Who replaces Vine v McNamara in blockbuster battle? Liberty A-League R6 Preview

A-Leagues reporter Nalin Mastou takes you through all the fixtures ahead of round six of the 2023-24 Liberty A-League.

Round Six of the Liberty A-League gets underway this Saturday. aleagues.com.au previews every match.

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Saturday, 4:00pm (AEDT): Western United v Western Sydney Wanderers

Can Western United back up their win over Brisbane Roar with a victory over Western Sydney Wanderers?

After two games without a win, Western left Brisbane with maximum points and they have the chance this week to maintain that momentum on home soil.

Young Matilda Kahli Johnson will once again be key, having scored twice in three weeks. She already has two goals this season – the same figure she managed in 17 appearances last season.

Standing in their way are the Wanderers, who are back in action this weekend and still looking for their first win of the season.

Western Sydney did not play last week after their fixture against Canberra United was rescheduled.

And they will have to buck a trend if they are to stop last season’s Grand Finalists at City Vista Recreation Reserve.

Western Sydney are winless in their last matches away from Wanderers Football Park (D4 L16), conceding 2.2 goals per game across that span. The Wanderers’ last win away from the venue was a 1-0 victory against Brisbane Roar (January 2022).

They will, however, be looking to exploit one specific area. Western Sydney have scored 75% of their total goals from set pieces (3/4) this season – the highest rate of any team in the competition; only Canberra United (five) have conceded more goals via this method than Western United (four).

Opta stat: This is set to be the third A-League Women match between Western United and Western Sydney Wanderers; each team has recorded one win apiece across their previous two encounters – Western United won their most recent meeting (2-1, 1 April 2023).

Western United v Western Sydney Wanderers
Saturday, November 25 2023
City Vista Recreation Reserve
Kick-off: 4:00pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+, 10 Play

Saturday, 5:15 pm (AEDT): Wellington Phoenix v Perth Glory

Who is ready for another Distance Derby?! This Liberty A-League edition is shaping up as an absolute cracker.

Wellington Phoenix are enjoying their best start to a season as they prepare to host Perth Glory at their home away from home Auckland.

Perth roll into town as the league leaders. The Glory are unbeaten with four wins from five matches.

History is on Perth’s side against Wellington. They have won all four of their A-League Women games versus the Phoenix. The Glory have kept a clean sheet across their last two meetings in that span.

The Phoenix, however, have won each of their last two matches in New Zealand after
winning only one of all their 10 games in the country prior to that span (D3 L6).

This weekend will also mean a reunion for Perth’s Grace Jale with Wellington.

Jale made her A-Leagues debut during Wellington’s inaugural 2021-22 season and the New Zealand international returns to her homeland as an opposition player.

Wellington did not feature in the finals during their two previous campaigns but they sit third and are shaping as genuine top-four contenders powered by the likes of Macey Fraser and Venezuela international Mariana Speckmaier.

“I’m happy for them,” Jale told reporters. “I started in the A-League with them and we were at the bottom so they have come a long way.

“They have a lot of new and international players.”

Jale has been instrumental amid Perth’s stellar start to the season, scoring three goals in five games and earning more minutes with the Football Ferns.

“It’s everything. I didn’t have the best World Cup experience so I think moving forward to the Olympics and further, I’d like to stamp my mark on the team,” she said.

Opta stat: Perth Glory have scored five goals from left footed shots this A-League Women season, two more than any other team in the competition; Wellington Phoenix (0) are one of three teams yet to score a goal via this method (also Central Coast Mariners and Newcastle Jets).

Wellington Phoenix v Perth Glory
Saturday, November 25 2023
Go Media Stadium
Kick-off: 5:15pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+, 10 Play

Sunday, 2:00pm (AEDT): Melbourne Victory v Central Coast Mariners

For the first time since 2009, Melbourne Victory and Central Coast Mariners will meet in the Liberty A-League.

