Canberra FC and Canberra Olympic meet this weekend in a traditional rivalry, while Gungahlin United, Belconnen United and Tigers FC all look for wins to keep their top four chances intact.
FFA Centre of Excellence v Tuggeranong United – AIS – 3pm Saturday
Tuggeranong United will look to keep in touch with the top five when they meet the Centre of Excellence on Saturday afternoon at the AIS. The first meeting between these sides was called off due to rain, so this will be the first either side sees of each other up close. Tuggeranong come in off the back of their loss to Canberra Olympic in the Federation Cup Final, where they went down 2-0 on a tough afternoon. Apart from Andrew Slavich’s header hitting the bar and a long-range effort from Daniel Roberts, Tuggies struggled to create chances going forward against the Olympic defence. Against a fit, young side with the second best defensive record in the league, Sean Murphy may need to rejig his forward line in an effort to find some more opportunities.
For the COE, they come into this off the back of a 2-0 win over Tigers in their rescheduled fixture on Tuesday night. That composed display has them in second spot on the ladder, but having played once more than Canberra Olympic. Jacob Italiano scored once more in that match and has shown himself to be a real goal threat, and Tuggeranong will need to keep him, as well as a number of other threats, in check. Tony Vidmar’s defence will be hopeful of looking after Tuggeranong’s forward line, but must be mindful of the two quick goals they conceded on the counter to Woden-Weston a couple of weeks ago. This match is a chance for them to jump top with a win, dependent on results, while for Tuggeranong it is a chance to move into sixth spot and make a run at finals.
Belconnen United v Riverina Rhinos – McKellar Park – 5:30pm Saturday
The Riverina Rhinos will be aiming to continue their mid-season improvement on Saturday evening when they face Belconnen United at McKellar Park. When United travelled to face the Rhinos in Round two they headed back to Canberra as 5-0 winners, but the Rhinos will be confident of improving on that result this time out. Their 1-1 draw with Canberra FC recently was a big sign having gone down 7-0 in Round 1, and a similar change in fortunes here could provide a bit of a ladder shakeup. The Rhinos will be without Joe Preece for this clash after he was sent off against Canberra FC, but otherwise will have a full-strength squad to run out.
For Belconnen, they sit on the cusp of the top four, and a win here is important to ensure that they do not risk falling behind Tigers in the race for the top quartet. While this matchup did end in their favour in round two, United have struggled with consistency since then thanks to a combination of injuries and late-game concessions, but will back themselves here in a Saturday night McKellar fixture. United’s last league outing was a thrilling 3-3 draw against Gungahlin which halted a run of two losses prior to that and a repeat of their performance in that outing will go a long way towards the three points this time.
Canberra FC v Canberra Olympic – Deakin Stadium – 3pm Sunday – Streamed Live on BarTV Sports
The match of the round this weekend will see familiar foes Canberra FC & Canberra Olympic clash at Deakin Stadium in a top of the table matchup. Olympic sit in first place and four points ahead of Canberra FC win third, but with a game in hand on their rivals. Frank Cachia comes in with a full squad after getting through Saturday’s cup final unscathed, and should put out a strong side to possibly put his side seven points clear of their opponents with a win. Olympic have not lost since going down to this weekend's opponents in Round two, but that sub-par outing needs to be avoided this weekend in a match that both side's always seem to rise for.
For Canberra FC, their 1-1 draw in Griffith two weeks back set them back on their hunt of Olympic, but get the perfect chance to make up for it in this match. FC can close the gap to as little as one point with a win, important considering Olympic still have a game in hand on them. The hosts here started well against Olympic in their Federation Cup semi-final two weeks ago, even going ahead while down to ten men, but will need to be more consistent and disciplined in this outing. The first fixture between these two featured a 3-0 win for Canberra FC earlier in the season, and a calm, disciplined performance like that could easily yield a similar result this time out.
Gungahlin United v Woden-Weston FC – Gungahlin Enclosed – 3pm Sunday
An entertaining clash awaits at Gungahlin Enclosed on Sunday as Gungahlin United aim to keep up with the top teams and Woden-Weston look to build on recent strong form. United come in off the back of their 3-3 draw with Belconnen United last time out, which marked their third match unbeaten in the league. Marcial Munoz’s team has remained largely unscathed by injury which has helped them jump into their current spot of fourth on the table. With a win here and dependent on other results, Gungahlin could jump as high as second on the table, but they will need to be wary of a Woden-Weston side who have developed into a dangerous counter-attacking outfit.
The Wanderers have played some of their best football over their last few league matches, resulting in two wins and a narrow loss to Tigers FC. Tony Olivera said before the cup break that he hoped to have a much stronger side ready for this clash, ready to support Daniel Crkovski up front, who has quietly made his way into fifth on the top scorers list. A win here for them will help to create some separation between themselves and the bottom two, while pulling them closer to Tuggeranong and Tigers in the spots directly above them. While a few weeks ago this match may have been looked at as an easy win for Gungahlin, the rapidly improving Wanderers are sure to throw down the challenge to their opponents here.
Tigers FC v Monaro Panthers – Nijong Oval – 3pm Sunday
Tigers FC will aim to rebound from consecutive losses in the league when they host the winless Monaro Panthers in Cooma this weekend. Gaby Wilk’s side went down to the FFA Centre of Excellence in a rescheduled match during the week, following on from their 4-3 loss to Tuggeranong United in Round 10. While Tigers were excellent in attack in that matchup they struggled to keep out Tuggeranong’s pacey attack at the back, but may find relief against a Monaro side who have still scored only four goals in the league thus far. Their forwards will go hard at Monaro’s league-worst defence and so long as they remain locked up at the back this should be a win for the hosts.
For the Panthers, they remain struggling in the league, going down 3-0 to Canberra Olympic in their last outing before the Cup break. They have suffered from a final option up front in the absence of Mark Shields, who they will face this weekend, and have scored two league goals since round one of the competition. Having shipped 38 goals in ten games their defence needs tightening up, but has shown no signs of improving lately. The earlier meeting between these two sides this season finished as a 5-0 win for Tigers, and we could easily see a similar result on this occasion.