It’s Round 14 of the National Premier Leagues Men’s competition, and the battle for the premiership is heating up.
Sydney United 58 took top spot last week with their big win helping them leapfrog previous competition leaders Blacktown City.
City remains only one point behind and is still very much in the race while reigning premiers Rockdale Ilinden in third place should not be written off only three points off the pace.
This week’s matches kick-off on Saturday night with Mt Druitt at home against a resurgent Wollongong Wolves, and Northbridge are taking on Sydney FC.
Four games will take place on Sunday, starting with Blacktown City at home against Manly United, Rockdale going toe to toe with Marconi and Sydney United facing off against Sutherland.
Round 14 wraps up in style with the Festival of Football at Lambert Park as APIA Leichhardt take on Inner West rivals Sydney Olympic.
Remember, you can catch all the action live streamed on NPL.TV.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers v Wollongong Wolves, 7pm Saturday at Popondetta Park
After back-to-back losses, Mt Druitt Town Rangers will be fired up to take all three points when they host a resurgent Wollongong Wolves at Popondetta Park on Saturday.
The Rangers suffered a disappointing 4-1 defeat at the hands of APIA last round and have now not tasted victory in five weeks.
The Stewart Montgomery coached side are in desperate need of a win to keep their finals hopes alive.
Veterans Tarek Elrich, Marc Warren and Carlos Saliadarre will need to lead the charge this week to help Mt Druitt bounce back after a poor performance while a lot of responsibility will rest on the shoulders of key marksman Jack Stewart.
They will be up against a Wollongong side that is back into the top five for the first time this season and finding form.
They claimed a 2-1 win against Manly United in Round 13 to notch their third victory in four weeks.
Leroy Jennings had another strong game last week and is finding form for his new club.
Goalkeeper Hayden Durose is another player who could be vital to their chances this week.
Luke Wilkshire’s men have slipped under the radar in recent weeks but positive results have seen them move heads all around the NPL NSW Men’s competition.
Mt Druitt is a talented squad, but do they have what it takes to shake their recent struggles against a Wollongong team flying high on confidence?
This is a thrilling clash you won’t want to miss.
Northbridge Bulls v Sydney FC, 7pm Saturday at Sydney United Sports Centre
A-League rivalries will be renewed at Sydney United Sports Centre on Saturday night as Northbridge Bulls host Sydney FC.
The young Bulls are on a three-game unbeaten run and will be looking to heap some extra woe onto a young Sky Blues side slumped on the bottom of the ladder.
Northbridge delivered a gallant performance in Round 13 to snatch a point from premiership contenders Blacktown in a 1-1 draw.
Stephan de Robillard scored a sensational free-kick and was one of the Bulls stand-out performers.
Rory Jordan delivered another big performance and will be crucial to their chances again this week.
They come up against a Sydney FC side still hurting after a 5-1 loss against Sydney United 58.
Jim van Weeran’s side has had a torrid time of late, taking only one point from their past six matches.
One positive has been the form of Adrian Segecic, who has scored in Sydney’s last three games.
His goals will be imperative if Sydney is going to end their winless run.
Both teams will almost surely get a sprinkling of A-League contracted youth players set to step down which could also swing this match on its heads.
Northbridge will be favourites for this clash, but Sydney claimed their round three match-up 3-2, so it is a fixture that could go either way.
Blacktown City FC v Manly United, 3pm Sunday at Lily Homes Stadium
Blacktown City will be driven to return to the top of the National Premier Leagues NSW ladder when they host Manly United at Lily Homes Stadium on Sunday.
A 1-1 draw with Northbridge last round proved costly as Blacktown fell to second after dropping two competition points.
The Mark Crittenden coached side will be determined not to make any more slip-ups like this and are sure to be even more focused on retaking top spot.
City club legend Matt Lewis was a star performer last week and will again lead the charge against Manly.
A red card to Daniel Collins will force a reshuffle in defence for Blacktown for this clash while the Crittenden is hoping that Mario Shabow returns from a lengthy injury layoff to instil more spark up front alongside Travis Major.
Manly come into this game on the back of a 2-1 loss to a resurgent Wollongong Wolves.
The loss was Manly’s third from their past five games, with one win during the same stretch.
Dejan Pandurevic is a key attacking weapon for the boys from the Northern Beaches and will be one of their primary options in this match.
Keiran Paull offers veteran experience in the backline, and his runs from defence help open up Manly’s attack.
