Isuzu UTE A-League R9 Preview: Wellington out to avoid four-year first in Wanderers blockbuster

Round 9 of the Isuzu UTE A-League has some mouth-watering fixtures to come in the festive period.

Round 9 of the Isuzu UTE A-League season is upon us! Ahead of the action getting underway, previews all six of the contests.

Central Coast Mariners kicked off the round with a 3-0 win over Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night.

MATCH REPORT: Champions continue return to form as Torres, Túlio excite in win over Roar


Friday, 7:45pm (AEDT): Adelaide United v Newcastle Jets

Adelaide United will be looking to get back to winning ways when they welcome Newcastle Jets to Coopers Stadium on Friday night for their 500th Isuzu UTE A-League match.

The Reds have lost four of their last five matches, including their last three, dropping out of the top six as a result. This dip in form came after a red-hot start to the season where Adelaide defeated both of last season’s Grand Finalists – Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne City – by an aggregate score of 9-0 in their opening two games of the season.

In fact, another loss to the Jets will mean it’s their worst run of form since a span between February and March 2020 where they lost four straight matches.

Adelaide, however, have a great record against the Jets, having won five of their six league games against Newcastle since Carl Veart took over as manager in July 2020 (L1) despite not keeping a clean sheet in any of those fixtures.

But the Jets did win the last meeting between the two sides at Coopers Stadium last December.

Robbie Stanton’s side left it to the final seconds to secure a point against Perth Glory, snatching a 2-2 draw thanks to a late equaliser from Trent Buhagiar.

Newcastle led early in the contest through the red-hot Apostolos Stamatelopoulos, who sits second in the Golden Boot charts with seven goals, but were pegged back by the visitors in the second-half.

The Jets have in fact dropped seven competition points from winning positions this season; the second most of any team.

Opta stat: Newcastle Jets will be looking to win consecutive Isuzu UTE A-League away games for the first time since June 2021 after picking up a 3-0 win over the Wellington Phoenix at Sky Stadium in their last fixture on the road.

Adelaide United v Newcastle Jets
Friday, December 22 2023
Coopers Stadium
Kick-off: 7:45pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+

Saturday, 3:30pm (AEDT): Wellington Phoenix v Western Sydney Wanderers

Two of the league’s in-form sides square off in New Zealand, as league leaders Wellington Phoenix take on Western Sydney Wanderers.

The Phoenix secured top spot on the standings at the end of Round 8 by handing Macarthur FC their first loss in the league this season on Monday night, getting back on the winners list after a disappointing defeat at the hands of Newcastle a week earlier.

Giancarlo Italiano’s side will be looking to avoid back-to-back home defeats for the first time since October 2019 this weekend against the Wanderers; but go in with plenty of confidence having won their last four games against Western Sydney in New Zealand, keeping a clean sheet in each of their last two meetings in the country.

Western Sydney, meanwhile, also got back on track last week with a win over Adelaide United. Marko Rudan’s side will travel across the ditch without Josh Brillante due to suspension, and potentially Tom Beadling after the centre-back was forced off with injury on Friday.

The Wanderers have been poor travellers as of late, going winless in their last seven league games outside New South Wales (D3, L4) despite scoring two or more goals in three of their last four such games.

Rudan’s charges did win the last meeting between the two sides late last season; a 4-0 victory at CommBank Stadium in April.

Opta stat: Wellington Phoenix’s Alex Paulsen (83%) and Western Sydney Wanderers FC’s Lawrence Thomas (78%) have the highest save percentages of any goalkeepers this Isuzu UTE A-League campaign, while Paulsen (35) has made six more saves than Thomas (29) this season.

Wellington Phoenix v Western Sydney Wanderers
Saturday, December 23 2023
Sky Stadium
Kick-off: 3:30pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+

Saturday, 5:30pm (AEDT): Sydney FC v Western United

It’s been a far from ideal start to the season for both Sydney FC and Western United.

The Sky Blues come into Saturday’s contest against the fellow strugglers off the back of two successive defeats at the hands of Macarthur FC and Melbourne Victory, sitting in 10th spot on the ladder after eight games.

Ufuk Talay’s reign has got off to a mixed start, winning two games but losing three, as well. The most glaring issue has been their lack of goals, scoring in only two games this season, which were in fact their only wins over Adelaide United and Perth Glory.

