The Palmerbet Sports Team analyse two face-melting A-League semi-final showdowns, with Newcastle Jets hosting Melbourne City on Friday and table-topping Sydney FC squaring off against last year’s grand final opponents Melbourne Victory on Saturday.
History: Played 24: Melbourne City 11 V Newcastle 9 (4 Draws).
Last meeting: April 1, 2018: Melbourne City 3 d Newcastle 0 at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Final Thoughts: Melbourne City advanced to a semi-final showdown with the Newcastle Jets via a 2-0 elimination final triumph over Brisbane last Friday. A 59th-minute goal from Stefan Mauk put City in front, before Nick Fitzgerald’s stoppage time effort sealed the deal.
The second-placed Jets have been lying in wait for this clash, their first finals match in eight years. After a concerning three-match losing streak (including a 3-0 home loss to Melbourne City) during the latter rounds, the Jets returned to form with an 8-2 demolition of Central Coast in their final regular season assignment.
Riley McGree bagged a hat-trick and Roy O’Donovan scored two goals in the rout of the Mariners, which will have City’s defence on high alert.
Melbourne City are unbeaten in their last four against Newcastle and have won their last two at McDonald Jones Stadium. Meanwhile, the clubs’ last 11 clashes have produced totals of three goals or more.
City will take plenty of confidence from their twin victories in Newcastle this season – a 2-1 success in Round 9 and that 3-0 drubbing in Round 25. Those results, combined with Melbourne City’s finals experience and the Jets’ lack of it, suggest the Newcastle fairytale is set to meet an agonising end on Friday night.
History: Played 42: Sydney 14 V Melbourne Victory 12 (16 Draws).
Last meeting: April 13, 2018: Sydney 1 d Melbourne Victory 0 at Allianz Stadium.
Final Thoughts: Last season’s A-League grand final combatants square off for the second spot in this year’s decider.
Melbourne Victory qualified for the semis courtesy of a gripping 2-1 defeat of Adelaide last Sunday, overcoming a 1-0 deficit to level through Leroy George in the 63rd minute before Besart Berisha grabbed the match-winner in the 89th.
It continued a strong run of form for the Victory, who also won five of their last seven regular-season games.
Sydney FC coasted to top spot on the ladder 14 points clear of the pack, putting a patchy run of form in the first half of March behind them with four straight wins to finish off the regular season. They have lost just once at home all season.
Sydney FC are on a seven-game winning streak against the Victory, including last season’s epic grand final and all three encounters during the 2017-18 regular season – the last of which was a 1-0 result at Allianz in the last round.
The Victory boast the game-breakers capable of springing a boilover, but big-match hardened Sydney FC should be too clinical to let their dominant campaign go to waste one game short of the big one.