Isuzu UTE A-League R11 Preview: Mariners prepare to farewell star as new Roar boss gears up for debut

Teams will be looking to hit the ground running as the Isuzu UTE A-League kicks off for 2024.

Round 11 of the Isuzu UTE A-League season is here! Ahead of all the action getting underway, previews every game for what’s set to be another blockbuster round of fixtures.


Thursday, 7:45pm (AEDT): Adelaide United v Wellington Phoenix

Two sides looking to return to the winner’s list kick-off Round 11, as Adelaide United welcome Wellington Phoenix to Coopers Stadium.

The Reds fell to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of arch-rivals Melbourne Victory last Saturday – their fourth loss in five games – and will head into the New Year without star goalkeeper Joe Gauci for the next month after he jetted off to Qatar to be part of the Socceroos’ AFC Asian Cup squad.

His absence opens the door for James Delianov to earn an opportunity in the starting lineup for the first time since sustaining a shoulder injury against the Phoenix on New Year’s Day in 2022.

Delianov was Adelaide’s first choice keeper after making the switch from Western United in 2020, making 18 appearances in the 2020-21 season, including two finals.

He made another six appearances to start the 2021-22 campaign, before sustaining the blow, which opened the door for Gauci to take his spot between the sticks and ultimately, evolve into the goalkeeper he is now.

Adelaide coach Carl Veart confirmed that Delianov would earn a long awaited opportunity, ahead of youngsters Steven Hall and Ethan Cox.

“We brought him to the club three or four years ago, he was the number one,” Veart said this week.

“And it was unfortunately two years ago to almost the day that he got that serious injury playing here against Wellington. And he’s had to wait for his time, but he’s worked extremely hard and he’s a top quality goalkeeper that we’re very fortunate to have to have as the backup to Joe.

“Definitely he is the best reserve keeper in the league at the moment, he could play in a lot of teams’ first XI, just the form of Joe that’s kept him out and that’s unfortunate, that [with] goalkeepers… there’s only one can play.

“They’ve been excellent. James has pushed Joe all this way. He’s been training exceptionally hard the whole time and Joe knows that if he has a little slip up, or makes a few mistakes that James is ready there to take that position.

“Now, James has got his opportunity for the next six, seven, games, at least. So we’re looking forward to seeing James getting out and playing again.”

Meanwhile, Wellington were beaten 3-1 by Sydney FC last week, but remain top of the table heading into the New Year on games won ahead of Victory.

Phoenix will once again be without star attacker Oskar Zawada as he continues to deal with a thigh injury, meaning in-form veteran Kosta Barbarouses and David Ball will likely lead the line once more.

Barbarouses has been in red-hot form since Zawada went down with an injury, scoring four goals in his last three matches, including one against Sydney.

Adelaide United v Wellington Phoenix – ins and outs

Adelaide United squad: 1. James DELIANOV, 3. Ben WARLAND, 4. Nick ANSELL, 7. Ryan KITTO (c), 8. ISAÍAS, 9. Hiroshi IBUSUKI, 10. Zach CLOUGH, 17. Luka JOVANOVIĆ, 21. Javi LOPEZ, 22. Ryan TUNNICLIFFE, 23. Luke DUZEL, 26. Ben HALLORAN, 27. Josh CAVALLO, 31. BERNARDO, 41. Alexandar POPOVIĆ, 43. Giuseppe BOVALINA, 50.Steven HALL, 55. Ethan ALAGICH, 62.Fabian TALLADIRA, 66. Nestory IRANKUNDA

Ins: 3. Ben WARLAND, 27. Josh CAVALLO, 50. Steven HALL, 62. Fabian TALLADIRA

Outs: 37. Jonny YULL, 46. Joe GAUCI

Unavailable: 18. Jay BARNETT (hamstring), 36. Panashe MADANHA (ankle), 37. Jonny YULL (concussion), 46. Joe GAUCI (International Duty), 49. Musa TOURE (quad)

Wellington Phoenix squad: 3. Finn SURMAN, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. Fin CONCHIE, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Ben OLD, 10. David BALL, 11. Bozhidar KRAEV, 12. Mo AL-TAAY, 14. Alex RUFER (c), 15. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 18. Lukas KELLY-HEALD, 19. Sam SUTTON, 23. Luke SUPYK, 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 25. Jack DUNCAN (gk), 26. Isaac HUGHES, 30. Alby KELLY-HEALD (gk), 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 43. Matt SHERIDAN.

