Adelaide United will know exactly what it has to do to going into its final clash of the regular season against ladder leader Sydney FC at Coopers Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
After already securing its maiden finals appearance last weekend courtesy of a dominant 3-0 win over Melbourne Victory, the third-place Reds face arguably their toughest test against the competition’s benchmark this season.
Adelaide can finish as high as second with a victory and the chance of potentially hosting the Grand Final if they advanced past the top team in week one of the playoffs.
If United remains in third place they will host an inaugural final against either Melbourne Victory or Perth Glory.
The Sky Blues have sat at the top of the table for the entire campaign and boast the most prolific attack and stingiest defence in the league.
Astonishingly, there has never been a draw in this fixture and Adelaide did prevail in the pair’s most recent meeting 2-0 last year at Marden.
*Kids 12 and under go Free! Redeem a kids ticket online via Ticketek.
With the Reds already guaranteeing their finals berth, Adrian Stenta will not risk Emily Condon or Paige Hayward, who continue to rehab respective hamstring and knee injuries. Nanako Sasaki is out with a one-match suspension due to the accumulation of yellow cards and Shadeene Evans is also unavailable due to being a close contact to a COVID case.
What the expert says
Tara Rushton: The Reds are flying, an inaugural finals berth, goals flying in, goal-scorers in red-hot-form and have been impressive not just in front of goal but at the back too – their defence has been solid in the second-half of the season which has made a huge difference to their run into finals.
Sydney FC are premiers in waiting! It’s must-win and their front 5 have all been contributing in front of goal this season. Cortnee Vine is in goal scoring form, she’s back and if she is fit and available to play for me is the game changer for the Sky Blues.
One to watch
Tara Rushton: Fiona Worts! What a player – 13 goals in 13 games – there is nothing more dangerous than a player in goal-scoring form.
Tara Rushton: Looking forward to Vine v Hodgson and Worts v Rule. How to stop the breakneck pace of Vine will be a challenge but the Reds defence has been rock-solid to close out the regular season.
Looking at Worts v Rule – Rule will have to be up and ready for a busy afternoon at the office – Sydney have displayed a vulnerability in defence in their past few matches and have looked to struggle when there is a lot of movement up-front.
One change you’d like to see
Tara Rushton: For the Reds to play with freedom. Their spot in the finals is locked in, so this is a great opportunity to really fine-tune the game-plan before ‘finals football.’
Last three meetings
2-0 win (H)
2-1 loss (A)
2-0 loss (A)
Tara Rushton: 2-1 Adelaide United win. The Reds are the in-form team in the competition and are on a great run of form heading into finals.
Their movement up front is so dangerous and destined to cause Sydney FC trouble, and their defence – in particular some outstanding goalkeeping from Annalee Grove has been the real difference.
Sunday, 6 March vs Sydney FC
Liberty A-League 2021/22 – Matchweek 14
Kick-off 3.35pm ACDT
Venue: Coopers Stadium
Broadcast: 10 Bold