Isuzu UTE A-League R12 Preview: City boosted with return of star attacker – ‘It will be nice to have him around’

The A-Leagues will host its first ever Unite Round this weekend, with every team – men’s and women’s – playing a special round across Sydney.

Unite Round in the Isuzu UTE A-League is upon us! Ahead of the action getting underway in Sydney, takes a closer look at all six matches…

A-Leagues’ Unite Round is THIS WEEKEND in Sydney: Here’s everything you need to know


Friday, 5:30pm (AEDT): Macarthur FC v Western United

CommBank Stadium plays host to the first Isuzu UTE A-League game of Unite Round as Macarthur FC take on Western United.

After losing three in a row, Mile Sterjovski’s Bulls have steadied the ship, securing back-to-back 1-1 draws with Newcastle Jets and Adelaide United respectively.

Opting to bring their Round 13 fixture against the Reds forward, Macarthur juggled two games in the space of four days ahead of Unite Round and Sterjovski will have been impressed with the fighting spirit shown in both contests.

Valère Germain’s 99th-minute penalty rescued a point for his side against Newcastle in what was a much-improved performance before the French striker struck again, this time at Coopers Stadium on Monday night, to ensure the Bulls came from a goal down to gain a point for the second game in a row.

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Macarthur have a good record against Western, having lost only one of their last seven Isuzu UTE A-League games against them (W3, D3) though neither team has scored more than two goals in a game across that period.

As for Western United, defeat in Round 11 means John Aloisi’s side now have more defeats than they do goals scored next to their name this season after going down 2-1 to Melbourne City.

Aloisi said their latest loss was a reflection of their season and it’s hard to disagree as the same problem reared its head once again: Western United are creating chances but they’re just not finishing them.

However, he will take confidence from the fact his team are playing better than their results suggest and did indeed give the reigning premiers a run for their money in Round 11, where they were undone by two wonder goals from Melbourne City.

Opta stat: Macarthur FC are undefeated against Western United in New South Wales in the Isuzu UTE A-League (W3, D2), including a 1-0 win in their most recent encounter which was the first time they’d kept a clean sheet against Western United.

Macarthur FC v Western United
Friday, January 12 2024
CommBank Stadium
Kick-off: 5.30pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+

Friday, 8:15pm (AEDT): Melbourne City v Western Sydney Wanderers

Following on from Macarthur FC v Western United is the mouth-watering clash between Melbourne City and the Wanderers, again at CommBank Stadium.

City were forced to do it the hard way in Round 11, coming from behind to defeat Western United 2-1 – a result which takes their unbeaten run to eight matches in all competitions.

Furthermore, three-time reigning premiers City are now well and truly in the mix at the pointy end of the ladder, occupying fourth place and are now just five points off top spot, a dramatic improvement following their early season form.

City are also undefeated in their last eight Isuzu UTE A-League games against their opponents this weekend in Western Sydney (W5 D3) but have kept only one clean sheet across that period.

City are set to welcome back Andrew Nabbout, after making an incredible return from an Achilles injury suffered in September, which at the time was diagnosed as potentially a season ending blow.

“We still have to train this morning, but he would have completed two weeks with the group and pulling up pretty well. It will be nice to have him around,” City head coach Aurelio Vidmar said.

“He is physically in pretty good shape, just obviously lack of game time so he should easily do 30 minutes, so we have to see how the game pans out and if there’s an opportunity to chuck him on, we can do that.”

His return comes at an ideal time, after Marin Jakolis sustained a hamstring injury in the win over Western, sidelining him for “around the four week mark”, while Mathew Leckie is still working his way back from a torn hamstring.

As for Western Sydney, a 1-0 home loss to Central Coast Mariners means Marko Rudan’s side head into the ‘away’ game at their own stadium having lost three of their last five matches.

To make matters worse for the Wanderers, they’ll now be without second-choice goalkeeper Jack Gibson, who suffered a knee injury in the warm-up before the game.