After a 14-year absence, the Mariners are back in the competition and making an impression through the opening five rounds.

Central Coast are riding a three-game undefeated streak thanks to their 1-0 upset of Wellington Phoenix. It is a result that has the Mariners only adrift of the top four on goal difference.

Keeping them out of a finals place? Melbourne Victory.

Star-studded Victory have overcome a slow start to catapult themselves back up the standings with three consecutive games without defeat. After easing past Adelaide United 2-0 and Newcastle Jets 4-0, they played out a thrilling 2-2 draw in Perth last week.

Rachel Lowe scored two goals in five minutes to help earn a point on the road in the absence of Matildas forward Emily Gielnik. It was the Matilda’s second straight brace to take her tally to four goals in two games.

She had scored four goals across 28 appearances in the competition prior to that span.

Jeff Hopkins’ Victory are really starting to click into gear. They have forced 87 high turnovers this season, the most of any team in the competition. Their 17 shots from high turnovers is seven more than any other team in the campaign.

Opta fact: Melbourne Victory have won each of their last two A-League Women matches in Victoria, keeping a clean sheet in each of those two wins; Victory had won only three of their 10 games in their home state prior to that span (D4 L3 – incl. penalty shoot-outs).

Melbourne Victory v Central Coast Mariners
Sunday, November 26 2023
Home of the Matildas
Kick-off: 2:00pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+, 10 Play

Sunday, 4:00pm (AEDT): Canberra United v Newcastle Jets

Canberra United will be seeking to extend their unbeaten run against Newcastle Jets when the two teams meet in the nation’s capital on Sunday afternoon.

Canberra are undefeated in their last six matches against Newcastle (W5 D1) and in that period, they have scored at least three goals in five of the six games.

But Canberra, who have two games in hand due to last week’s rescheduled Western Sydney fixture and Sydney FC’s AFC Women’s Club Championship commitment, are still winless to start 2023-24.

Canberra have one point from their three games to date following a wild 4-4 draw against Adelaide and defeats to Melbourne City and Perth Glory.

Key to any Canberra victory will likely be their Serbia international star Vesna Milivojevic, who has been directly involved in eight goals in her last five A-League Women matches (seven goals, one assist). She scored a goal and provided an assist in her only previous meeting against the Jets at McKellar Park in January.

In another boost for Canberra is the fact the Jets have won only one of their last seven matches outside Newcastle (D1 L5) – a 1-0 victory against Central Coast in October.

But this is a Jets side boosted by the signing of Matildas star Emily van Egmond.

She made an immediate impact last week, scoring a goal and setting up another as the Jets fell to a last-gasp 3-2 defeat to City.

Van Egmond has been directly involved in six goals in her last four matches against Canberra (five goals, one assist).

Opta stat: Canberra have recorded an Expected Goals value of 0.19 per shot this season, the best of any team in the competition; no team has a lower average than Newcastle (0.08 per shot) in this category.

Canberra United v Newcastle Jets
Sunday, November 26 2023
McKellar Park
Kick-off: 4:00pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+, 10 Play

Sunday, 4:00pm (AEDT): Sydney FC v Melbourne City

Sunday was meant to be a blockbuster battle between, not only two title contenders, but two stars: Sydney FC’s Matildas star Cortnee Vine v Melbourne City’s re-called Australia international Holly McNamara, but injuries mean the pair will both be absent.

Vine is still recovering from a hamstring injury sustained on international duty, while McNamara will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) after scoring a stoppage-time winner last week… just days after her Matildas re-call.

DEVASTATING: City star ruled out for the season days after Matildas recall

Their absence, however, provides the chance for others to step up and stake a claim in a battle pitting the defending champions against the joint-league leaders. So who comes into the XI?

For Sydney, they’re expected to line-up unchanged after their 3-1 win over Adelaide United in Round 5.

Vine was in contention to make the trip to South Australia but ultimately she didn’t and the Sky Blues still got the job done thanks to a double from Fiona Worts and Princess Ibini’s late penalty.

