The Roar’s A-League Men expert tips and predictions: elimination finals


And so the reigning champions claim the Premiers Plate and now line up for consecutive championships. With their win last night, Central Coast is top of the A-League pops for 2023/24, with the significant cherry of a championship win now there for the taking.

Wellington will feel that a grand final day match-up will suit them, but before we get to that stage, four other teams will compete for the opportunity to knock the top two from their perches.

The first of the elimination finals sees the Sky Blues hosting cross-town rivals Macarthur at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night and there is seemingly little in the contest in terms of finding a winner. On Sunday afternoon, the Melbourne Derby will erupt as passionately as ever, when the Victory and City do battle in the second of the elimination contests.

Good luck with your tips for the road and be sure to enter them in the sheet below to have a say in the Roar of the Crowd. The tipping is as tight as a Tupperware seal and all four combatants are in with a shot across the final seven matches of the season.

Here is the way the panel sees all of the finals’ action unfolding on the first weekend. Enjoy the football and be sure to join me for a live blog of both games here on The Roar.

Texi Smith

Sydney, City

Someone will need to explain to me how Sydney FC scored seven against Perth Glory last week when they couldn’t score a single goal against a nine-man Macarthur defence the week before. The finals could have looked so different with third-placed Sydney FC entertaining sixth-placed Macarthur.

This game was destined to happen and it will be a battle royal to kick off the finals series in style. The inclusion of Kealey Adamson in the visitors’ line-up will be a stark reminder of one that got away when he stretches to clear a Joe Lolley shot off the line in the first half, and the longer the game goes on, the more we expect Ulises Davila to conjure up that magic moment.

Charles M’Mombwa has a field day against Joel King and Clayton Lewis dominates in midfield, and a bumper Allianz Stadium crowd starts to feel nervy every time Valere Germain gets near the ball. The game is blown apart with fifteen minutes to go when Rhyan Grant steams into the penalty area to meet a long ball from Luke Brattan, and Filip Kurto can only palm his volley into the path of Jaiden Kucharski for a 1-0 Sky Blues lead.

The gloves are finally off, the Bulls have to pour forward, but that leaves big gaps and Maxi Burgess threads the needle for Robbie Mak to seal the win and set up a semi-final next week back at the same venue.

.@SydneyFC are absolutely ???????????????????????? ????????

Robert Mak scores a brace for the Sky Blues from one of the tightest angles! ????

Catch the action live on 10 Bold & Paramount+

Details: #ALM #SYDvPER

— Isuzu UTE A-League (@aleaguemen) April 28, 2024

It all comes down to this! After sending the whole of the season challenging at the top of the table, Melbourne Victory have to go through the lottery of a stand-alone, winner-takes-all encounter with arch-rivals Melbourne City in a derby thriller.

The lamb on the spit will be weighing heavily as the fans come together for a late afternoon blockbuster at the home of both of these teams.

The Melbourne San Siro is at full capacity as the two Victorian clubs clash, Victory having failed in their late bid to topple Western Sydney after their meek collapse on the weekend, and City having only just scraped back into sixth with a slender win against whipping boys Western United.

Both teams looked well below their best, but they’ve been saving it all for this one and the opening ten minutes is nothing short of breath-taking. Daniel Arzani scores a wonder goal, beating three before chipping the ball audaciously over Jamie Young from 40 yards. You just don’t do that!

The crowd are still pinching themselves when Jimmy Jeggo releases Jamie Maclaren to round Paul Izzo to equalise and we’re not even a third of the way through the first half. Zinedine Machach bulldozes through to tee up Bruni Fornaroli for the second, but the scores are level soon after half-time when Alessandro Lopane smashes home from the edge of the box to bring us level again.

As cool as you like from the A-Leagues’ greatest ever goalscorer ????

Jamie Maclaren nets the opener for @MelbourneCity from a set-piece!