Gibson was replaced in the starting line-up by third-choice goalkeeper Daniel Margush, who will deputise in goal given first-choice shot-stopper Lawrence Thomas is away on Socceroos duty at the Asian Cup.

Furthermore, Rudan will now also be sweating over the fitness of key midfielder Jorrit Hendrix, who was substituted in the 41st minute of their home defeat to the Mariners with what looked to be a groin complaint.

Rudan – who penned a new three year deal during the week – spoke about the threat City pose to his side, particularly given the form they are in heading into the contest.

“They’re (City) slow starters, they have been last year, the year before that as well, so that doesn’t surprise me,” he said.

“But this time of the year, is when they start to get their straps, they’ve got quality players. There’s no doubt about that and four of the foreigners this year all got offered to me in the off-season, but we just couldn’t do it for different reasons.

“They’re a quality side. We know what their strengths are, but our focus is on us, we’re at home, and, we look at at this particular challenge as one that we are embracing greatly.”

That loss to the Mariners aside, Western Sydney’s home record has been good this season with four wins, two losses and a draw coming at CommBank Stadium and Rudan will hope to get back on track when City visit on Friday evening.

Avoiding defeat will ensure they don’t lose back-to-back games at CommBank Stadium in the Isuzu UTE A-League for the first time since February 2022.

Opta stat: Marko Rudan has won only one of his last nine Isuzu UTE A-League matches as manager against Melbourne City FC (D1 L7) – a 2-1 victory in April 2021 as Western United coach; his team is winless in the three meetings since then (D1 L2), despite leading at halftime on the day in each of the last two games in that span.

Melbourne City v Western Sydney Wanderers
Friday, January 12 2024
CommBank Stadium
Kick-off: 8:15pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+

Saturday, 5:15pm (AEDT): Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory

Two of the Isuzu UTE A-League’s most in-form teams meet at Allianz Stadium on Saturday evening, when Central Coast Mariners take on Melbourne Victory.

Central Coast go in undefeated in their last seven games (nine in all competitions), including an impressive 1-0 win over Western Sydney Wanderers last week which took the team into fifth place on the standings and right in the mix for a top two spot.

For the Mariners, however, life without Marco Tulio begins this weekend, after the Brazilian attacker departed the club for Japanese top-flight side Kyoto Sanga.

It opens the door for the likes of Christian Theoharous, Miguel Di Pizio or Jing Reec to come into the XI and put their best foot forward to replace the star striker.

Meanwhile, Victory are still undefeated after 11 games this season and sit top of the ladder going into Unite Round.

Tony Popovic’s side had to dig deep to come away with a dramatic 3-2 win over Perth Glory, coming away with all three points thanks to Ben Folami’s 96th-minute winner.

The two sides played out a dramatic 2-2 draw already this season in Gosford, with Angel Torres’ second-half penalty ensuring the spoils were shared.

Opta stat: Melbourne Victory have scored at least one goal in each of their last 26 Isuzu UTE A-League games against the Central Coast Mariners (W16 D7 L3) and have lost only one of their last seven games against them in the competition (W2 D4).

Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory
Saturday, January 13 2024
Allianz Stadium
Kick-off: 5:15pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: 10 Bold & Paramount+

Saturday, 8pm (AEDT): Adelaide United v Sydney FC

The action continues at Allianz Stadium with a Saturday night blockbuster between Adelaide United and Sydney FC.

It will be Adelaide’s third game in nine days when they take on the Sky Blues, having played Wellington Phoenix last Thursday and Macarthur FC on Monday night, with both contests ending in draws at home.

It’s left Adelaide outside the top six and with only two wins in their last 10 games going into the clash against Sydney who are currently back in form.

The Sky Blues made it three straight wins with a 2-1 win over Brisbane Roar last Saturday, taking Ufuk Talay’s side right back into the hunt for a top six spot.

Sydney already made light work of the Reds once this season, with a 5-1 demolishing in Talay’s first game in charge back in November and have only lost one of their last eight Isuzu UTE A-League games against Adelaide (W4, D3).

