Hyundai A-League diary: December’s must-see matches

December marks the start of Summer and also throws up some cracking match-ups in the Hyundai A-League. Mark these games down in your festive diary as must-see fixtures.

Melbourne City v Brisbane Roar – Round 9, Saturday December 3 at AAMI Park

So much to like about this fixture and plenty of intriguing sub-plots as well. City will be backing up just three days after the Westfield FFA Cup final against a Roar side sure to push them physically over the 90 minutes. Roar got the better of the two sides when they met at Suncorp at the start of November, winning 1-0 thanks to Jamie Maclaren’s early goal. John Aloisi came up with the perfect game-plan to stifle City’s attack, with their boss John van ‘t Schip claiming Roar was negative and scared of his side’s firepower. It all adds up to a combustible and fiery encounter between two of the best performed sides so far this season and two clubs developing quite a tasty little rivalry.

Josh Brillante celebrates with teammates after scoring in Sydney FC's 1-1 draw with Brisbane Roar.

Sydney FC v Melbourne City – Round 10, Friday December 9 at ANZ Stadium

Just over a week after their clash in the Westfield FFA Cup final, these two go into battle again at Sydney’s Olympic stadium. ANZ will be rocking as Timmy Cahill and Bruno Fornaroli come to town for what should be a beauty between two sides near the summit of the Hyundai A-League ladder. The tactical battle between the wily Graham Arnold and City counterpart JVS is just another element to what’s in store in this one. There’s a lot to get excited about in what will be a Harvey Norman Friday Night Football ripper.

Wanderers' Bruno Pinatares clears the ball from Victory's Besart Berisha.

Western Sydney Wanderers v Melbourne Victory – Round 10, Saturday December 10 at ANZ Stadium

Twenty four hours after their rivals face off, Wanderers v Victory meet at ANZ. While both have their own city derby, this is becoming quite a grudge match for these clubs and their supporters. Kevin Muscat’s men got the chocolates 3-0 at Etihad Stadium in Round 6 but the contest was much tighter than the scoreline suggests. Both sides have genuine designs on a title charge in 2017 and this clash would provide the perfect opportunity to lay down a marker as a serious contender for the rest of the campaign. This has all the ingredients to be a beauty – with a just a bit of feeling in it too.

Tim Cahill silenced the Victory crowd with his stunning first-half strike.

Melbourne City v Melbourne Victory – Round 11, Saturday December 17 at AAMI Park

A real pre-Christmas treat for Hyundai A-League fans as Melbourne’s two bitter rivals clash again at AAMI Park. Their first two meetings this season – once in the league and once in the Westfield FFA Cup – were cracking affairs full of drama, controversy, full-blooded challenges and sublime football. With City unbeaten in their last four derbies in all competitions, are we seeing a changing of the guard in Melbourne? Victory will want to show they are still Kings of Melbourne and Victoria, but you can be sure City will be up for the fight. And will we see another Cahill cracker?

Adelaide United players celebrate their equaliser against Brisbane on Friday night.

Adelaide United v Sydney FC – Round 12, Monday December 26 at Coopers Stadium

The reigning champions against the side many believe – at least based on their form so far – could take that mantle this season. All makes for an intriguing clash at Coopers. While the Reds have had a slow start to the season, they often save their best for the Sky Blues. In fact, Sydney has beaten Adelaide in just one of their last 12 clashes in all competitions [including in the Westfield FFA Cup]. But as we’ve seen so far this season, the Sky Blues have made a habit of breaking a few records. Something’s got to give in this Boxing Day blockbuster.

Perth Glory players celebrate one of Andy Keogh's goals against City on Friday night.

Melbourne City v Perth Glory – Round 12, Tuesday December 27 at AAMI Park

Glory handed City their first loss of the season with a shock 3-2 win at AAMI back in round 3. On that night Kenny Lowe’s side had the perfect game-plan. They sat deep, denied City space and time on the ball – often stopping their momentum with physical tackles – and hit on the counter-attack. It was a tactic that caught City by surprise and stifled their normal free-flowing, attacking style. City’s players won’t have forgotten about it and will want to prove they can fight fire-with-fire to go with their sexy football. Can JVS find a way to beat Glory’s defensive set up? 

Mariners players celebrate a goal in their 2-0 win over Perth Glory.

Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne City – Round 13, Saturday December 31 at Central Coast Stadium

The Mariners’ annual NYE clash is always a special occasion and this will be no different as Fornaroli, Cahill, Brattan and co. come to town. What a way to see in 2017! Central Coast has shown so far this season they have been more than competitive in all of their matches so far. A big goal for Paul Okon’s side is to make Gosford their fortress again, and there’s no better way to do that than by claiming the scalp of a side like City. With ex-Mariners Josh Rose, Anthony Caceres and Nick Fitzgerald in the visitors’ squad, there should also be a bit of extra spice in this one.