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Isuzu UTE A-League: Elimination Finals Preview

The beginning of the Isuzu UTE A-League Finals Series is just around the corner. Catch all the action live and free on 10 and 10 play on demand.

We are only days away from the highly coveted Isuzu UTE A-League Finals Series. A dramatic end to the regular season saw Melbourne City snatch the Premiership thanks to their victory over Wellington Phoenix.

That is now back-to-back premierships for Patrick Kisnorbo’s men as they look forward to a much needed rest week alongside Melbourne Victory who sealed second spot after ending the 2020/21 campaign with the wooden spoon.

Watch Melbourne City vs Wellington Phoenix Highlights

The 2021/2022 A-League Finals Series is comprised of three stages. City and Victory have the weekend off courtesy of finishing in the top two which means that the remaining four teams in the top six will be in action this weekend.

The first elimination final takes us to AAMI Park as John Aloisi’s Western United do battle against Wellington Phoenix - kick off 1945 AEST live and free on 10 and 10 play.

Aloisi has had a standout first season in charge of United, his side have been consistent this whole season with Swiss import Leo Lacroix leading from the back while Aleksander Prijovic has not been shy in front of goal with nine to his name.

BALLARAT, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 05: Leo Lacroix of Western United celebrates his second goal during the A-League Men's match between Western United and Newcastle Jets at Mars Stadium on March 05, 2022, in Ballarat, Australia. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

However, a rocky finish to the season saw them lose out on a spot in the top two and they are winless from their last three matches heading into Saturday’s decider.

Phoenix have once again surpassed expectation as they made the most of another challenging campaign away from home. Ufuk Talay has done a marvellous job at bringing out the best in his players for a second season running with New Zealand youngster Ben Waine providing the goals upfront alongside David Ball who has preserved through injury to stay on the park for Phoenix.

Talay’s men have also had a less than perfect run in with two wins and three defeats in their last five matches. However, their record against Western speaks for itself with six wins, one draw and just one defeat in their eight meetings. It was all smiles for Wellington the last time they met in April as they came out on top 4-1 in Ballarat.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 09: Benjamin Waine of the Phoenix controls the ball during the A-League Men's match between Melbourne City and Wellington Phoenix at AAMI Park, on May 09, 2022, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Here is what 10 Football commentator Simon Hill predicts for Saturday’s clash

Momentum is so important going into finals – which is why it’s difficult to get a read on this particular clash.  Phoenix have won three and lost three of their last six games, while Western have won just twice in the same span of games.

Crucially, during the season, the Phoenix had the wood on Western with three wins (including the FFA Cup), and I have a sneaky feeling the prospect of a home final in Wellington might just drive them on.

Watch Network 10's new Football Show - Round Ball Rules

Of course, it depends upon which version of the ‘Nix turns up.  Will it be the focused team that pushed Melbourne City all the way in the second half of their most recent meeting, or the team that copped two early goals and looked like they were going to be on the end of another walloping?

 Western have suffered with injuries – Alessandro Diamanti in particular – and while they welcome Lacroix back from suspension, Nikolai Topor-Stanley has to be a doubt after limping off against Adelaide.  Others are touch and go.  It’s a tough one to call – but I’m going with the Phoenix.

Elimination Final #2: Adelaide United vs Central Coast Mariners

We now turn our attention to the second elimination final as fourth placed Adelaide United host fifth placed Central Coast Mariners at Coopers Stadium on Sunday – kick off 1605 AEST live and free on BOLD and 10 play.

This match is sure to deliver on the entertainment front as Carl Veart’s Reds take on Nick Montgomery’s Mariners. It is an achievement that both these side have made the top six. Veart has been able to get the best out of his playing roster despite several injuries and departures of key players in Ben Halloran and Stefan Mauk.

The arrival of Japanese striker Hiroshi Ibusuki has added another dimension to their attacking third with Craig Goodwin and speedster Nestory Irankunda delivering on the goals front.

WATCH: Round Ball Rules panel discuss Adelaide’s Nestory Irankunda

It was Irankunda’s pile driver that settled the result in the Reds’ favour the last time these two sides met at Coopers. Could history repeat itself on Sunday?

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 26: Nestory Irankunda of Adelaide United celebrates kicking the winning goal with Mohamed Toure of United coming in from the side during the A-League men's match between Adelaide United and Central Coast Mariners at Coopers Stadium, on February 26, 2022, in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Sarah Reed/Getty Images)

Standing in their way is a perfectly tuned Mariners outfit who are the Isuzu UTE A-League’s form side with five straight wins to close out the campaign. The last three of those victories saw them display incredible defensive discipline as they collected three clean sheets in a row.

The club’s fortunes seem to be turning in the right direction with an incredibly potent attacking third that features Marcos Urena and Jason Cummings – the latter scoring at will with four goals from his last five matches.

Keep reading to see how Simon Hill thinks the match will unfold

Two teams who have won five games in a row, and another impossibly tight game in prospect.

Last time out, the Mariners blew Adelaide away in Gosford – but in part, that was due to the early red card handed out to Joe Gauci.  The previous clash at Coopers is probably a better guide, and in that one, the Mariners led until late on when the Reds produced another one of their famous comebacks to edge it, 2-1.

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 13: Craig Goodwin of Adelaide United leads his team out during the A-League Mens match between Adelaide United and Newcastle Jets at Coopers Stadium, on March 13, 2022, in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

The key battle for me in this one will be Craig Goodwin versus Lewis Miller (assuming Goodwin starts on the left) - Goodwin’s know-how and trickery versus Miller’s athleticism and power.

Two coaches who have done very well to get their teams this far, and it seems a pity one of the form teams has to miss out, but I am going for home advantage to swing it Adelaide’s way – that typically raucous Coopers crowd getting them over the line in extra time...or maybe even on penalties.

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