Isuzu UTE A-League R2 Preview: Cheeky question prompts interesting Premier League insight

A-Leagues reporter James Dodd takes you through all the fixtures from round two of the Isuzu UTE A-League 2023-24.

Round two of the Isuzu UTE A-League is upon us! Ahead of the action getting underway, previews all six of the contests.

Friday, 7:45pm AEDT: Brisbane Roar v Sydney FC

Brisbane Roar are back at Suncorp Stadium for their first home fixture of the season for an Australia Cup Final rematch against Sydney FC.

Ross Aloisi’s new-look Brisbane lost 3-1 to the Sky Blues in the Cup decider earlier this month, while the Roar kicked off their Isuzu UTE A-League campaign with a late draw away to Macarthur FC in Campbelltown.

The Roar haven’t won their opening home game of a campaign since a 2-1 victory against Central Coast Mariners in October 2015 – they are winless across their seven such fixtures since then (D4 L3). But, Aloisi is relishing the return to Suncorp Stadium, having spent much of last season at Ballymore.


“It’s amazing, not just for the players but the supporters to be back there [Suncorp Stadium],” he told 4BC Brisbane’s Wide World of Sports. “Playing out at Redcliffe it’s a great little stadium but we are called the Brisbane Roar and we should be playing in Brisbane.

“…It is [Suncorp Stadium] one of the best, if not the best stadium in the country…it really is being back home because it is the Brisbane Roar stadium from day one.”

Steve Corica and Sydney are braced for a fired-up Brisbane after losing the Australia Cup Final at Allianz Stadium.

“Obviously they will want revenge,” Corica told reporters.

“We’re going in confident and so will they. They had a good result on the weekend. They’re playing good football and Ross has them well drilled.”

The Sky Blues are also looking to avoid back-to-back defeats to begin an A-League Men season following last week’s 2-0 loss to Melbourne Victory in the ‘Big Blue’.

Only once in their illustrious history have Sydney lost consecutive games to start a campaign – (2012-13 – L2).

Opta stat: Sydney FC will be aiming for back-to-back wins against Brisbane Roar in Queensland for the first time in the history of the A-League Men, following the Sky Blues’ 2-0 victory against the Roar in their most recent meeting in the state (24 April 2023).


Brisbane Roar v Sydney FC
Friday, October 27 2023
Suncorp Stadium
Kick-off: 7:45pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+

Saturday, 3:30pm AEDT: Wellington Phoenix v Perth Glory

All eyes will be on Alex Paulsen after his eye-catching performance in the opening round and the Wellington Phoenix goalkeeper has revealed the inspiration behind his style ahead of the ‘Distance Derby’.

With compatriot Oli Sail now a rival at Perth Glory, Paulsen made just his fourth Isuzu UTE A-League start last week after staving off competition from new Wellington signing Jack Duncan and he produced a number of incredible saves to earn a 0-0 draw away to Western Sydney Wanderers.

The 21-year-old’s eye-catching saves to deny Nicolas Milanovic and Marcus Antonsson near-certain goals earned high praise from head coach Giancarlo Italiano after the game.

“A.P got the nod primarily because of his feet and how he builds up – but even in the shot-stopping today he was unbelievable,” Italiano told Paramount+ post-match.

And with Saturday’s showdown with the Glory and a Sail reunion looming, Paulsen provided an insight into the inspiration behind his ball-playing style.

He started by off by talking to reporters about Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel, who spent eight years at Old Trafford between 1991-99.

“I get asked this question so many times,” he said with a smile during a pre-game press conference.

“I don’t know if you know him, but his name is Peter Schmeichel.”

One reporter jokingly replied: “He is pretty famous.”

“That’s why I was asking. But nah, Peter Schmeichel. The great Dane,” Paulsen said.

“I always used to look up to him as a goalkeeper because I’m also a Manchester United fan.”

As another journalist tried to maintain the Manchester United theme by discussing their current number one goalkeeper – Andre Onana, Paulsen responded.

