1. Will the Wanderers back up?
For the first time in their short history, Western Sydney go into a match as favourites.
Their determined showing against Brisbane last week, alongside Melbourne Heart’s run of indifferent form, looks have handed the initiative to the Wanderers, still searching for their first home victory.
The win against the champions proved Tony Popovic’s side can compete; they were organised, compact and tactically sound - but now the responsibility to take ownership of the game falls to them.
After two defeats in a row, John Aloisi will be preaching solidity and defensive structure to his team this week; and for the Heart a draw would be a positive result.
Which means if the Wanderers really want that home win, they’re going to have to take the game to their opponents – but is the team mature enough?
2. Will the Mariners strangle Sydney?
Are there two more dissimilar teams in the competition? Graham Arnold’s Mariners are organised, well-drilled, reliable (or boring, if you want to be really harsh) and superstar-free; Ian Crook’s Sydney FC are inconsistent, still searching for the right structure but have been inspired to entertain by their big-name recruits.
Arnold has said he hopes Alessandro Del Piero is fit to play, as everyone wants to see the Italian – but more likely it would fit with the Mariners’ strategy.
Sydney have looked very narrow so far this season as they look to play through ADP and have been fortunate with a number of decisions that have pushed results their way. This week they will find it harder to break through that stubborn Central Coast spine and the jury is out as to whether Sydney actually have a plan B.
The Mariners haven’t been pretty to watch this term but they might just be the team to nullify the Del Piero effect.
3. Will nib Stadium implode?
On the flip side of the Saturday fixtures, are there two more similar teams in the competition than the Glory and the Jets? Big, strong centrebacks, pacy fullbacks, a couple of battlers in midfield with some creativity on the flanks, and attacking units that feature both big target men and strikers who like the ball to feet.
With both teams boasting such strong line-ups, this is arguably the most intriguing clash of the weekend.
Will Heskey/Mehmet get the better of Thwaite and van den Brink/Calvano and Ritter? Will Mitchell and Goodwin/Jamieson and Risdon put the brakes on each other? Will McGarry and Wheelhouse implode if they run into each other?
Both teams are setting out to play entertaining, attacking football and with both in such good form, individual mistakes could be the difference – but who will make the most?
4. Can Brisbane bounce back?
There has been plenty written about the Roar’s loss to Western Sydney, a crisis of confidence the defending champions haven’t seen in some time.
You don’t become a bad team overnight but only time will tell if last week’s result was a sign of deeper issues or just a one-off.
Brisbane will be out to prove it is the latter, so perhaps we should all expect a tails-up performance from Rado Vidosic’s side. Unfortunately for them Adelaide are unlikely to be willing bunnies.
John Kosmina’s side have been hugely impressive so far, even taking recent controversies into account, and they’ll fancy their chances of doing Brisbane some more damage. If the Roar want it too much, will they leave themselves open at the back?
5. Can Victory exploit Phoenix’s travel sickness?
Ricki Herbert has made great strides in combating Wellington’s away-from-home blues in recent seasons but travel remains Phoenix’s biggest nemesis in the A-League.
They looked to be in good form against Adelaide last week, only for some rough justice to hand out a hefty defeat. They’ll want to make amends against Melbourne but it has never really been a happy hunting ground for Herbert’s team.
Ange Postecoglou will be pushing his team to get a result at home and lift themselves off the bottom of the ladder. Victory have shown, in flashes, that they are heading in the right direction, particularly in the final third.
But the defence remains a problem and Phoenix have already proven they have what it takes to hurt their opponents, even on the road. So who will be more settled? The home team still trying to find themselves or the battle-ready travellers?