This will also be Sydney FC’s 500th fixture in the Isuzu UTE A-League, making them the second team to reach the milestone after Adelaide did so three weeks ago; though, Sydney FC’s 232 wins in the history of the competition are more than any other side.

However, the Sky Blues will be without a host of key players including Jack Rodwell (calf), Robert Mak (groin) and Joel King (toe), but midfield duo Corey Hollman (hip) and Anthony Caceres (ankle) are both available for selection.

Mak’s injury could open the door for former Reds youngster Nathan Amanatidis to make his first start since making the move from Adelaide in the off-season.

Opta stat: Adelaide United have lost their last three Isuzu UTE A-League games outside South Australia, failing to score a goal in each of their last two; the last time they lost more consecutive games outside their home state was a six-game stretch from April to November in 2015.

Adelaide United v Sydney FC
Saturday, January 13 2024
Allianz Stadium
Kick-off: 8pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: 10 Bold & Paramount+

Sunday, 7:45pm (AEDT): Brisbane Roar v Newcastle Jets

Ben Cahn will look for his first win as Brisbane Roar boss when his charges take on Newcastle Jets on Sunday.

Brisbane fell to a 2-1 defeat against Sydney FC last Saturday, but were perhaps unlucky not to get more from the contest after a spirited second-half showing at Suncorp Stadium.

Roar have now lost their last four matches, conceding an average of 3.8 goals per
game across that term.

A fifth straight defeat would equal the Roar’s longest ever losing streak in the competition (L5 in November-December 2018, L5 in December 2011).

Meanwhile, Newcastle missed a great chance to climb into the top six, after conceding a late equaliser in their 1-1 draw with Macarthur FC last week.

The Jets have shown plenty of spirit throughout this season, but have coughed up nine points from winning positions.

They should regain leading goalscorer Apostolos Stamatelopoulos after the striker served a one-game ban due to a red card in their 2-0 win over Western United a fortnight ago.

Opta stat: Newcastle Jets have won only two of their last 11 Isuzu UTE A-League games away from McDonald Jones Stadium (D3 L6); though, they have scored at least one goal in each of their last seven such fixtures.

Brisbane Roar v Newcastle Jets
Sunday, January 14 2024
Allianz Stadium
Kick-off: 7:45pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+

Sunday, 7:45pm (AEDT): Perth Glory v Wellington Phoenix

The Distance Derby comes to Western Sydney, as Perth Glory take on Wellington Phoenix to wrap up Unite Round on Sunday night.

It’s been a contrasting season for the two sides, with Glory sitting second-last on the table, while Wellington are in second place going into the weekend, only surrendering top spot to Melbourne Victory last week.

If Perth are to get back to winning ways, they will need to end an over year-long wait for a win outside of Western Australia, with their last win on the road coming in October 2022.

Glory are set to be without Mark Beevers after he sustained an injury in training, but should regain Aleksandar Susnjar from suspension.

In positive news for Perth, star striker Adam Taggart comes into the contest in red-hot form having at least one goal contribution in his last six games (five goals, one assist). The one game he didn’t score in this stretch, was the one game he tallied said assist in their 3-2 win over Macarthur FC.

Meanwhile, Wellington are looking to end their three game road trip on a high after a loss against Sydney FC, and draw with Adelaide United in their last two matches.

The Phoenix are set to be without Oskar Zawada again as he recovers from a thigh injury, but Kosta Barbarouses has stepped in and filled the gap in attack brilliantly, scoring six goals in his last four matches.

Wellington are unbeaten in their last eight Isuzu UTE A-League games against Glory (W5
D3) including a 2-1 win in their most recent contest.

Opta stat: Perth Glory are three shy of their 700th goal scored in the A-League Men; though, the last time they scored three or more goals in a game outside Western Australia was in a 3-0 win against the Melbourne Victory in December 2021.

Perth Glory v Wellington Phoenix
Sunday, January 14 2024
CommBank Stadium
Kick-off: 7:45pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+