After a busy off-season filled with interesting player movements and signings, the 2018-19 Hyundai A-League finally gets underway this weekend! The season is set to be an exciting one and one of the most even contests we have seen in some time with up to five clubs with a real shot at the title.
Week 1 gets underway on Thursday night with Adelaide United facing off against Sydney FC. We preview the key games in the opening weekend of the season and give our betting tips here.
Sydney FC have been the benchmark in the Hyundai A-League over the past few years and althoguh they couldn’t capture their second straight championship last season, they will enter the 2018-19 season as the favourites to win both the title and the championship. Sydney will run back largely the same core as the one that helped them finish on top of the table last season minus the key exclusion of their coach Graham Arnold, who has moved on to coach the Socceroos.
Adelaide United lost a few key players in Tarek Elrich and Jordan O’Doherty to the Wanderers in the off-season but gained some valuable experience in the likes of Craig Goodwin and Ben Halloran. Adelaide United start as $11 underdogs to win their second championship and will be looking to make an early statement at home against Sydney.
Opening week on the road means that there’s some great value on offer for Sydney FC this weekend. They have brought back the same core that has made them so successful over the past few years and because of that it’s hard to bet against them here. Maybe if they had have won the title last season they might have come into this year a little underdone, but after letting the championship slip from their grasp they should be fired up in 2018-19.
A massive Melbourne Derby headlines Week 1 in the A-League on Saturday night as the Victory look to get their championship defence off to a winning start. Melbourne Victory recruited the most high-profile player of the off-season with their signing of Japanese national star Keisuke Honda. Honda has played at some of the biggest clubs in the world in CSKA Moscow and AC Milan and instantly becomes one of the best midfielders in the A-League.
Not to be outdone by their cross-town rivals, Melbourne City have also been active in the off-season. They solidified their number one jersey with the signing of former Socceroos goalkeeper Mark Birighitti and added depth their midfield by adding Riley McGree from Newcastle and former player Anthony Caceras who returns from a loan stint.
Tough game to call here, Melbourne derbies are always extremely heated and incredibly tough to call. In 26 Melbourne derbies, the currently tally stands at 12 wins to the Victory and 9 to City with five draws. Melbourne Victory should have a slight advantage in the crowd here but with these teams looking so evenly matched and neither wanting to give an inch in Week 1, we think the draw is great value.
Regardless of the major signings made by some of the bigger A-League clubs this off-season, the biggest story of the year so far has been the Central Coast Mariners potential recruitment of the fastest man alive, Usain Bolt. The 100m world record holder performed well in the Mariners practice games and is still hunting an A-League contract but looks likely to secure one after a two-goal performance in the Mariners pre-season game against Macarthur South West United
Brisbane were also active in the off-season, bringing in a new forward in Adam Taggert from Perth along with Stefan Mauk who should add valuable depth in the midfield. Brisbane will have top four hopes this season and but to achieve that goal they’ll need to find that home field advantage that made them dominant from 2011-2014 and helped them secure three championships.
It’s unlikely that the hype around Usain Bolt will be able to bring the Mariners out of the bottom half of the table this season. However, they were able to secure the signing of talented Melbourne City forward/midfielder Ross McCormack, who should make them more competitive week to week. Brisbane look to have more talent heading into the season and the home field advantage should play a role here.
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