AUSTRALIA: A-LEAGUE SEASON 2013/2014 PREVIEW

Australia

ADELAIDE UNITED

Predicted position: 9

X-factor: jugadores españoles

Adelaide’s start to the previous season rescued them from dropping out of finals contention, after a horrible dip in form and the parting of ways with coach John Kosmina. Newly appointed Spanish coach Josep Gombau has recruited a couple of his countrymen Cirio and Isaias, whilst Zullo returns to the A-League on loan from FC Utrecht.

Adelaide’s hopes of success in the up coming season will be determined by how their Spanish signings perform. They will need to score plenty of goals, as Adelaide’s defense looks very thin. Standout goalkeeper Galekovic will no doubt do his fair share in thwarting the efforts of the opposition, but he will need greater protection.

BRISBANE ROAR

Predicted position: 3

X-factor: Berisha

Brisbane Roar finished last season strongly with a finals berth and claiming fifth spot on the ladder. This season Brisbane will look to make a better start than the previous year, considering the squad and coach have had a full pre-season together. Berisha’s pre-season form has been promising, suggesting a performance like his fantastic 2011/2012 season.

The midfield will be key to Brisbane’s success in the upcoming season. Former captain Matt McKay returns to the club alongside Liam Miller. The new additions will allow Broich and Brattan to push forward and link with Berisha, who was isolated for much of last year.

CENTRAL COAST MARINERS

Predicted position: 1

X-factor: Flores

Last season’s champions have had to replace the losses of key players in the off-season. The Mariners have managed to recruit well and also retain the services of their manager Graham Arnold. Ex Victory playmaker Flores joins the team with new signings Liam Reddy and former player Matt Simon.

The Central Coast Mariners’ squad is well balanced, as they have outstanding players throughout all their key positions. Siansbury was a standout at the back last season, captain Hutchinson will anchor the midfield allowing Flores and McGlinchey to create opportunities for Simon and Duke.

The only potential weakness for the Mariners is filling the void left by goalkeeper Matt Ryan.

MELBOURNE HEART

Predicted position: 7

X-factor: Kewell

Melbourne Heart will be looking to improve from their dismal finish to last season, where they finished ninth. This season the Heart should be targeting finals football with the signings they have made.

The most high profile addition has been securing the services of Harry Kewell. This match has the potential to be a win-win for both parties. Heart needs a player with his experience and skills whilst Kewell is vying for a World Cup spot.

Patrick Kisnorbo has also been signed to boost the defensive stocks, this will help young goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne. He finished last season in fine form and is showing potential to be a key figure in the upcoming season.

MELBOURNE VICTORY

Predicted position: 4

X-factor: Ange Postecoglou

Melbourne Victory did extremely well last season to finish third in their first season under the stewardship of Ange Postecoglou. This season they will be looking to go further and win the competition.

Ange has stamped his personality on the team and club by assembling a squad full of youth and skill. The loss of creative players Rojas and Flores indicates that Mitch Nicols will play a major part in the final third for the Victory.

Youngsters Nabbout, Geria and Pain should all establish themselves as league regulars alongside the experienced Leijer, Thompson and Miligan. Ange’s team has the ability to dominate possession and play on the counter, making them dangerous and a serious title contender.

NEWCASTLE JETS

Predicted position: 8

X-factor: The Youth

The Jets finished eight last season missing the finals for the third straight year, a bitter pill to swallow for the football proud region. The Jets have one of the strongest membership bases in the league and will be expecting a major improvement from last season.

The squad is full of Australian youth internationals such as Taggart, Hoole, Brillante and Chapman. These youngsters will need time to develop and need to be surrounded by experienced players, which is why the Jets have added Nathan Burns on loan. Burns will be a key figure and should partner marquee striker Heskey up front.

A major concern for the team is the pressure coach Van Egmond is under. If the Jets start the season poorly he could be the first casualty of the season.

PERTH GLORY

Predicted position: 6

X-factor: Shane Smeltz

Coach Alistair Edwards will be expecting big things from his team this season. Perth underwent major changes in playing style when Edwards took over as coach. With a full pre-season to prepare his team, a finals position should be achievable.

Kiwi international Shane Smeltz was extremely quiet by his standards last season. He needs to recapture his prolific goal scoring form if the Glory are to make a finals appearance.

Smeltz will need quality service and support from Zahra and Nagai. Youngster Daniel De Silva who had a breakout tournament for Australia in the U20’s World Cup will join this trio in attack and should make some significant contributions throughout the season

SYDNEY FC

Predicted position: 5

X-factor: Alessandro Del Piero

Sydney FC narrowly missed the finals last year finishing in seventh place. Coach Frank Farina was another appointment made throughout the season. He was able to guide them from the bottom of the table to within a whisker of the finals.

Sydney FC and Farina have added several new faces in the off-season in an attempt to win the title. The major coup was retaining the services of football legend Del Piero. He will line up alongside new recruits Bojic, Jurman, Garcia and Gamerio.

If Sydney FC can deliver on the hype and gel as a team they have the potential to win the title. However Farina will have to deal with some pressing issues such as how Carle and Del Piero will play together, Brett Emerton’s decreasing form and who will lead the attack.

WELLINGTON PHOENIX

Predicted position: 10

X-factor: Paul Ifill

The Phoenix head into the up-coming season with new coach Ernie Merrick at the helm, Merrick rejoins the A-League and brings a wealth of experience to the club.

Merrick will have his work cut out for him in the up-coming season as his squad is largely similar to the one that finished bottom of the league last season. Merrick has to find ways within the team to control possession in the midfield and structure the defense to concede fewer goals. The Phoenix conceded the second highest amount of goals behind Sydney FC last season.

WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS

Predicted position: 2

X-factor: Wanderland/RBB

The Wanderers inaugural season was unexpected as they defied all the odds and finished as Premiers. Western Sydney local Tony Popovic displayed his outstanding coaching ability.

Popovic has retained the services of the majority of his squad, bringing in only a handful of new faces. Brendon Santalab joins the team from China and has had a fantastic pre-season, he has the ability to score goals, make intelligent runs off the ball and close down defenders. He is definitely one to look out for and will cause plenty of headaches for the opposition. Tomi Juric joins the Wanderers from Adelaide United, another player that has had a successful pre-season coinciding with his first Australian cap and goal. Popovic has also added experience to his backline with the signing of utility Dean Heffernan.

This season the Wanderers will look to go one better and add the Championship to their Premiership. The challenge is now playing with the expectations that are placed on the team. Approximately 15,000 memberships have been sold and this should see the “house full” sign go up at Wanderland at every home game. The RBB and Wanderers supporters have breathed life back into the competition, adding colour, noise and intimidating opponents. Wanderland will not be an easy place to travel to and pick up points.

Tactically the Wanderers have strengthened their forward line, as this was a weakness in the previous campaign. Haliti, Juric and Santalab will offer Popovic plenty of options to alter his game plan. The Mariners showed in last season’s grand final that when teams shut down the Wanderers, play with width and push their fullbacks up into the Wanderers defensive third, they will create problems for the Premiers’ ability to get out of trouble and retain possession.