(two to be omitted)

Ins: Nil

Outs: Nil

Unavailable: 9. Oskar ZAWADA (injured)

Opta stat: Wellington Phoenix have lost their first Isuzu UTE A-League game of the year in each of the last three years including a 0-4 loss to Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium on New Year’s Day in 2022.

Adelaide United v Wellington Phoenix
Thursday, January 4 2023
Coopers Stadium
Kick-off: 7:45pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+

Friday, 7:45pm (AEDT): Macarthur FC v Newcastle Jets

Macarthur will be looking to turn around their rough patch of form when they host Newcastle Jets on Friday night at Campbelltown Stadium.

The Bulls’ fast start – that saw them go unbeaten in their first seven games – has come to a halt over the last few weeks, losing their last three matches, including a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Western Sydney Wanderers on New Year’s Day.

Mile Sterjovski’s side head into this weekend sitting one point clear of seventh-placed Brisbane Roar and only three points ahead of the 10th-placed Jets on the ladder.

Macarthur’s biggest concern to address is in defence, conceding three goals in each of their three consecutive losses. By comparison, they only shipped nine goals in their opening seven matches of the season.

Newcastle, on the other hand, returned to winning ways last week with a victory over bottom placed Western United.

Inconsistency has plagued Robbie Stanton’s side throughout the first 10 games of the season, with his side yet to string together successive wins this season.

The Jets will head to Campbelltown without top scorer Apostolos Stamatelopoulos after he was sent off last week.

This could open the door for young gun Archie Goodwin to make his first start of the campaign or fellow youngster Justin Vidic – who led the line in Stamatelopoulos’ absence in their 2-0 loss to Melbourne City earlier this season.

Opta stat: Last time Newcastle Jets won their first Isuzu UTE A-League game of a calendar year was in 2012 when they defeated Gold Coast United 3-2; they’ve picked up three draws and eight losses in such fixtures since.

Macarthur FC v Newcastle Jets
Friday, January 5 2023
Campbelltown Stadium
Kick-off: 7:45pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+

Saturday, 5:30pm (AEDT): Western Sydney Wanderers v Central Coast Mariners

Central Coast Mariners return to the site of their Isuzu UTE A-League Championship success for the first time since hoisting the trophy in June, when they face Western Sydney Wanderers at CommBank Stadium.

After a slow start to the season that saw them lose their opening four matches, the Mariners have roared back to life, going unbeaten in their last six games including a stirring 4-2 win over Perth Glory to end the calendar year.

Central Coast have been electrifying during this stretch, scoring 19 goals and taking their tally to 21 for the season, which is the most in the competition after ten rounds.

A big part of their recent success has been the form of Marco Tulio, who departs the club for Japanese side Kyoto Sanga after this weekend’s match against the Wanderers.

The Brazilian attacker departs with 23 goals and 12 assists to his name in 46 appearances in all competitions throughout a season-and-a-half at the club. During his side’s current winning stretch alone, Tulio has four goals and two assists, including a brace in the win over Perth – which was his last home game before jetting over to Japan.

MARINERS: New Year’s Eve fireworks in Gosford as Túlio bids special farewell to Mariners faithful

Mark Jackson’s side come into the contest in sixth place on the standings and are closing fast on the competition’s top sides, sitting only four points behind their opponents this weekend – Western Sydney.

