Australia: A-League 2010-11 Preview
After nearly five months off the Hyundai A-League competition for 2010-11 is ready to begin this Thursday with the league’s new boys Melbourne Heart kicking off the action with a home tie against Central Coast Mariners. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks forward to the action Down Under:
Australia’s equivalent of the Old Firm, Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory, are the favourites to win the honours at the start of a much-anticipated new season. Sydney FC won the domestic Double last season after pipping their arch-rivals Melbourne by a point to the Minor Premiership and beating them on penalties in the Championship Grand Final played after the regular season. The Victory will no doubt be looking to gain revenge and will have their chance to put an early marker on the champions when they travel to Sydney Football Stadium with both teams facing off in the opening round on Saturday.
The Victory will also have a firm local rivalry in the form of Melbourne Heart who are the league’s newest expansion team, increasing the number of teams in the league to eleven. This means that there will be one team per matchday who gets a rest whilst the others fight for league points. Each team will play the other ten teams in the league three times during the regular season making a total of thirty games spread over twenty seven weeks with some games being played in midweek.
Melbourne Heart will make their debut in the league on Thursday against the Gold Coast Mariners who hope to improve on their eighth place finish in the 2009-10 regular season. There are many young Australians in the Heart squad who will be ably led on the pitch by wily veteran John Aloisi, who left Sydney FC at the end of last season on a free transfer, and from the bench in the form of former Ajax star Johnny Van’t Schip who is the club’s coach. Friday matches in the A-League sees last year’s wooden spoonists Adelaide United hosting of Newcastle United Jets and Perth Glory – complete with marquee signing Robbie Fowler – facing off against Fowler’s former club North Queensland Fury with whom the player is in a bitter dispute over contractual issues that arose at the end of last season. The final match of the round, to be played on Sunday, is the “M1” derby match between Gold Coast United and the Brisbane Roar who both had contrasting fortunes last season with United reaching the play-offs and the Roar doing anything but as they finished second from bottom in the regular season standings. New Zealand representatives Wellington Phoenix, under the control of national team coach Ricki Herbert and maintaining the services of last season’s top scorer Shane Smeltz, will miss out in the opening round of matches and will face Gold Coast United at home in their opening match on August 13th.
HYUNDAI A-LEAGUE 2010-11 MATCHDAY 1 FIXTURES
05/08/10 Melbourne Heart v Central Coast Mariners
06/08/10 Adelaide United v Newcastle United Jets
06/08/10 Perth Glory v North Queensland Fury
07/08/10 Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory
08/08/10 Gold Coast United v Brisbane Roar
Bye: Wellington Phoenix