Onana was brought to United at the start of the 2023-24 season to replace David de Gea, with the Cameroon international known for his ability to play out from the back.

“It’s funny you say that actually because in the academy I also looked up to Andre Onana,” Paulsen said.

“In terms how I build up and how he used his body to manipulate strikers in terms of him being composed on the ball. Trying to absorb pressure and make sure he can get away from sticky situation.

“Onana is definitely one of those goalkeepers that I looked up to in the modern game.”

Saturday will be Italiano’s first home match in charge of the Phoenix in Wellington after replacing Ufuk Talay in 2023-24.

Italiano is aiming to become just the third manager to win their first A-League Men match in New Zealand as head coach of Wellington after Des Buckingham ( 14 January 2017 and Marko Rudan 21 October 2018).

The Glory also enter the contest on the back of a draw in round one.

Perth twice surrendered a lead as Newcastle Jets scored a stoppage-time equaliser to salvage a point on the road.

Alen Stajcic’s Glory will be buoyed by the fact they have lost only two of their last 12 league matches against the Phoenix in New Zealand (W4 D6). However, Perth have won only one of their last 22 A-League Men fixtures outside Western Australia (D4 L17) – a 2-1 victory against Central Coast Mariners (23 October 2022).

Opta stat: Wellington Phoenix are undefeated in their last seven A-League Men matches against Perth Glory (W4 D3) – the longest unbeaten run by either team in the history of this fixture.


Wellington Phoenix v Perth Glory
Saturday, October 28 2023
Sky Stadium
Kick-off: 3:30pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+

Saturday, 7:45pm AEDT: Western Sydney Wanderers v Western United

Western United have the chance to create history away to Western Sydney Wanderers at CommBank Stadium on Saturday night.

Never before have Western celebrated back-to-back wins to begin a season, but John Aloisi’s new-look side have the opportunity to do just that against the Wanderers.

And it is thanks to last week’s 2-1 upset of three-time reigning premiers Melbourne City at AAMI Park, where Noah Botic’s late penalty settled the fixture.

For Marko Rudan, it is another reunion with the club he led in their inaugural season in 2019 through to 2021 before joining the Wanderers last year.

The Wanderers huffed and puffed last week but were held to a goalless draw by visiting Wellington in Western Sydney.

The last and only time the Wanderers failed to score in back-to-back matches to begin a campaign was their inaugural season in 2012-13 (three games).

Opta stat: Western Sydney Wanderers defeated Western United 1-0 in their most recent meeting in the A-League Men (5 February 2023), snapping a three-match losing run against them; the Wanderers had won only two of all their eight meetings in the competition prior to that game (D1 L5).


Wester Sydney Wanderers v Western United
Saturday, October 28 2023
CommBank Stadium
Kick-off: 7:45pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: 10 BOLD & Paramount+

Sunday, 3:00pm AEDT: Central Coast Mariners v Macarthur FC

It is the clash of the two AFC Cup participants – with Central Coast Mariners and Macarthur FC flying the flag for Australia in the Asian club competition this season.

Reigning A-League Men champions the Mariners – who lost a number of key personnel, including coach Nick Montgomery in the off-season, saw their title defence begin with a 3-0 loss away to Adelaide United last week.

That defeat saw a couple of injury concerns arise, though Mark Jackson and Central Coast will be delighted they are back on home soil on Sunday afternoon.

Central Coast Mariners are undefeated in their last nine league matches at Industree Group Stadium (W6 D3). The last time they recorded a longer unbeaten run at the venue was a 10-game span from October 2012 to February 2013 (W9 D1).

While the Mariners will be out to achieve a 10-year first, Mile Sterjovski’s Macarthur must buck a trend if they are to clinch their first win of the season.

Raphael Borges Rodrigues enjoyed a memorable goal-scoring Macarthur debut, however, the Bulls were denied maximum points on home soil by Brisbane Roar star Jay O’Shea in week one.

This week, Macarthur are away from Campbelltown Stadium and the Bulls have won only two of their last 20 A-League Men matches away from home (D4 L14).

