It is Round 11 of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Competition, and the battle for the premiership is heating up.
Blacktown City holds top spot after leapfrogging Rockdale last week and will be out to stretch their advantage at the league summit.
Rockdale only trail Blacktown on goal difference, while third-placed Sydney United 58 are only a point back, so there very well could be plenty of movement on the ladder going into the halfway point of the season.
Manly United will kick off this week’s matches on Friday night against Marconi Stallions.
Only one game will take place on Saturday, with APIA Leichhardt hosting Sydney United 58.
The weekend culminates with four huge fixtures on Sunday, starting with Wollongong against Sutherland, Rockdale playing host to Sydney FC and Northbridge Bulls taking on the visiting Mt Druitt Town Rangers.
Sydney Olympic will take on Blacktown City in Sunday’s late match.
Remember, if you can’t make it to the game, all the action can be seen on NPL.TV.
Manly United v Marconi Stallions, 7pm Friday at Cromer Park
Manly United will be desperate to end their slide down the competition ladder when they host Marconi Stallions on Friday.
After an unbeaten run to start the campaign, Manly United have been given a reality check in recent weeks with three losses in their past four games.
A 5-0 thrashing last week against Sydney United 58 was the lowest point in the season so far for the Adam Griffiths coached side, and they will be fighting to keep their season alive and with that a final series finish.
The responsibility will be on the shoulder of veteran players such as Sam Gallagher and Kieran Paull to help get the defence back in order ahead of this match.
We keep saying this but one of Manly’s high points this year has been that of the recruitment of Japanese import Seiya Kambayashi. He will be one to watch out for as will the NPL experience of Dejan Pandurevic.
They go up against a Marconi team that is without a win in five weeks and have lost their past two matches.
The Stallions were outmuscled 4-2 by Blacktown City in Round 10 and are in big need of a confidence boost.
Look to star players such as Mitch Mallia, Marko Jesic and Anthony Frangie to give the side a strong attacking presence which is very much needed.
Stallions keeper Nenad Vekic has done his best in keeping things at bay but he is hoping his attackers will give him some much needed rest bite.
Both sides have had their struggles in recent weeks but feature strong squads who are tough to beat on their day.
This should be a tough contest for both clubs.
APIA Leichhardt v Sydney United 58, 5.15pm Saturday at Lambert Park
APIA Leichhardt will be fighting to keep their dream winning run alive when they take on Sydney United 58 at Lambert Park on Saturday.
APIA has won three straight in the league since Paul Dee has come on board and had five consecutive wins in all competitions, marking a major turnaround from their early-season trouble.
A dramatic injury-time winner thanks to skipper Sean Symons helped the Inner West outfit snatch a 1-0 win on the road against Northbridge Bulls last round.
It was the sort of result which demonstrates how the tide has turned for the Leichhardt based outfit and, if they can continue this turnaround in form, should be in the mix for finals football.
Peter Kekeris made the move to APIA from Inner West rivals Sydney Olympic last week and made an immediate impact for his new team, creating the match-winner against Northbridge with a sensational solo run down the wing.
The injection of attacking flair from new signings Kekeris could be the spark APIA need, a player that will certainly benefit from the likes of youthful stars Mathieu Cordier and Will Mutch.
Dee will have to do without suspended veteran central defender Josh Symons for this match with Themba Muata-Marlow, the man most likely to fill the void.
There may also be question marks around the fitness of striker Blake Powell who came off injured last week.
Looking to stop them will be a Sydney United 58 side riding high after a 5-0 domination of Manly in round 10.
It was a sensation return to form for the Tomi Vidovic coached side, who had not won in four matches and had failed to find the back of the net in their past three.
Patrick Antelmi roared back into top scoring touch with a hattrick, while Glen Trifiro and Mat Sim also found themselves on the scoresheet.
Antelmi is one of the league’s most dangerous strikers and offers United 58 an attacking threat that will challenge even the best defences with APIA’s lionhearted stopper Paul Galimi set to tangle with one of the competition’s deadliest marksman. What a battle this will be.
Former APIA striker Chris Payne returns from suspension and would love nothing more than to rain on his ex-Club’s parade with a goal or two.
This clash has traditionally been a blockbuster fixture, and this time is no different.
It is one you will not want to miss and is the only match scheduled for Saturday, set your alarms to this or make your way down to Lambert to witness a humdinger of a match.
Wollongong Wolves v Sutherland Sharks, 2.30pm Sunday at Albert Butler Memorial Park
Back-to-back wins will be on the agenda for Wollongong Wolves this Sunday when they host rivals Sutherland Sharks at Albert Butler Memorial Park on Sunday.
The Wolves secured a big 5-3 win against Sydney FC last round, which is sure to be a big morale booster for the struggling South Coast outfit.
Marcus Beattie was the primary dangerman scoring two goals in the win, while the club’s young gun Nav Darjani scored a goal and earned himself a spot in the team of the week after a stellar performance. It was a game that unearthed Darjani to the NPL NSW Men’s public as we are sure to see more of this young gun in action.
Coach Luke Wilkshire will be looking for a similar display this week from his team against a Sutherland team capable of testing the toughest opposition.
The Sharks also suffered defeat in round ten as Sydney Olympic snatched a 3-2 victory.
James Andrew has been in incredible scoring touch this season with eight goals to lead the Golden boot standings after ten weeks.
Anthony Bouzanis has been a consistent presence in between the sticks for Sutherland this season and will need a big game if the Sharks are to win on Sunday.
