Your club’s run-in to the Hyundai A-League finals

We’re down to the last 10 rounds of the Hyundai A-League season and it’s all set for an intriguing run to the finals. Even at this late stage the bottom sides can make the six – or at least have a big say in who’ll make the play-offs.

The race for the Premiership, top four, top six and even the wooden spoon is wide open with many different possibilities and permutations.
We take a look at the run home for all 10 clubs and try to predict what could happen over a cracking final third of the campaign. 
Position – 1st
Points – 34
Remaining matches – Melbourne City (away), Brisbane Roar (home), Melbourne Victory (away),Wellington Phoenix (home), Central Coast Mariners (away), Western Sydney Wanderers FC (home), Newcastle Jets (away), Sydney FC (home), Melbourne City (home), Western Sydney Wanderers FC (away)
Despite picking up just two points out of a possible nine since the return from the Asian Cup break, Glory remain in the box seat to finish with the Premiership trophy. They only have to play two sides currently in the top four with their away clash against Melbourne Victory on March 7 looming as a key fixture in the race for top spot.
Influential midfielder Mitch Nichols is expected to return from injury very soon which will be a huge boost to Kenny Lowe’s side. Whether their form is good enough to hold off Victory for top spot is the question, but with half of their games remaining against sides currently outside of the top six, Glory should do enough to at least finish in the top two. 
Position – 2nd
Points – 33
Remaining matches – Brisbane Roar (away), Wellington Phoenix (home), Perth Glory (home), Western Sydney Wanderers FC (away), Adelaide United (away), Central Coast Mariners (home), Wellington Phoenix (away), Newcastle Jets (home), Brisbane Roar (away), Central Coast Mariners (home)
Many experts’ tip for the title, Victory is well-placed for a crack at top spot heading into the final third of the season. With the exception of talented defender Matthieu Delpierre, Kevin Muscat has a full squad to choose from and their attacking arsenal makes them very hard to stop.
But they do have some very tricky fixtures on the way home, with tough away trips against Brisbane Roar (twice), Adelaide United and Wellington Phoenix.
If they can beat the Glory at home in a couple of weeks’ time, you would expect them to go on and claim the Premiership but we suspect the race for the Premiership will go down to the wire. 
Posititon – 3rd
Points – 30
Remaining matches – Western Sydney Wanderers FC (home), Melbourne City (away), Wellington Phoenix (away), Central Coast Mariners (home), Melbourne Victory (home), Newcastle Jets (away), Sydney FC (away), Brisbane Roar (home), Western Sydney Wanderers FC (away), Melbourne City (home)
It’s been a mixed return from the mid-season break for the Reds, following up their 7-0 demolition against Newcastle with a loss to Central Coast and draw with Perth. It’s left Josep Gombau’s side with some catching up to do if they have designs on the Premiership.
Do have a fairly favourable draw, though, with only four matches from their last 10 against sides currently in the top six. Might need seven wins or more to snatch top spot which is not beyond them but they will need to start turning their eye-catching build-up play into more goals to make that happen.
Second or third spot looks best-bet for the Westfield FFA Cup champions.
Position – 4th
Points – 29
Remaining matches – Newcastle Jets (home), Melbourne Victory (away), Adelaide United (home), Perth Glory (away), Brisbane Roar (away), Sydney FC (home), Melbourne Victory (home), Melbourne City (away), Central Coast Mariners (home), Sydney FC (home)
Phoenix face a season-defining three-week period after this weekend, with clashes against the three sides above them on the ladder in as many weeks. They have struggled for goals since returning from the Asian Cup break and as a result have picked up just the one point from their last three games.
They face both Victory and Sydney FC twice on the run home also which could be crucial in the context of the top four run-in. 
One thing working in Ernie Merrick’s side’s favour is four of their last five matches are at home where they are traditionally hard to beat. 
They will be eyeing a top-four finish and a coveted home final in week one of the play-offs.
Position – 5th
Points – 26
Remaining matches – Central Coast Mariners (home), Western Sydney Wanderers FC (away), Newcastle Jets (away), Brisbane Roar (home), Melbourne City (home), Wellington Phoenix (away), Adelaide United (home), Perth Glory (away), Newcastle Jets (away), Wellington Phoenix (away)
After a mid-season slump, the Sky Blues are back in a big way after bringing in some reinforcements following their horror injury toll earlier in the campaign.
They have plundered 11 goals in their last three matches and have the firepower to have a real big say over the last 10 rounds. While you would think they are too far back to challenge for the Premiership trophy, a top four berth – and a home final that comes with it – must be a target for Graham Arnold’s men.
Perhaps working in their favour is they have six of their last 10 away from home, including their last three in a row. They are still unbeaten on the road this season.
They travel to Wellington twice and the results there are likely to be decisive in the Sky Blues’ hopes for a top four finish.
