The pressure is on Adelaide United to collect maximum points against Macarthur FC at Coopers Stadium on Friday night.
The Reds have slipped to sixth on the table after a four-match winless run and having played two games more than the chasing pack, they risk dropping out of finals contention if they fail to get more points on the board.
Despite a largely impressive performance, Adelaide lost 1-0 to Melbourne Victory last weekend, while the Bulls defeated Perth Glory 4-2 with 10 men to move into third place.
Adelaide has had trouble finding the back of the net with consistency all season, but have especially struggled in recent weeks with just one goal from its previous four games.
Carl Vear’s side will also be out for revenge after suffering a 4-1 setback in its previous encounter back in February.
Michael Jakobsen remains on the sidelines with a groin injury, but Carl Veart suggested he may be back next week. Kusini Yengi has also returned to training and could be ready to play in a week or two.
Jacob Tratt misses the clash with a hamstring issue, Mohamed Toure is out after suffering a dislocated shoulder last week and Louis D’Arrigo, Ryan Kitto and Bernardo are ruled out due to COVID-19.
However, Zach Clough returns from injury, while Alexandar Popović and Lachlan Barr should be back once a successful fitness test is completed.
What the experts say
Travis Dodd: Aside from the results the worrying thing about the last three games has been the lack of goals. Carl will need to turn this around quickly to ensure that they club stays within striking distance come finals time. With a number of players out, it gives the young brigade a chance to show their worth at the crunch time of the season.
Robert Cornthwaite: Adelaide are in desperate need of a win and are running out of time having played more games than all the teams below them. The bulls were in a similar spot only a game ago but a win can change things quickly in t he A-League and Adelaide only need to look at their opponents to see how quickly things can change.
Robbie Thomson: With just five and six matches left to play, respectively, and separated by one position and one point on the ladder, both Adelaide and Macarthur are looking over their shoulders at the moment as their finals aspirations hang in the balance. Inconsistency has been a bug bear all season.
One to watch
Travis Dodd: Zach Clough returning from injury will be key for United. With Toure now out with injury the cupboard is bare in the attacking department. Clough, should he play will have to use all of his experience to help the younger players through what appears to be another tough test.
Robert Cornthwaite: Adelaide need to start scoring. At this stage of the season the responsibility falls to anyone who has a chance to find the back of the net. It doesn’t matter who but someone needs to start scoring.
Robbie Thomson: Hiroshi Ibusuki was superb in a losing side last time out against Victory. His influence on the Reds play isn’t limited to the opposition penalty box as he uses his physical presence, vision and wonderful technique to help Adelaide transition quickly from defence to attack.
Travis Dodd: Juande v Davila will be a great battle. Two players with so much experience going head to head. Juande will need to be at his best to keep the electric Davila at bay.
Robert Cornthwaite: Battle of the coaches. Carl has stuck to his guns all season. Same formation with similar players in every position. This could be the right time to spring a surprise but with Covid and injuries it might be a case of just getting the best available players on the park.
Robbie Thomson: I’m not sure it will decide the final outcome, but I’m looking forward to seeing the influence of two brilliant, mercurial left-footers in action. Craig Noone has had another great campaign in a new role as right-wing-back for the Bulls. The veteran is a great example for a young gun like Adelaide’s Lachlan Brook who has talent to burn and will be hoping his luck turns after hitting the post against Victory last time out.
One change you’d like to see
Travis Dodd: Goodwin has been great when dropping in at left back late in games. He always looks to get forward and seems to get more balls in to the box from that position. That could open the door to Irankunda to have a crack from the start.
Robert Cornthwaite: Need to see Michael Jakobsen back as soon as possible if he’s fit.
Robbie Thomson: I’d like to see both sides as close to full strength as possible. The business end of the campaign is coming up quick and these two sides need their best players on the pitch. For Adelaide, that means getting their first choice defenders (and ‘keeper) back in action, after a new-look backline went down versus Victory. For Macarthur, it’s in midfield where the lingering absences of Danny De Silva and Tommy Oar are hardest felt.
Last three meetings
4-1 loss (A)
3-1 win (H)
4-0 loss (A)
Travis Dodd: Adelaide need to be desperate at both ends to keep their finals hopes alive, with the teams below them all having games in hand. With four out of the last five at home they must pick up maximum points with their remaining home games. AUFC 1-0.
Robert Cornthwaite: 1-1.
Robbie Thomson: I expect Adelaide to dominate possession and really try and take the game to Macarthur on home soil. The late goals have dried up for Carl Veart’s side and they need something more than a get out of jail card to show they are worthy finals contenders this term. It needs to be a convincing team performance, otherwise, the individual brilliance of a visiting Uli Davila could once again prove decisive.
Friday, 8 April vs Macarthur FC
Isuzu UTE A-League 2021/22
Kick-off 7.15pm ACST
Venue: Coopers Stadium