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Australian Football: A-League top-six finally settled

The A-League regular season concluded on Saturday, with the six teams to take part in the post-season action confirmed, including runaway Premiership champions Melbourne City.

City completed a hat-trick of titles with plenty to spare, topping the table by a massive 11-point margin, but they will be only too well aware that means no guarantee of Finals series success.

Last season, they were beaten 2-0 in the Grand Final by Western United, having gone all the way after topping the standings in 2020/21.

Their first Grand Final appearance came 12 months earlier, when they were edged out 1-0 by Sydney FC.

City, 2.10 to win the Grand Final, will be joined by Central Coast Mariners (4.50) in the semi-finals - leaving four sides to battle it out in the two Elimination Finals.

Out-of-form Reds have problems

WhatAdelaide United v Wellington Phoenix
WhereCoopers Stadium, Adelaide
When19:45 AEST, Friday 5th May 2023
How to watchParamount+

Adelaide United finished third in the table and take on Wellington Phoenix in the first round of the Finals, but the hosts have plenty to ponder heading into the winner-takes-all game on Friday.

The Reds are without a win in their last four games and suffered a 4-1 home trashing by the Mariners in their last outing, leaving head coach Carl Veart with much to ponder.

Phoenix were also bang out of form before picking up a 1-0 win at Macarthur FC last time out, although the fact that their opponents finished bottom of the standings means that not too much should be read into the victory.

Adelaide do at least have an edge in the attacking stats heading into the game, having scored 53 goals in 26 matches in the regular season, 14 more than the tally of the Phoenix.

The two sides have almost identical defensive records - having conceded 46 and 45 goals respectively - while their disciplinary records are both far from decent, with the Reds having accumulated 65 yellows and three reds, while the Nix have 53 cautions and four reds on their record.

Adelaide, 7.00 to win the Grand Final, hosted the Nix at Coopers Stadium in mid-March and romped to a 5-1 success and home advantage could just give them the edge this time around as well.

Mariners lie in wait for the winner

Whoever prevails between United and the Phoenix will move on to face the Mariners in the semi-finals, with Nick Montgomery’s men having enjoyed a near-perfect April.

A 1-1 draw with premiers City were their only dropped points, as they saw off Brisbane Roar, Western United, Newcastle Jets and finally Adelaide - with that last victory seeing them claim a valuable third place in the process.

Those four wins saw the Mariners net 14 goals in total, with Brazilian midfielder Marco Tulio scoring four times across that quartet of successes.

Related Australian Football News

Australian Football: Reds and Mariners battle for second

Australian Football: Sydney aiming to book finals spot

Sydney rivals face-off in eliminator

WhatWestern Sydney Wanderers v Sydney FC
WhereCommBank Stadium, Parramatta
When19:45 AEST, Saturday 6th May 2023
How to watchParamount+

The second Elimination Final is a derby showdown between Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney FC, with head coaches Steve Corica and Mark Rudan sparring verbally every time the two sides have met this season.

All three fixtures earlier this term were settled in favour of the away team, with Western Sydney powering to a 4-0 victory at Allianz Stadium in mid-March, while the earlier two meetings had been decided by the only goal of the game.

Western Sydney - 7.50 to be crowned Grand Final winners - go into the crunch clash on the back of two wins, a draw and a defeat in their last four games, although the loss was a narrow 3-2 reverse at the hands of Melbourne City last time out.

They also have a goalscorer in top form in Brandon Borrello, who netted five times in his last four games to take his tally for the regular season to 13.

Sydney FC will also be full of confidence as they are unbeaten in their last five games and they also have a goal poacher in prime form, with veteran English striker Adam Le Fondre having netted in each of his last four games following his return from a troublesome hamstring injury.

However, coach Corica does have a concern over another Englishman, Joe Lolley, who picked up a hamstring injury of his own in the 2-0 win over Newcastle Jets.

Top dogs City await derby victors

Whoever comes out on top at CommBank Stadium moves on to a clash with City, who will be hoping to reach their fourth Grand Final in a row, having been the pick of the crop in the A-League by a distance this term.

Jamie Maclaren led the way with a league-high 24 goals in 26 appearances, but the positive for whichever side they eventually face is that City have not kept a clean sheet in any of their last 16 A-League outings.

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