Premierships, finals football and survival – those are the three prizes up for grabs in the final round of PlayStation 4 NPL NSW Men’s 1.
At the top, Blacktown City FC need to put in a professional display to win the premiership when it welcomes Sutherland Sharks FC to Lily’s Football Centre.
City has a three-point lead over APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC, meaning as long as it equals or better the Tigers’ results it is guaranteed the Premiership.
The Tigers welcome Blacktown Spartans FC to Lambert Park and face an uphill battle to overtake the Spartans’ cross-town rivals, requiring a win against the Spartans while also needing City to lose by enough to make up the three-goal difference between the two in goal difference.
Rockdale City Suns FC, South Coast Wolves FC, Sydney United 58 FC and Manly United FC remain locked in a four-way battle for the last finals spot with just three points between fifth and eighth.
At the bottom, Marconi Stallions and Parramatta FC will face a final battle for top-flight survival.
The Eagles have the edge over the Stallions on the Club Championship table, with a narrow five point lead, meaning strong performances from both clubs from the under-18 teams right to the senior teams will be vital to deciding who will return to the division next season.
MATCH OF THE ROUND
Blacktown City FC v Sutherland Sharks FC, Sunday 3 pm at Lily’s Football Centre
A month ago, Mark Crittenden might have thought his side’s premiership hopes would already be realised by the time the final round came around.
A dip in form, in particular a big loss against Sydney Olympic FC, means otherwise and now, City needs to deliver another strong performance to seal the deal.
Sutherland Sharks have been hot and cold all season, and their finals aspirations were dealt a fatal blow last week against Olympic.
It won’t get any easier for the Sharks this week, especially with Joey Gibbs back on the park and back among the goals with two goals in his return last week.
ROUND 22 PREVIEW
Sydney Olympic FC v Sydney United 58 FC, Sunday 3 pm at Belmore Sports Ground
Sydney United 58 FC has proven itself as arguable the state’s knockout game specialist this season, so it would do well to approach its visit to Belmore Sports Ground to take on Olympic as the knockout game it is.
Of course, this time around the equation is not so simple.
A win alone is not enough for Sydney United, as it will require a loss from Rockdale City Suns who are two points ahead and have a far superior goal difference, while United also needs South Coast Wolves to at least draw against bottom-placed Marconi Stallions.
The game isn’t exactly a dead rubber for Sydney Olympic either.
A win for Grant Lee’s men could see his team move to third place on the ladder and in with a potential second chance in the finals.
Manly United FC v Parramatta FC, Sunday 3 pm at Cromer Park
Manly United FC needs a lot to go right for them on Sunday to finish in fifth position, but it can give itself a chance with win over Parramatta FC.
The Eagles have fought valiantly all season, but need a result in the first grade to cement its position in the top-flight next season.
United is coming off a 2-0 loss away to South Coast Wolves, while Parramatta lost a golden opportunity from the spot to at least draw with Rockdale City Suns at Melita Stadium.
Both teams will be desperate for a result.
Parramatta’s Patrick Gatt has steadied up the Eagles defensive shape, while the Eagles have created a number of chances in recent weeks, but will need to be more clinical in front of goal at Cromer Park where chances are sure to be at a premium.
Rockdale City Suns FC v Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC, Sunday 3 pm at Ilinden Sports Centre
Ninety minutes is all that stands between Paul Reid’s Rockdale City Suns and finals football.
The Bonnyrigg White Eagles are still smarting from last week’s 3-0 loss to APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC and will know a loss could mean falling out of the top three.
The Suns have been in impressive form in recent weeks and although they weren’t at their best at Melita Stadium last week, the likes of Marko Jesic and Alex Urosevski have been a handful all season while Dylan Macallister has proven the perfect foil for them moving forward.
The White Eagles have struggled defensively in recent weeks, having conceded nine goals in their last three games and will need to address that issue against the Suns.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC v Blacktown Spartans FC, Sunday 3 pm at Lambert Park
Premiership or no premiership, APIA Leichhardt Tigers will want to finish the home and away season on top form ahead of finals.
The Tigers were at their best in the final third last week when it ruthlessly put three past Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC courtesy of goals from Adrian Ucchino, Nathan Elasi and David D’Apuzzo and all will hope to be among the goals again.
The Spartans were arguably the competitions form team only a month ago, but since losing to Sydney Olympic at Lambert Park, its all been downhill.
Now the Spartans return to the scene of their loss to Olympic to try and restore some pride before the end of their season and ensure they don’t end the year without a win from their last five games.
South Coast Wolves FC v Marconi Stallions FC, Sunday 3 pm at WIN Stadium
The South Coast Wolves are so close to the finals, they can almost taste it.
They remain just one point off the Rockdale City Suns in fifth place and the Wolves have won five of their last six games at WIN Stadium.
The Wolves are dependent on Bonnyrigg White Eagles getting a result against the Suns, but regardless they will be expected to win against the Marconi Stallions.
The Stallions have lost all but three games this season, and with numbers dwindling across the first grade and under-20 sides, the fight for survival is set to be a monumental one.
Jack Press played both games last week and put in a commendable effort, but the Wolves won’t be out to go easy on the Stallions.Peter Simonoski and Jordan Murray have been among the goals lately and a similar effort should lead the Wolves to a win and potentially final football.