The Wanderers returned to the winner’s list with a 3-1 win over crosstown rivals Macarthur FC, remaining within touching distance of top two sides Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Victory – who sit only two points clear.

Western Sydney will welcome back Josh Brillante from suspension this week, but are without Lawrence Thomas after he linked up with his Socceroos teammates in Qatar ahead of the Asian Cup.

Thomas missed the win against the Bulls, which opened the door for youngster Jack Gibson to make his senior debut between the sticks ahead of Daniel Margush – despite the latter making 40 appearances for the club throughout his four season tenure, but none since May 2022.

Gibson was relatively untroubled throughout the contest, but couldn’t do much to stop Jake Hollman’s long range strike in the first-half.

“He’s (Gibson) been good ever since he came into our environment,” Wanderers coach Marko Rudan told Paramount+ after the win against Macarthur.

“In pre-season he’s been great. I always tell players, you’ve got to be ready for the opportunity. The opportunity only arises when you’re ready.”

Opta stat: Western Sydney Wanderers have lost only one of their last eight Isuzu UTE A-League games against the Central Coast Mariners in Sydney (W4 D3) and have scored exactly two goals in seven of those eight fixtures.

Western Sydney Wanderers v Central Coast Mariners
Saturday, January 6 2023
CommBank Stadium
Kick-off: 5:30pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+

Saturday, 7:45pm (AEDT): Brisbane Roar v Sydney FC

The Ben Cahn era gets underway this weekend, as Brisbane Roar take on Sydney FC at Suncorp Stadium.

Cahn was announced as Roar boss on New Year’s Day, with the club’s hierarchy opting to speed up the process to bring in a permanent head coach to replace Ross Aloisi following a humiliating 8-1 defeat to Melbourne City last week.

The Englishman has long been linked to coaching vacancies throughout his career, following success with NPL Queensland side Olympic FC and most recently, NPL Victoria juggernauts Melbourne Knights – notably leading them to the Australia Cup semi finals where they were defeated by Brisbane in September.

CAHN: The unique rise of Brisbane Roar’s new boss

Cahn takes over a Brisbane side that have struggled for form in recent weeks – even beyond the drubbing at the hands of City – having lost their last three matches and have since fallen out of the top six after a fast start to the campaign.

His first game in charge comes against a Sydney side that has found form in the last fortnight, recording back-to-back wins against Western United and Wellington Phoenix and are now within two points of the top six.

After struggling for goals, Ufuk Talay’s side have regained their cutting edge in attack, scoring seven goals in two games after only tallying eight goals in the previous eight matches.

The Sky Blues have already faced Brisbane twice in all competitions this season, defeating them in the Australia Cup Final at Allianz Stadium and falling to a 3-0 drubbing at Suncorp back in Round 2.

However, in both matches, Brisbane and Sydney were led by different coaches on the night, with Aloisi and Steve Corica since departing their respective clubs.

Rhyan Grant is also set to play his 272nd A-Leagues game for Sydney FC, equaling Matt McKay (272 for Brisbane Roar) for the third-most appearances of any player for a single club in competition history. Only Leigh Broxham (383 for Melbourne Victory) and Andrew Durante (273 for Wellington Phoenix) have played more games for one club.

Opta stat: Brisbane Roar have lost their last three Isuzu UTE A-League games in a row, conceding 13 goals across that term; the last time they lost more consecutive games in the competition was a four-game stretch from June to November in 2021.

Brisbane Roar v Sydney FC
Saturday, January 6 2023
Suncorp Stadium
Kick-off: 7:45pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: 10 Bold and Paramount+

Saturday, 9:45pm (AEDT): Perth Glory v Melbourne Victory

Melbourne Victory’s 10 game unbeaten streak to start the Isuzu UTE A-League season goes on the line on Saturday, when they take on Perth Glory at HBF Park.

Tony Popovic’s side claimed a 2-0 win over Adelaide United to end 2023, taking them level on points with league leaders Wellington Phoenix, but behind them on games won.