Position – 6th
Points – 21
Remaining matches – Melbourne Victory (home), Perth Glory (away), Western Sydney Wanderers FC (home), Sydney FC (away), Wellington Phoenix (home), Western Sydney Wanderers (home), Melbourne City (away), Central Coast Mariners (home), Adelaide United (away), Melbourne Victory (home), Newcastle Jets (home)
The defending champions are the Hyundai A-League’s big improvers since the mid-season hiatus. Three wins in a row and now with all their big guns – with the exception of leading scorer Henrique – on deck and firing.
Roar has a game in hand on the teams above them, but a top four spot might be difficult. Holding off the challenge of Melbourne City looks their biggest battle and those two sides go head-to-head in a potentially finals defining clash at AAMI Park in Round 23 on March 28.
With seven of their 11 matches on home soil, they have everything in their hands to ensure they don’t give up their title without a huge fight. If they can handle the extra games and travel associated with their participation in the ACL, they should believe they can sneak into sixth spot.
Position – 7th
Points – 20
Remaining matches – Perth Glory (home), Adelaide United (home), Central Coast Mariners (away), Western Sydney Wanderers FC (away), Newcastle Jets (home), Sydney FC (away), Brisbane Roar (home), Western Sydney Wanderers (away), Wellington Phoenix (home), Perth Glory (away), Adelaide United (away)
The hot-and-cold City need to find some consistency if their star-studded squad is to realize their potential and play finals football. A season-ending injury to import Damien Duff is a big blow but City’s run-in is just as tough.
Six of their last nine matches are away from home, with three of those at big gun clubs, Perth Glory, Adelaide United and Sydney FC. While they have the quality and experience in the likes of Robi Koren, Josh Kennedy, Aaron Mooy, Erik Paartalu and Patrick Kisnorbo, what they really need is consistent performances and with that proving hard to come by, John van ‘t Schip’s side might have to settle for a spot just outside the finals.
But it will be a close battle with Brisbane.
Position – 8th
Points – 15
Remaining matches – Sydney FC (away), Newcastle Jets (away), Melbourne City (home), Adelaide United (away), Perth Glory (home), Melbourne Victory (away), Brisbane Roar (away), Western  Sydney Wanderers FC (home), Wellington Phoenix (away), Melbourne Victory (away)
After falling one game short of the grand final last season, it’s been a disappointing campaign for the Mariners and they seem little chance of making the finals even this far out.
Phil Moss’ side have won just three out of 17 games this season and would need a turnaround of epic proportions to sneak into the finals. With only three of their last 10 games at home – and tough away trips to Victory (twice), Sydney FC, Adelaide and Wellington, Mariners will be using the rest of the season to build for Season 2015/16.
Position – 9th
Points – 9
Remaining matches – Wellington Phoenix (away), Central Coast Mariners (home), Sydney FC (home), Melbourne City (away), Western Sydney Wanderers FC (away), Adelaide United (home), Perth Glory (home), Melbourne Victory (away), Sydney FC (home), Brisbane Roar (away)
It’s been a tumultuous season for the Hunter club, who are seemingly playing for pride – and to try and avoid the wooden spoon – over the final 10 rounds.
That said, the pressure is off and they can enjoy playing without huge expectations. Who knows they may just go on a run – football can be a funny game though it would seem unlikely. 
Coach Phil Stubbins is likely to blood youth for the rest of the campaign which makes it hard to gauge just how results will fall. An F3 Derby in round 19 will be one fixture they will be desperate to win while they will look for redemption from the 7-0 drubbing just a few weeks ago when Adelaide United come to town in round 23.
New signings such as Korean Lee Kee-je should enjoy their time at Newcastle and could help the side surprise a few sides. 
An away clash against the Wanderers could also determine which of the two sides may finish with the timber utensil come the end of the season.
Position – 10th
Points – 8
Remaining matches – Adelaide United (away), Sydney FC (home), Brisbane Roar (away), Melbourne City (home), Melbourne Victory (home), Newcastle Jets (home), Brisbane Roar (away), Perth Glory (away), Melbourne City (home), Central Coast Mariners (away), Adelaide United (home), Perth Glory (home)
The Wanderers’ exploits in Asia and then the FIFA Club World Cup means Tony Popovic’s side have two games in hand on most of their rivals. But with just one win for the season so far they’ve surely given themselves too big a mountain to climb to make the finals, though the return of Santalab, Juric and Spiranovic will be a huge boost.
It would take a minor miracle – and some serious capitulation from the likes of Brisbane and City – for the Wanderers to turn things around, but Popovic and his squad remain defiant. Mathematically it’s still possible to make the six. 
They do at least play Roar and City two more times each respectively as well as very winnable games against the Jets and Mariners.
But it’s more likely the ACL champions will provide nuisance value for sides pushing for the top six, and they could also have a say in who wins the Premiership.