The return of the suspended Chris Lindsay will certainly boost the Sharks’ defensive stocks.
This is a very evenly matched clash with both the Wolves and Sharks capable of a match-winning performance on their day.
It’s a match that could go either way.
Rockdale Ilinden FC v Sydney FC, 3pm Sunday at Rockdale Ilinden Sports Centre
Rockdale Ilinden will be out to reclaim their spot on top of the ladder with a win against Sydney FC on Sunday at Ilinden Sports Centre.
A 1-1 draw against Mt Druitt allowed Blacktown to first place on the ladder, and Rockdale will know any further slip-ups won’t go unpunished.
Tomoki Wada found the back of the net in Round ten, but Ilinden could not take the full three points after they conceded late on.
It was the second straight draw for the Steven Zoric coached side, who will set out to make a big statement against a struggling Sydney FC.
Brayden Sorge is one player whose contributions are often overlooked; however, the right back’s supply from the flank and ability to lock down opposition wide players makes him a valuable asset.
One player that won’t be kitting up for Zoric’s side is ace marksman Kyle Cimenti. After starting off the season with a bang notching up 7 goals, his stellar performances were noticed by Macarthur Bulls coach Ante Milicic who have since offered him an A-League deal. A huge loss for the club no doubt but a returning Jordan Figon who has since come on board will add that experience up-front alongside Alec Urosevski and Amaury Gauthier.
Up against Rockdale will be a Sydney FC side in desperate need of a win.
The Young Sky blues have suffered a horror run of results and are slumped at the bottom of the competition ladder.
After a positive start to the season with a win in the opening round against Marconi, it has gone from bad to worse for the Jim van Weeren coached outfit.
Patrick Wood’s brace was one positive from a disappointing performance last week.
The Sky Blues have registered their 23-year-old A-League marksman Trent Buhagiar to its NPL player roster for more game time. His blistering pace and eye for goal will no doubt be a massive plus for the young guns of FC.
Van Weeren’s side knows how to score goals, so tightening up their defensive capabilities will be crucial to their fortunes.
Rockdale will be big favourites for this match at home, but Sydney FC has shown that they can be a thorn in the side of the competition’s top teams.
They will need to bring nothing short of their best if they want to shake things up this week.
Northbridge Bulls FC v Mt Druitt Town Rangers 3pm Sunday at Sydney United Sports Centre
Northbridge Bulls head to Popondetta Park this Sunday, looking to end a four-game losing streak when they take on Mt Druitt Town Rangers.
The Bulls suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat last week against APIA after conceding deep into injury time.
Coach Mile Sterjovski’s side boasts an enviable goalscoring record this season but has been let down by a leaky defence and lapses in concentration late in matches.
Midfielder Eddie Caspers has been playing great football and offers quality in the middle of the park.
Towering defender Theph Theph is a headache for opposition defences, especially on set pieces.
One player that has been registered in the NPL squad and featured in the loss to APIA last weekend was 24-year-old attacker Milislav Popovic. The former Australian Under 23 international is on the hunt for more match time and could provide headaches for opposing sides.
They will go up against a Mt Druitt side which has found their groove in recent weeks and have moved into the top five.
The early season inconsistencies seem to have been ironed out, with the side undefeated in their past five matches.
Coach Stewart Montgomery has a talented squad with plenty of veteran experience through former A-League players Tarek Elrich and Marc Warren.
Blake Thompson has formed a pretty formidable defensive partnership with Travis Oughtred.
Combined with young attacking players such as Jack Stewart and John Roberts, the Rangers will be a tough side for Northbridge to break down.
Mt Druitt will be favourites at home, but anything can happy in 90 minutes.
Sydney Olympic v Blacktown City, 4pm Sunday at Belmore Sports Ground
Sydney Olympic will be out to topple the ladder leaders when they host Blacktown City at Belmore Sports Ground on Sunday.
Olympic has won their last two matches and has lost only once in their past five contests.
A 3-2 win against Sutherland Sharks was their most recent victory, with Brendan Cholakian’s first official goal for the club with less than ten minutes to play sealing victory.
Mo Adam had a breakout performance in that win, scoring a brace with goals on either side of halftime to keep his side in the contest.
A lack of goals has been the biggest weakness for Olympic so far this season, so coach Ante Juric will be hoping Adam and the club’s other attacking players will begin to find the back of the net with greater frequency in the coming weeks.
Danial Dias has also impressed while keeper Christopher Parsons has held his own underneath the Blues’ sticks.
Olympic will go up against a ruthless Blacktown City outfit that has not struggled to score goals.
City boasts the league’s best attacking record with 21 goals so far this season, including twelve in their past three matches.
A 4-2 win against Marconi last round was another scintillating attacking display from the Mark Crittenden coached outfit, who have now jumped up into first spot on the ladder.
Midfielder Jak O’Brien and defender Lachlan Campbell were outstanding in that match to earn selection in team of the week.
Both players have been consistently two of Blacktown City’s best performers and will play a big role against Sydney Olympic.
Crittenden has a cracking attacking force with the likes of Travis Major, Mario Shabow, Carlos De Oliveira, Charles Mendy and Suleyman Bangura eager to hurt the Blues any chance they get.
Blacktown City will be favourites for this match on the back of their brilliant recent form, and they will be driven to secure their spot on the top of the table for another week.
Olympic will need to score early and set the tempo in this match if they are to cause an upset but must do everything they can to avoid Blacktown’s in-form strikers from firing.
This is set to be an entertaining clash to wrap up Round 11, and you won’t want to miss it.