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???? Catch the action on Paramount+ #MCYvWUN #ALM

— Isuzu UTE A-League (@aleaguemen) April 28, 2024

The game is heading to added time with these heavyweight teams punch-drunk and wide open when City complete the job, Mathew Leckie swerving into the box to pick out Leo Natel racing in on the left and he slides home a beautiful shot before racing to the City fans to take the acclaim. Victory still have five minutes of added time to rescue the situation, but the City players are well-versed in game management and the frustration boils over with a flurry of yellow cards in a flashpoint that sees all 22 players embroiled in some Yarra aggro at the death. City have performed the Houdini act that they threatened, and there’s no stopping them now on the way to the championship.

Stuart Thomas

Macarthur, Victory

The closeness of the competition in 2023/24 has me clutching at straws heading into the finals. I know Central Coast and Wellington are the cream of the crop, yet the other four have me confused as to which will hold up best in sudden-death football and when under pressure.

Macarthur can do what they have done all season in shocking the favoured team when they meet Sydney on Saturday night. The class of Ulises Davila and co. up front is true goal-scoring power and the Sky Blues reliance on Joe Lolley could prove problematic if the Bulls restrict his influence. This is not a confident tip but one born in my gut after watching these two teams all season.

The Victory will send City packing in the Sunday twilight, off the back of a Daniel Arzani and Bruno Fornaroli masterclass. City will be looking to send champion striker Jamie Maclaren out on a high this season, yet they simply don’t have the sharpness up front of the other teams in the final and in big games, that counts for everything.

Andrew Prentice

Sydney, Melbourne

Two semi-finals, two derbies. A crazy last round saw goals galore, with only one match in the end having no bearing on finals placings. Sydney FC and Macarthur are first cabs off the semi-final rank, and if the Sky Blues have had a recent bogey team, the Bulls are it. Their last clash was only a fortnight ago when Macarthur recorded a brave short-handed win.

.@mfcbulls and @SydneyFC meet in an Elimination Final on Saturday night ????

????️ Get your tickets here:

— Isuzu UTE A-League (@aleaguemen) May 2, 2024

There’s no reason that couldn’t happen again, except for Macarthur’s tepid display against the Phoenix last week. Meanwhile, Sydney scored for fun against Perth, much like everyone. They won’t waltz through Macarthur’s defence like that, but the confidence that comes in scoring freely can never be underestimated.

Joe Lolley and Robert Mak look back to their best, and the way inside the bullpen might be from out wide. Sydney 2-1; the law of averages says they’re going to beat Macarthur soon, and they have finals pedigree to draw on all over the park.

We head south on Sunday to what in the past would have been an automatic sellout of AAMI Park. I sure hope that happens this time because these two teams almost always deliver. Their respective finishing positions have belied current form.

Who’s cutting onions? ???? @gomvfc’s send-off for Leigh Broxham after his final regular season game was beautiful ????

18 seasons. 385 games. 4 Championships. 3 Premierships. The most appearances in A-Leagues history. ???????????? ????????????????.

Whatever metric you choose to use, Broxy is an…

— Isuzu UTE A-League (@aleaguemen) April 27, 2024

Victory looked like they were playing in a night-club last week, and suddenly objected to the DJ’s musical selection. If it was all a master plan to keep City out of the finals, it backfired. More realistically, it was a spotlight on a very “un-Poppa” issue at the Victory – defensive ill-discipline.

Their arch-rivals meanwhile, have gathered momentum with each passing week. Their win over Western United was the kind of tough result that breeds finals pedigree – not exactly pretty but doggedly determined when the pressure was on. It’s exactly what Victory are missing.

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Add to that the return of Jamie Maclaren to the goal-scoring charts in a season the perennial golden-booter would not rate as stellar. But scoring at the right time is a JMac trait that has bitten Victory in the past. I reckon this will go to extra time, but there’s something about City that their crosstown rivals will ignore at their peril.

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