A-League: Sydney v Adelaide United
Played: 27 - Wins: Sydney 12, Adelaide 11, Draws: 4
Adelaide 2-2 Sydney, January 3, 2014
Past five matches:
The hype and excitement generated from Sydney's 5-0 demolition of Melbourne Victory on Australia Day quickly evaporated after going down to a 10-man Melbourne Heart last weekend. The Sky Blues led 1-0 at half-time but two terrible defensive lapses allowed the A-League's bottom club to snatch an unlikely win. Other results meant Frank Farina's side actually stayed in fifth spot despite their loss, but the chasing pack has closed in with just two points between Sydney and Newcastle Jets back in ninth spot. The club responded to their defensive frailties by signing Socceroos centre-back Sasa Ognenovski this week, with the 34-year-old in line to come straight into the squad to face the Reds.
Adelaide also tasted defeat in their last outing, going down 2-1 to a Costa Rica-inspired Wellington Phoenix at Eden Park, with Carlos Hernandez and Kenny Cunningham grabbing the goals. It was only the Reds' first defeat in their last seven games though, and Josep Gombau's side remain in the top six, right on the heels of Sydney. The club released want-away Steven Lustica and little-used defender Antony Golec this week but did sign former defender Michael Marrone for the next season-and-a-half. Michael Zullo missed the clash with the Phoenix due to injury and is unlikely to be ready to return in this one.
The big issue:
Sydney – One area the Sky Blues really fell down in against the Heart was the speed of their play, especially in transition. Often their play would break down by a player taking too many touches, a loss of control or simply taking too long to move the ball on. It allowed the under-manned Heart to get behind the ball and keep Sydney at bay. If Sydney are to keep their spot in the top six they must find a way to speed up their ball movement in attack otherwise they become too predictable and easy to defend.
Adelaide – With two players walking out the door this week and a few injuries starting to mount up, depth could become a problem for the Reds heading into the business end of the season. Gombau's side have so far coped fairly well when the likes of Carrusca, Jeronimo and Ferreira have been absent at times this season but they will need to keep their best players on the park from now on to keep their finals charge alive.
The game breaker:
Corey Gamiero – The young striker has been a consistent performer since returning from injury just over a month ago and grabbed Sydney's only goal in the defeat to the Heart. Gamiero's consistency and accuracy in his finishing has been the only downside in the start to his Sky Blues career but when he does find those scoring boots he will be a hard player to stop. The youngster, who scored when the two sides met last month, turns 21 on the eve of the match and would love nothing more than to celebrate with another goal and victory in front of his home fans.
Prediction: Sydney 1-1 Adelaide
There's not much between these two sides in their head-to-head record and this clash promises to be no different. With both outfits coming off losses and likely to drop out of the top six with a defeat, it's sure to be a committed and tense affair with so much at stake. The addition of Ognenovski should stiffen up Sydney's vulnerable defence but it might take the Socceroos veteran a little time to get back into the swing of things after almost two months without a game. There should be goals in this one but I expect these two sides to cancel each other out.