HomeBreaking NewsFriends becomes foes in A-League title fight

Friends becomes foes in A-League title fight

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The whole season boils down to 90 minutes on Sunday, with Premiers Sydney FC desperate to steal back the championship crown Melbourne Victory won last year.In a literal Grand Final rematch, Sydney have home advantage – something that Vine aims to capitalise on, ignoring the fact that her direct opponent is among several friends and colleagues at national team level who will feature on both sides in the Grand Final.Watch the world’s best footballers every week with beIN SPORTS on Kayo. LIVE coverage from LaLiga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Serie A, Carabao Cup, EFL & SPFL. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >Vine and Courtney Nevin were both called into the Matildas squad that got knocked out of the Asian Cup in January, and their personal battle could be a defining narrative in Sunday’s clash. “It’s purely business,” adds Victory’s defender Nevin, aiming to shut down one this season’s most exciting talents.“In a game I get so switched on – I’ve come up a lot of friends, but game mode takes over completely,” said Vine.“That includes going in pretty hard if I have to, it’s always a good challenge with Nevin. She’s a really good player and she’s quick. “I’m trying to focus on my own game mainly but there’s little things to keep in the back of your mind like the fact she’s left-footed if we’re in a one-on-one challenge.”Nevin herself is equally ready to meet fire with fire, after Victory shocked first Adelaide and then Melbourne City in coming from a fourth-placed finish – only making the finals on goal difference – to reach the Grand Final.“I won’t ignore her completely, but it is purely business in a game like this,” she said. “You’ve got to go on and do what you have to do for your team. “But yeah, it’s always a good battle with me and Courtney, because she’ll probably be on my side of the pitch. I’m excited for it.”Victory have the memory winning last year’s final at the same venue in the last minute of extra-time, while Sydney are in their fifth consecutive grand final – but have lost the last two.“The way we lost last year is a very big motivation,” admitted Vine. “Even the 2-2 draw we had with Victory this season was a very emotional game.“We want revenge, and we have a team that’s fit and ready for it. Last year a few players were sick, but this year feels like we’re ready.”Victory have to muster one final effort after a Covid-induced schedule of seven games in 23 days to complete the regular season, followed by two pulsating finals.“It has been a pretty tough season for us, you know, with that really bad schedule – but we’ve now knocked out third (Adelaide) and second (Melbourne City), and we’re ready to knock out first.“Sydney are a strong side, so hopefully we can break them down and find those weaknesses during the game. And score a few goals!”A-LEAGUE WOMEN GRAND FINAL PREVIEW Sunday Sydney FC v Melbourne VictoryNetstrata Jubilee StadiumKick-off: 4.05pm AEDTTV: P+, Network 10It doesn’t get bigger than this: the 2021/22 A-League Women Grand Final, set to play out between two great rivals at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Sunday afternoon.Melbourne Victory stormed from a fourth-place finish into the Grand Final – and a familiar foe stands in their path to back-to-back Liberty A-League Championships: the all-conquering Premiers Sydney FC, spurred on by the anguish of last season’s title decider.Just like this weekend’s title decider, Victory approached the 2020/21 Grand Final as underdogs, having finished second behind premiers Sydney in the regular season.Matildas winger Cortnee Vine looms as Sydney’s most destructive attacking weapon. Vine’s output in the Semi-Finals showed just how frightening she can be on her day; coming into the fixture under an injury cloud, Vine was brought off the bench at halftime with her side trailing Melbourne City 1-0. City would add a second to the scoresheet before Vine ran rampant, scoring twice in the 4-2 turnaround.Coming off the right wing, Victory left-back and fellow Matildas rising star Courtney Nevin must be at her best to avoid Vine stealing the show on Sunday afternoon. In the navy blue corner it’s Melina Ayres who will look to be the difference for Victory. Ayres has two goals in two consecutive starts after her long-awaited return from a hamstring injury.Ayres missed almost the entirety of the regular season thanks to the injury, returning for a bench cameo in Victory’s last game of the regular season. But the 22-year-old is back with a bang, scoring against the Reds and City in consecutive Finals wins to help Victory into the Grand Final.A-LEAGUE MENFRIDAY Newcastle Jets v Sydney FCMcDonald Jones StadiumKick-off: 7.45pm AEDTTV: P+Odds: Jets $2.95, Draw $3.30, Sydney $2.35Two in-form sides collide in Newcastle as the Jets welcome the Sky Blues to McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday night.Three consecutive wins and clean sheets in all competitions have Sydney FC back in form ahead of this weekend’s set of fixtures – but the Sky Blues travel to face the Jets after a rampant display against Wellington Phoenix last time out, with four second-half goals punctuating an impressive display.SATURDAYWellington Phoenix v Perth GloryLeichhardt OvalKick-off: 5.05pm AEDTTV: P+Odds: Wellington $2.35, Draw $3.40, Perth $2.90It’s game one in charge of Perth Glory for new head coach Ruben Zadkovich after the sacking of Richard Garcia on Monday morning. Zadkovich takes the reins with Perth sitting at the foot of the A-League Men table. The Glory failed to win in four consecutive home games, culminating in a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Brisbane Roar last weekend which tipped the scales in favour of Garcia’s departure.Saturday afternoon presents Perth the chance to buck the trend against a Phoenix outfit bruised by a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Newcastle Jets. Ufuk Talay’s side struggled in the absence of a number of key players on New Zealand international duty: Oliver Sail, Ben Old, Clayton Lewis, and Ben Waine. But the quartet return to be in the mix to face Perth, with Tim Payne headed the other way for the remainder of New Zealand’s World Cup qualifiers in Qatar.Brisbane Roar v Western UnitedMoreton Daily StadiumKick-off: 5.05pm AEDTTV: P+Odds: Brisbane $2.60, Draw $3.15, Western $2.75Western United will look to draw level on points with Melbourne City at the top of the table with a win over Brisbane Roar on Saturday afternoon. City play Macarthur less than two hours after kick-off in Queensland.Western United goalkeeper Jamie Young and striker Dylan Wenzel-Halls return to face their former club Brisbane Roar at Moreton Daily Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The Western duo were key players at the Roar last season before making the switch; Western are now competing for the Premiers Plate whilst Brisbane are languish near the foot of the table.A win to John Aloisi’s side would end a three-game winless run – the longest of Western’s season to date.Macarthur FC v Melbourne CityCampbelltown StadiumKick-off: 7.45pm AEDTTV: P+, Network 10Odds: Macarthur $3.20, Draw $3.50, City $2.15Melbourne City face Macarthur FC on the road on Saturday afternoon for the first time since their 2-0 Semi-Final win in the 2020/21 campaign. It was the kids getting the job done on that night in June, 2021 with Marco Tilio and Stefan Colakovski scoring in a 2-0 win; City head coach Patrick Kisnorbo will need his fringe players to shine once more with Tilio, Connor Metcalfe, Jamie Maclaren and Mathew Leckie all on Socceroos duty.Macarthur return to action after a 4-2 loss to Central Coast in which head coach Ante Milicic dragged three of his starting players at the 30-minute mark. The triple substitution was the earliest in the history of Australian men’s professional football. Central Coast Mariners v Adelaide UnitedCentral Coast StadiumKick-off: 7.45pm AEDTTV: P+Odds: Mariners $2.35, Draw $3.45, Adelaide $2.90Adelaide’s charge up the A-League Men’s table has stagnated of late after consecutive winless games. Starting the weekend in third spot on the table, the Reds will now look to stay within reach of the top two with a road win over the Mariners.Central Coast forwards Jason Cummings is hitting his stride in the A-League Men with five assists notched in his last five games. His best form has coincided with a four-game unbeaten run for Nick Montgomery’s side, with the Mariners pushing for a spot in the top six once again after a mid-season form slump.SUNDAYMelbourne Victory v Western Sydney WanderersAAMI ParkKick-off: 7.05pm AEDTTV: P+Odds: Victory $1.80, Draw $3.75, Wanderers $4.10Going unbeaten in back-to-back fixtures against Adelaide United last week helped bolster the confidence of a Western Sydney outfit showing signs of improvement under head coach Mark Rudan.The Wanderers have picked up seven points from a possible 12 in their last four fixtures (W2, D1, L1) to sit five points behind sixth-placed Melbourne Victory at the start of the weekend, making this Sunday’s clash between the two sides an important one in the context of the top six race. But Victory will be looking up the table instead of down. After three consecutive draws, head coach Tony Popovic will be urging his side to put the five teams above them in their sights as Victory push to entrench themselves in the title race. The last time these sides met, Western Sydney won 2-0 in mid-February. Victory went unbeaten in the five matches that followed (W2, D3) leading into the weekend.

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