WITH three games to go it is still all on the line heading into Round 20 of the National Premier Leagues IGA NSW Mens 1.
After a change at the top last week, this week's fixtures take on even more importance as Blacktown Spartans, Blacktown City and the lurking Bonnyrigg White Eagles fight it out for premiership glory.
MATCH OF THE ROUND
Bonnyrigg White Eagles v Blacktown City, 7.30pm Sunday at Bonnyrigg Sports Centre
This is as big a match as we've seen in the NPL NSW this year, with third placed Bonnyrigg White Eagles hosting second placed Blacktown City.
A win for Bonnyrigg would see them leap-frog Blacktown City into at least second place and if Spartans lose, they would go to the top of the table.
In reverse, if Blacktown City can get three points, they could end Bonnyrigg's premiership challenge if Spartans win as well, as the two would pull five points clear with two games remaining.
It is finely poised between the three best teams in the competition and two of them go head-to-head here.
Blacktown City were upset by Rockdale City Suns last weekend, the surface at Lilys Football Centre actually playing to the advantage of Branko Culina's side, who were probably relieved to not be playing at home.
Bonnyrigg was similarly out-of-form away at APIA-Leichhardt, but they got out of jail with a late Aaron Peterson goal stealing the three points.
It all makes for an intriguing match up on the only Saturday match this weekend.
Round 20 Preview
Sydney Olympic v Manly United, 3pm Sunday at Belmore Sports Ground
Sydney Olympic are right in the thick of the semi finals race after their win at Sutherland last weekend.
Grant Lee's side will also be buoyed by their superb second half performance, against Manly United, in midweek as they advanced to the next round of the Westfield FFA Cup.
The Gaitatzis boys were outstanding while Dmitri Hatzimouratis has also been in good form lately, though Evan Kostopoulos has likely played his last game for the club as he looks to heading to China.
Olympic are in sixth, now level on points with Sutherland.
Manly beat South Coast Wolves last week thanks to a late goal from Jack Green, a win that pushed them five points clear of bottom placed St George.
They actually led Olympic in the cup match thanks to Chris Payne, but couldn't do the job in the second half.
Blacktown Spartans v Marconi Stallions, 3pm Sunday at Blacktown Football Park
Blacktown Spartans are back at the top after their 6-1 hammering of St George. It is only goal difference that separates them and Blacktown City though, so another win is imperative this weekend.
Marconi Stallions are currently heading the "best of the rest", too far behind Olympic and Sutherland to try and claim a place in the semis, but ahead of the cluster of South Coast Wolves, APIA-Leichhardt Tigers and South Coast Wolves.
Spartans attack is fearsome at times and they demonstrated their full powers last week, and they will back themselves to take all three points, but dealing with pressure will be their sternest test, especially once they know the result of the Bonnyrigg White Eagles v Blacktown City match.
Rockdale City Suns v Sutherland Sharks, 3pm Sunday at Ilinden Sports Centre
Another match, another big fixture.
Rockdale City Suns and Sutherland Sharks are locked in a three-way battle for fourth and fifth places, alongside Sydney Olympic.
The surface at Ilinden Sports Centre won't suit either side, as both Rockdale and Sutherland like to pass the ball around.
In this case, it may be whoever scraps the hardest that takes the points.
Paul Reid against Nick Stavroulakis will be a big battle in midfield and whoever can control the tempo of the match the best will put his side into the best position.
Set pieces will be hugely important and it could be a day for the goalkeepers to step up and decide the match if it is a tight one.
Sydney United 58 FC v APIA-Leichhardt Tigers, 3pm Sunday at Sydney United Sports Centre
There isn't much to play for in this one with Sydney United 58 in 10th and APIA-Leichhardt Tigers in ninth.
Both these sides suffered late anguish last week.
United led Marconi Stallions in the local derby at Marconi Stadium, but a late Marco Sama penalty meant that they had to share the points, while APIA-Leichhardt Tigers twice came from behind to level with Bonnyrigg at 2-2, only to be undone by a late set piece header from Aaron Peterson.
APIA-Leichhardt is so hot and cold it is nigh on impossible to predict whether they will show up and be the force that has beaten Spartans and Sutherland and manfully took the game to Bonnyrigg, or the other, far less accomplished version.
United will hope it is the latter, otherwise they will be in for a stern test.
South Coast Wolves v St George, 3pm Sunday at WIN Stadium
For a long while it looked as if this would be a cellar-dweller match, but since the appointment of Nahuel Arrarte, Wolves have climbed up the table.
They could finish as high as seventh which would be a remarkable achievement given their early-season struggles.
For St George, their maiden season in Mens 1 has been a struggle but one that they have take on head-first.
In flashes they have shown their ability to take it to the opposition, but they haven't married that ability with consistency.
A win against the much-improved Wolves would be a welcome morale boost heading into the season's final fortnight.
More information about the competitions can be found at www.nplnsw.com.au