Blacktown will be favourites in this match at home and will be playing for nothing less than all three competition points.
It is set to be an exciting match-up.
Rockdale Ilinden v Marconi Stallions, 3pm Sunday at Rockdale Ilinden Sports Centre
Rockdale Ilinden will be out for all three competition points when they host a struggling Marconi Stallions at Rockdale Ilinden Sports Cente on Sunday.
Third-placed Rockdale have dropped points in recent weeks after a run of frustrating draws and are now three points behind competition leaders Sydney United 58.
With only one win and four draws in their last five matches, coach Steve Zoric will be determined to push his team back to winning ways.
Rockdale shared the spoils 2-2 with Sydney Olympic in Round 13 with goals to Tomoki Wada and Alec Urosevski helping their side in a brilliant fightback.
Wada’s creativity in midfield will be essential in this match, with the Japanese playmaker able to break through a talented Marconi midfield.
Alec Urosevski remains the main man in attack for Rockdale and will be out to add to his tally of 11 strikes so far this season.
Marconi comes into this match after three straight draws, including a 1-1 result against Sutherland in Round 13.
The Stallions have missed a winning edge with only one win all season and have been labelled the draw masters.
Chris Hatfield did have an industrious match for the Stallions while Nenad Vekic has been a standout for the club’s as the number one keeper.
Marko Jesic and Anthony Frangie in attack can create headaches for the Rockdale defence and will need to be at their best to give Marconi their best shot.
Nathan Millgate offers the side a brilliant option from set-pieces. The tall defender possesses an innate ability to get his head to the ball in the opposition penalty area.
Rockdale will be favourites for this match at home, but recent form from both sides could mean this game could end in a draw.
Sydney United 58 v Sutherland Sharks, 3 pm Sunday at Sydney United Sports Centre
Sydney United 58 will be out to mark veteran midfielder Mat Sim’s 100th match for the club with a win when they host Sutherland Sharks at Sydney United Sports Centre on Sunday.
United 58 are flying high at the top of the table after a dominant 5-1 win against Sydney FC last week.
Sydney United 58 have won their past four matches, scoring an incredible 16 goals during that stretch.
Patrick Antelmi leads the golden boot rankings with 13 goals this season, including a hat-trick, his second this year, in round 13.
Sim has also been in good touch scoring a brilliant free-kick to give his side the win in round 11.
Coach Tomi Vidovic has his side firing on all cylinders and will be difficult to stop.
Looking to snatch an upset will be the Sutherland Sharks.
The Sharks come into this game on the back of a 1-1 draw with Marconi Stallions in Round 13.
The result broke three straight losses for Sutherland, who have won only once in their past five games.
James Andrew has scored a stunning eight goals this season and remains the side’s best option in attack while Gabriel Contigiani has impressed this year.
Jeremy Cox has also been in good form and will be another player United 58’s defence will need to shut down.
APIA Leichhardt v Sydney Olympic, 5.30pm Sunday at Lambert Park
Rivals APIA Leichhardt and Sydney Olympic go head-to-head as part of a blockbuster ‘Festival of Football’ this Sunday at Lambert Park.
The clash of Inner-west Sydney rivals will headline the showcase event, with both sides in need a win to keep their top five hopes alive.
APIA come into this contest buoyed after a 4-1 demolition of Mt Druitt last week and will be out to make it back-to-back victories.
Since making a move to APIA last month, Peter Kekeris has been in inspired form and will be up against his former side for the first time this weekend.
The skilful winger scored twice in Round 13 and will be out to show Olympic what they have lost.
Franco Parisi remains a vital cog in the APIA machine, while Sean Symons and Blake Powell can turn a game in an instance.
The return of David D’Apuzzo has also been a shining light for Paul Dee’s men and will be a vital player come Sunday.
Looking to stop them is a Sydney Olympic side also looking to break into the top five.
Olympic blew a 2-0 lead against Rockdale Ilinden in a 2-2 draw last round to stretch their winless run to three weeks.
Coach Ante Juric will need to help his team rediscover the form that helped them climb into the top five earlier this season.
Adam Parkhouse and Brendan Cholakian were stand out performers in the Round 13 draw, and the two attackers will play a key role this week.
Tom Whiteside and the Olympic defence will be set for a difficult day at the office as they set out to slow down APIA’s forwards.
It is set to be a massive clash with both sides evenly matched, and the game likely to go down to the wire.
With finals implications as well as derby honours on the line, this game is one you won’t want to miss.
IMAGE: Jeremy NG