given the City Football Group’s expenditure on the side the expectations will no doubt be around winning the title, however their hopes of doing so will be dependant on the fitness of striking duo Tim Cahill and Bruno Fornaroli. New coach Warren Joyce excelled as a youth coach at Manchester United, but his first stint in the senior game ended abruptly in Wigan last year, which is just another question mark on a squad where there appears to be more questions than answers.

Melbourne Victory
Last season-
2nd

Ins– Kosta Barbarouses, Thomas Deng, Leroy George, Josh Hope, Cameron McGilp, Mark Milligan, Matias Sanchez, Christian Theoharous, Pierce Waring, Rhys Williams.

Outs– Alan Baro, Fahid Ben Khalfallah, Alastair Bray, Daniel Georgievski, George Howard, Rashid Mahazi, Marco Rojas, Lucas Spinella. Victory’s recruitment has been stellar with Socceroos midfielder Mark Milligan returning to fill a hole which in truth Melbourne has struggled with since his departure.

The while loss of Ben Khalfallah, Rojas and Baro will be felt by the Victory, they’ve been ably replaced by Matias Sanchez, Rhys Williams and the returning Kosta Barbarouses.

Likely Best XI

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Expectations
After falling short on Grand Final day despite having a lead, this year will be about finishing the job for Kevin Muscat’s men. While the recruitment is impressive and the first XV looks to be amongst the strongest in the league there’s a question over the Victory’s depth, and with Champions League at the back end of the season it could prove to be their undoing. If they can keep their best team on the park however, the three time Champions figures to be in contention once again.

Newcastle Jets
Last season- 10th

Ins- Jake Adelson, Joseph Champness, Daniel Georgievski, Glen Moss, Roy O’Donovan, Dimitri Petratos, Kosta Petratos, Mario Shabow, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Ronald Vargas.

Outs- Joel Allwright, Tomislav Arcaba, Kristian Brymora, Labinot Haliti, Andrew Hoole, Ben Kennedy, Aleksandr Kokko, Ma Leilei, Daniel Mullen, Morten Nordstrand, Mateo Poljak, Harrison Sawyer.

New Jets boss Ernie Merrick has opted for experience ahead of his first season in the Hunter with the arrival of proven A-League players Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Daniel Georgievski, Roy O’Donovan and Dimi Petratos who found his way to Newcastle via a stint in the K-League with Ulsan Hyundai. Of those who left only Morten Nordstrand was a regular contributor, although he’s been ably replaced by Venezuelan international attacker Ronald Vargas.

Likely best XI

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Expectations
After missing the finals for seven straight seasons, Newcastle are understandably desperate for a return to finals football and their recruitment is a strong signal of intent. Poaching the Joe Marston medallist Daniel Georgievski from Victory to fill a problematic position of left-back, while the signing of Roy O’Donovan from F3 rivals Central Coast should ensure the goals are there. If everything clicks for Ernie Merrick’s men, this could be the year finals football returns to the Hunter.
Perth Glory
Last season- 5th

Ins- Andreu, Jake Brimmer, Joseph Knowles, Scott Neville, Mitch Nichols, Jacob Poscoliero, Daniel Stynes, Xavi Torres.

Outs- Dino Djulbic, Richard Garcia, Lucian Goian, Rostyn Griffiths, Nebojsa Marinkovic, Mitchell Oxborrow, Kosta Petratos, Josh Risdon, Jordan Thurtell, Aryn Williams, Rhys Williams.

Perth Glory have strengthened their midfield considerably with the addition of Torres, Andreu and Nichols which should off-set the loss of experienced duo Richard Garcia and club captain Rostyn Griffiths. It’s in the backline however where questions will be asked, with the losses of Risdon, Williams, Goian and Djulbic ensuring a very different looking Perth backline this year.

Likely best XI

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Expectations
After just scraping into the finals, Perth found themselves 90 minutes from a Grand Final berth before running into a red hot Sydney FC side. While the attacking end of the pitch looks impressive and will trouble any defence in this league, it’s at the other end of the park where the questions lie.

Sydney FC
Last season
– 1st

Ins- Alex Cisak, Anthony Kalik, Adrian Mierzejewski, Paulo Retre, Luke Wilkshire.

Outs- Bai Antoniou, George Blackwood, Milos Dimitrijevic, Filip Holosko, Bernie Ibini, George Timotheou, Danny Vukovic.

Last season’s defending Champions have lost a couple of key contributors to their title winning side in the form of Danny Vukovic and Filip Holosko, however the arrival of Polish international Adrian Mierzejewski figures to provide an upgrade to a Sky Blues attack which was already potent. In goal, ex Leyton Orient shot stopper Alex Cisak joins, while former Socceroo Luke Wilkshire arrives home from Russia as an injury replacement for Rhyan Grant.

Likely best XI

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Expectations
Sydney FC will start favourites in their title defence and figure to be amongst the leagues leading teams once again. While they’ve lost a couple of key contributors their recruitment seems to have off-set that, and they look in a better place depth wise to deal with the rigours of the Champions League than Melbourne.

Wellington Phoenix
Last season- 7th

Ins- Ali Abbas, Scott Galloway, Lewis Italiano, Daniel Mullen, Andrija Kaluderovic, Goran Paracki, Dario Vidosic.

Outs- Kosta Barbarouses, Roly Bonevacia, Louis Fenton, Lewis Italiano, Vince Lia, Glen Moss, Alex Rodriguez.

It’s been an off-season of change in Wellington, with a new logo, coach and players as they enter their 11th season in the competition. The arrival of former Roar striker Andrija Kaluderovic adds to the intrigue around the Phoenix and ensures they should have a reliable goal scoring outlet, however the lack of a proven first choice goalkeeper at the other end could prove to be their undoing.

Likely best XI

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Expectations New Phoenix boss Darije Kalezić will have his work cut out in order to return the Nix to the finals given the upheaval of the off-season, but he does have a better squad to work with than predecessor Ernie Merrick. While the Phoenix figure to be competitive once again this season, the improvement of rival teams around them figures to see the Nix miss the out on the finals once again.

Western Sydney Wanderers
Last season- 6th

Ins- Roly Bonevacia, Mark Bridge, Alvaro Cejudo, John Hall, Chris Herd, Raul Llorente, Oriol Riera, Josh Risdon, Michael Thwaite, Mark Tokich.

Outs- Terry Antonis, Jackson Bandeira, Artiz Borda, Shannon Cole, Dimas Delgado, Ryan Griffiths, Emilio Martinez, Nico Martinez, Scott Neville, Mitch Nichols, Bruno Pinatares, Mario Shabow, Liam Youlley, Stefan Zinni.

It’s been another huge turnover of personnel in Western Sydney however the biggest of those changes occurred at the weekend when foundation boss Tony Popovic opted for a move to Turkey, with assistant Hayden Foxe put in caretaker duty. Before his departure Popovic overhauled his squad with the arrival of a number of impressive recruits which figures to given whoever takes over the chance to make a strong start.

Likely best XI
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Expectations
Prior to the departure of Popovic, the expectation surrounding Western Sydney was for a return to the top two at least given their string of high profile signings. On field Oriol Riera looks to be the striker Western Sydney have previously lacked, while the arrival of Chris Herd should help combat the leagues better creative midfielders. The question now is around their coaching appointment, how quickly they can get someone in, and how quickly the new boss can get his ideas across.
 

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