With Vine out, there was a tweak in personnel and shape. Against Brisbane Roar in Sydney’s last game before they jetted out to Uzbekistan for the AFC Women’s Club Championship, they had a front three of Ibini, Shea Connors and Vine while Worts was absent.

Away to Adelaide last week, Worts led the line after four goals in three games at the Women’s Club Championship, while Indiana Dos Santos also moved in the starting XI to join Ibini and Connors just behind the 2021-22 Julie Dolan Medallist.

Given the success against the Reds, Ante Juric is likely to stick with that winning formula for the Sky Blues, who are eighth in the standings and a point outside the top four with two games in hand.

McNamara leaves a glaring hole in City’s line-up following her incredible start to the 2023-24 season.

She scored twice in the 3-2 win over Newcastle Jets, including the winning goal in the second minute of stoppage time which led to her heart-breaking injury. Through five matches, she scored a career-high six goals to lead the team.

Her form has helped City make an unbeaten start to the season. In that kind of form, McNamara is irreplaceable but the question now is, who does does Dario Vidosic bring in to the XI?

It is not an easy question given the quality McNamara has brought to the attacking side of City’s side, playing just off Hannah Wilkinson.

An option could be Caitlin Karic, who was called into the Young Matildas squad for a training camp last month. She was promoted to the first team last week but she did not feature in the matchday squad. The 18-year-old has tallied 36 minutes of action across two appearances this season.

Another option could be re-jigging City’s line-up and playing Kaitlyn Torpey in a more advanced position. She has been playing full-back but in NPLW VIC last week, the 23-year-old scored a career-high eight goals in eight games for Preston Lions. So, Torpey is capable of scoring goals.

City are undefeated in their last five matches (W4 D1), despite leading at half-time on the day only twice in that span. The last time they recorded a longer unbeaten run in the competition was a 17-match span from January 2019 to December 2020 (W15 D2).

Opta stat: Sydney FC have lost only one of their last six A-League Women matches against Melbourne City FC (W4 D1) – a 2-1 defeat in February 2022; the Sky Blues are undefeated in their three meetings since then (W2 D1), their longest unbeaten run against them in the history of the competition.

Sydney FC v Melbourne City
Sunday, November 26 2023
Sydney Olympic Park
Kick-off: 4:00pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+, 10 Play

Sunday, 5:45pm (AEDT): Brisbane Roar v Adelaide United

Sunday is a big day for Brisbane Roar as they host Adelaide United.

For the first time in over four years, the Liberty A-League side will play a match at Suncorp Stadium as part of a double-header with the Isuzu UTE A-League outfit.

Their last fixture played at Suncorp was on January 25, 2019, where they defeated Canberra 4-1 – with Matildas attacker Hayley Raso among the goal scorers that day.

Brisbane, who will also wear a special indigenous jersey, head to the venue on the back of a 1-0 loss to Western United in their first match under new head coach Alex Smith and a season-ending knee injury to star defender Chelsea Blissett.

The Roar have gone three matches without a win, though they are still only outside the top four on goal difference.

They are also aiming for back-to-back clean sheets against Adelaide for only the second time in the history of the competition (November 2012), following their 1-0 victory in February.

But they have to be wary of the Reds, despite their winless campaign thus far.

Adelaide rallied against Sydney last time out and responded well to falling behind in the first half, however, they are without a win in 2023-24.

Adelaide have won only one of their last 18 matches (D4 L13) and have lost their last four games in the competition; the last time the Reds recorded a longer losing run was a six- match span from November to December in 2019.

Opta stat: Brisbane are the only team remaining this season yet to produce a big scoring chance; only Melbourne City (eight) and Canberra United (five) have scored more big scoring chances than Adelaide United (four) in the campaign.

Brisbane Roar v Adelaide United
Sunday, November 26 2023
Suncorp Stadium
Kick-off: 5:45pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+, 10 Play