The Wanderers’ final match of the regular season sees them play Melbourne Heart with a second place finish on the line.
Going into round 27 the Wanderers are holding on to that vital second place on the ladder, even on points with Central Coast Mariners, but far enough ahead on goal difference to control their own destiny.
The Mariners play Brisbane Roar in the final round. It is unknown whether the Roar may rest a few players; making life easier for the Mariners.
The other lurking threats to the Wanderers earning a finals leg up are Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory who play Newcastle Jets and Wellington Phoenix respectively.
If Wanderers or Mariners slip up either side could leap frog into second place on the ladder.
Even though the competition is for second – the Roar sewed up the championship rounds ago – and there are finals to decide the A-League champions, there’s an English Premier League feel to the final day. This time it’s spread over a weekend of compelling viewing.
With so many possible permutations the coaches that keep their side settled will probably see the best results.
In a close league, focus and being able to concentrate on the task is often enough to ensure things go your way.
The Wanderers may be playing lowly Heart but a win is far from assured.
A good example is last week’s game that saw Victory and the Jets finish in a closely fought draw.
Victory never got into the game mentally and as a result looked sluggish, disjointed and rarely had the commitment required to properly pass and move.
They secured a draw but it was not the result they needed and probably one that flattered Victory who looked second best all night.
On top of the parity that has ruled this year’s A-League, the Wanderers go to Melbourne for a fixture that will double as Harry Kewell’s last professional match.
Such a great of the game will no doubt be honoured at the game and his side will want to put in a performance befitting his final match.
Last weekend saw the Wanderers put in a strong shift against this year’s best team – albeit without the presence of their striker, Bershart Berisha.
The team looked lively from the beginning, which meant they contained a strong opposition midfield.
At times the defence was leaky and that allowed the Roar to eventually score off a second chance in the box. Ante Covic was also strong at the back, making some good saves.
Tomi Juric was the man who finished a swift move, showing the Wanderers at their best, to tally the final goal. Many expected the Wanderers to score a few more times, especially on a great chance that Juric pushed wide.
A highlight of last week was the festivities for marquee Shinji Ono’s last regular season home game. He was greeted with confetti at the team announcement and then during the 21st minute – 21 is his jersey number – the crowd held up masks, cheered, fireworks were let off and then everyone bowed.
His confidence and experience will still be vital to the Wanderers, even as his time with the club nears the end.
A draw against the competition leaders is a good result for a Wanderers squad still juggling a tense Asian Champions League group stage.
It is important the men in red and black successfully negotiate a tricky last round this weekend. A week off in the first round of finals would be a huge boost to a Wanderers squad playing at its limits.
Scoring an early goal would be an excellent way to silence the away crowd and put any jittery players at ease.