A-League 2014/15: Round one preview

After a six month break which, for many, felt like an eternity, the 10th instalment of the A-League is finally upon us. And if the hype is anything to go by, round one of the competition looks set to be a record-breaker.

Club membership sales reached new milestones over the off-season. Increasing interest in the game following the Socceroos' valiant World Cup performance, and the success of previous seasons, will hopefully be reflected in large crowds on the weekend.

While stars Alessandro Del Piero, Shinji Ono and Emile Heskey have long gone, the league itself is not bereft of quality. Summer signings Mathieu Delpierre, Damien Duff and Andy Keogh - to name a few - will be hoping to kick off their stints Down Under in the best possible fashion.

Blockbuster curtain-raiser

The first fixture of the new season will see Melbourne Victory take on last season's runners-up, Western Sydney Wanderers.

Following a shock early exit from the FFA Cup, the Wanderers have seemingly returned to their best, recently defeating FC Seoul 2-0 on aggregate to progress to the final of the AFC Champions League. Coach Tony Popovic, however, will be unable to rely on his usual solid defensive set-up with Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Socceroos duty) and Matthew Spiranovic (injury) set to miss the fixture. Further upfield, Tomi Juric is also out of contention after suffering a groin injury.

Melbourne Victory, though, have been in imperious form. A successful pre-season run saw them win nine of their 10 matches, including a 6-0 win over Tuggeranong to progress to the FFA Cup quarter-final. By default, a side boasting the likes of Matthieu Delpierre, Carl Valeri, and Besart Berisha, among others, is a title-winning formula, and a solid start will be expected.

Melbourne Victory v Western Sydney Wanderers at Etihad Stadium. Kick-off Friday, 7.40pm (AEDT)

Brisbane looking formidable

Speaking of imperious form, Brisbane Roar will be looking for a win against Adelaide United to kick-off their title defence after their ruthless form last season saw them pick up their second A-League title in three years. They will, however, be without Berisha, who was integral to their championship triumph.

Meanwhile Josep Gombau's men will look to impress following a stellar end to their season in which they showcased glimpses of their potential.

Brisbane Roar v Adelaide United at Suncorp Stadium. Kick-off Sunday, 4pm (5pm AEDT)

Fuel-less Jets

The same cannot be said for the Newcastle Jets, whose off-field problems could be detrimental for not only their F3 derby clash against the Central Coast Mariners, but also the season ahead.

Despite signing Marcos Flores, who is still far from peak fitness, and Zenon Caravella their midfield looks weak and against a Mariners outfit known for their high pressure defending, could struggle to make much of an impact.

The Mariners aren't in much better shape, however, and the summer departure of Michael McGlinchey and Bernie Ibini doesn't bode well. They do have a knack of out-performing expectations and a win could do their confidence the world of good.

Central Coast Mariners v Newcastle Jets at Central Coast Stadium. Kick-off Saturday, 5pm (AEST)

Clash of the glamour clubs

Sydney FC and Melbourne City will do battle at the Allianz Stadium on Saturday in a clash which will see both clubs showcasing their glamour imports.

A summer which has seen impressive marquee transfers and a complete club overhaul has resurrected hope that City, formerly Heart, might finally challenge for some silverware.

Superstar David Villa has looked in good nick following his arrival in Australia, while Damien Duff and Robert Koren will be expected to lead the way should the Spaniard be restricted to a bit part in the opening round.

For Sydney, the likes of Bernie Ibini, Marc Janko, Ali Abbas, to name a few, will be away on national duty and although the Sky Blues are the favourites for the points they face a tough task in their first match.

Sydney v Melbourne City at Allianz Stadium. Kick-off Saturday, 7.30pm (AEDT)

Dark horses

Perth CEO Jason Brewer has spoken of the need to restore the club to the glory days of old and if their transfers are anything to go by that might just be the case.

Despite the departure of striker, Shane Smeltz, coach Kenny Lowe has done well to mend last season's problems up front, bringing in the likes of Andy Keogh, Youssouf Hersi, Ruben Zadkovich and Mitch Nichols. A winning start would be the perfect platform to launch a successful season.

Their opponents, Wellington Phoenix, enjoyed a stellar pre-season with a win over Premier League side West Ham before narrowly losing to Newcastle United. Ernie Merrick will be hoping to build on from their good form at the back end of last season.

Wellington Phoenix v Perth Glory at Westpac Stadium. Kick-off Sunday, 5pm (3pm AEDT)

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