This comes despite Sydney creating 6.9 more shots at goal per game than they’ve conceded this season, outshooting their opposition by more than any other team.

Meanwhile, Western come into the contest with a bit of a pep in their step after defeating Brisbane Roar last Friday, snapping a six game losing streak.

John Aloisi’s side finally turned their myriad of chances into goals, battling back from a goal down to take the lead in second-half stoppage time through Josh Risdon.

Incredibly, Western are yet to score a goal in the first half of a game in the league season, the only team yet to find the back of the net before half-time; in fact, their 10 goals conceded in the first halves games are also more than any other team.

They have also hit the woodwork a whopping six times, the most of any side in the competition this season.

But Western will have to turn around their fortunes north of the border, having gone winless in four straight games against the Sky Blues in New South Wales and tasted defeat to Sydney in the Australia Cup quarter-finals earlier this year.

Opta stat: Sydney FC have been kept goalless on six occasions in the 2023-24 Isuzu UTE A-League season; a seventh game without a goal would equal their most in a single season since 2014-15 when they failed to find the back of the net in nine games.

Sydney FC v Western United
Saturday, December 23 2023
Allianz Stadium
Kick-off: 5:30pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+

Saturday, 7:45pm (AEDT): Melbourne City v Melbourne Victory

Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory face off for the first time this season in the 42nd iteration of the Melbourne Derby.

The ledger between the two teams is equal with 15 wins apiece, to go with 11 draws, meaning a bit of extra bragging rights are on the line in this year’s Christmas Derby at AAMI Park.

City come into the contest fresh off a 3-3 draw against Central Coast Mariners, snatching a point in the dying minutes through Alessandro Lopane.

Aurelio Vidmar’s side haven’t been as potent at home this season, dropping five points at home against Western United, Macarthur FC and the Mariners, along with failing to win any of their home ties in the AFC Champions League.

Victory, on the other hand, are the only undefeated side remaining in the competition, extending their unbeaten run to eight games with a 3-0 win over Sydney FC.

The win over the Sky Blues was their second in succession, meaning three points against City will be their best winning streak since a three-game stretch between April-May 2022.

Tony Popovic’s side currently have the league’s best attack with 19 goals to their name, with 12 of those coming from none other than Bruno Fornaroli – who faces his former side this weekend.

Opta stat: Bruno Fornaroli has scored 19 goals for the Melbourne Victory in the Isuzu UTE A-League and his next goal for them would make him just the third player in competition history to score 20+ goals for three different teams (48 for Melbourne City FC, 34 for Perth Glory) alongside Besart Berisha and Shane Smeltz.

Melbourne City v Melbourne Victory
Saturday, December 23 2023
Kick-off: 7:45pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: 10 Bold & Paramount+

Saturday, 10:30pm (AEDT): Perth Glory v Macarthur FC

Perth Glory are hoping to turn around their fortunes when they host Macarthur FC on Saturday night.

Alen Stajcic’s side were seconds away from not only winning for the first time since Round 3, but ending their winless run away from Western Australia, when they conceded a last ditch equaliser in their 2-2 draw with Newcastle Jets.

It means Perth – who are winless in five – now sit at the bottom of the table, after Western United’s win over Brisbane Roar.

Glory, however, are undefeated against the Bulls when playing in Perth (W1, D2) with each of their two meetings at HBF Park ending in a draw. The most recent of those encounters was a 2-1 win for Perth in April at Macedonia Park.

Their opponents Macarthur will be looking to get back to winning ways after losing for the first time on Monday night against Wellington Phoenix.

Mile Sterjovski’s side are unbeaten in their last three games as the away team in the Isuzu UTE A-League (W2, D1) after losing eight straight away games prior to that term.

Macarthur have already beaten Perth once this season, winning 4-0 in an Australia Cup playoff back in July.

Opta stat: Adam Taggart has scored one goal in each of his last three Isuzu UTE A-League games, his best scoring streak since a four-game stretch from March to October in 2018; he also scored one goal in his only previous game against Macarthur FC in the competition (April 2023).

Perth Glory v Macarthur FC
Saturday, December 23 2023
HBF Park
Kick-off: 10:30pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: 10 Bold & Paramount+