Macarthur have lost their last eight games in that span, conceding 3.1 goals per
game across the last eight fixtures during that run.

Opta stat: Central Coast Mariners have won each of their last two A-League Men matches against Macarthur FC, more than they won across their five meetings in the competition prior to that span (W1 D1 L3).


Central Coast Mariners v Macarthur FC
Sunday, October 29 2023
Industree Group Stadium
Kick-off: 3:00pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: 10 BOLD & Paramount+

Sunday, 5.00pm AEDT: Melbourne Victory v Newcastle Jets

Melbourne Victory announced themselves with a statement win on the road in Sydney last week, so can they do something they have only ever done twice previously?

Goals from Bruno Fornaroli and Zinedine Machach helped Victory – who finished second bottom last season – top rivals Sydney FC 2-0.

With Fornaroli in form and Tony Popovic’s new signings, headlined by former Napoli and Marseille midfielder Machach, impressing early, Victory are seeking to begin an A-League Men season with consecutive wins for only the third time in the history of the competition.

The only other times they managed the feat was in 2006-07 (W7) and 2021-22 (W2).

But can Newcastle spoil the party in Victory’s first home game of the season?

Life for the Jets under new boss Rob Stanton began with a dramatic 2-2 draw away to Perth Glory.

The Jets trumped Victory 2-1 in their last meeting in February. So, Newcastle are aiming for back-to-back league wins against the Melbourne club for the first time since October 2015.

And form is on the side of the Jets. Victory have lost three of their last five A-League Men matches against Newcastle in Victoria (W2), as many defeats as they logged across their 16 games against the Jets in their home state prior to that span (W11 D2 L3).

In saying that, Newcastle have won only one of their last nine A-League Men matches away from McDonald Jones Stadium (D4 L4) – a 1-0 victory against Macarthur FC (18 February 2023); the Jets have conceded at least two goals in each of their last three games in that span (D1 L2).

Opta stat: Newcastle Jets have recorded 13 shots from direct free kicks in the A-League Men in 2023, the most of any team in the competition; however, the Jets are yet to score a goal via this method.


Melbourne Victory v Newcastle Jets
Sunday, October 29 2023
Kick-off: 5:00pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+

Sunday, 7.00pm AEDT: Adelaide United v Melbourne City

Another week and another home game for Adelaide United, who are out to extend their unbeaten run against Melbourne City.

The Reds kicked off their season and the post-Craig Goodwin era with a 3-0 win over Central Coast in Round One as Nestory Irankunda and Jonny Yull impressed. Now, they are looking to turn the screw on City.

Adelaide are undefeated in their last seven A-League Men matches against City at Coopers Stadium (W4 D3) – their longest unbeaten run against them at the venue; the Reds have scored two goals per game across that span.

If they get the better of last season’s Grand Finalists, it will be the first time they have recorded back-to-back wins over City in the league since April 2016, having also defeated the club 4-2 in March this year. And if they seal maximum points, it will mean the Reds have started a season with consecutive victories for only the second time in their history (2012-13).

City’s pursuit of a second Championship did not go according to plan after going down to Western United.

Rado Vidosic’s City will be looking to avoid consecutive defeats to begin an A-League Men season for only the second time in the history of the competition (L2 – 2011-12).

City, though, did continue their fine AFC Champions League form with a 2-0 win away to Arthur Papas’ Buriram United on matchday three.

They are top of their group through three unbeaten games.

Adelaide United is partnering with Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation to host the first-ever Mental Health Game in A-League history this Sunday, as part of Mental Health Awareness Month. Proceeds from the Mental Health Game will be donated to the Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation to advance its research and education programs.

Find out more

Opta stat: Melbourne City have gained 10 competition points from losing positions in the A-League Men in 2023, more than any other team in the competition this year; Adelaide (9) are ranked joint-second in this category (also Sydney FC and Central Coast Mariners).


Adelaide United v Melbourne City
Sunday, October 29 2023
Coopers Stadium
Kick-off: 7:00pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+