Victory have also only one won of their last five matches against Perth too – coming in a 1-0 win in April 2022.

If they are to turn around their poor fortunes across the Nullarbor, it will have to be without the services of star striker Bruno Fornaroli who jetted over to Qatar for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup with the Socceroos.

Fornaroli has scored 13 of Victory’s 21 goals this season and sits six goals clear atop the Golden Boot race heading into the New Year. Replacing him will be no easy feat for Victory, as the club currently doesn’t have an out and out No.9 to slot in his place.

Popovic hasn’t ruled out bringing in a replacement from elsewhere in the January transfer window, but made clear they’re not actively “looking” to bring someone in, meaning first crack will likely fall to one of their current attackers.

Ben Folami and Chris Ikonomidis are among those who could get an opportunity to lead the line over the next month, while Zinedine Machach, Nishan Velupillay and Eli Adams could also be looked at as a makeshift number nine.

Beyond that, Adem Duratovic – who is yet to make his Victory debut in the league – scored nine goals for their NPL senior academy side that earned promotion to Victoria’s VPL1 competition last year, and started in their Australia Cup playoff loss to Newcastle Jets in July.

Their opponents Perth were left disappointed after a 4-2 loss to Central Coast Mariners on New Year’s Eve, which leaves them second last on the ladder going into 2023.

Alen Stajcic’s side have been much better at home, than they have on the road this season, claiming seven out of a possible 12 points at HBF Park.

They will be without defensive duo Mark Beevers and Aleksandar Susnjar after they were sent off in the dying moments of the defeat to Central Coast.

Opta stat: Melbourne Victory are undefeated in their last 10 Isuzu UTE A-League games (W5 D5) and have kept a clean sheet in each of their last three games which is as many as they had kept across their previous 26 games in the competition.

Perth Glory v Melbourne Victory
Saturday, January 6 2023
HBF Park
Kick-off: 9:45pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+

Sunday, 7:45pm (AEDT): Western United v Melbourne City

Two Victorian rivals lock horns for the second time this season, as in-form Melbourne City take on bottom placed Western United at AAMI Park.

City have returned to red-hot form in recent weeks, going unbeaten in their last seven games in all competitions and climbing into fourth place on the standings.

Aurelio Vidmar’s side put together their best performance of the season in an 8-1 win over Brisbane Roar last week and one of the players central to the win – Aziz Behich – will be missing for the next month on international duty with the Socceroos.

Behich has been sensational since returning to City this off-season, filling the gap left by national team teammate Jordan Bos, who departed for Belgian side Westerlo.

The veteran is set to be replaced by Scott Galloway in the starting lineup, with Vidmar hinting in his post game press conference that the versatile defender will replace Behich throughout the next month.

Galloway started at right-back against Roar ahead of Callum Talbot who should return to the starting lineup with the former shifting flanks.

“That’s the reason why Scotty Galloway played tonight,” Vidmar said in his post-game press conference after the win over Brisbane.

“He hasn’t played since Macarthur game some weeks back, so [it was] good for him to get a 90 minute hit out.”

Western, meanwhile, are rooted to the bottom of the standings after yet another defeat last weekend, this time at the hands of Newcastle Jets.

John Aloisi’s side can take solace out of the fact one of the two teams they have beaten this season was City all the way back in Round 1, but much has changed since their last meeting.

They have, however, won three of their last four Isuzu UTE A-League games at AAMI Park (L1) including their last two in a row while a three-game streak would equal their longest winning run at the venue which they last set in February 2022.

Opta stat: Melbourne City have lost only two of their last 23 Isuzu UTE A-League games at AAMI Park (W15 D6) and are undefeated in their last five games at the venue (W2 D3) including a competition record equaling 8-1 win against Brisbane Roar in their most recent game there.

Western United v Melbourne City
Sunday, January 7 2023
Kick-off: 5pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: 10 Bold & Paramount+