Thomas available for Reds clash

Goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas is available again for Melbourne Victory as they travel to Adelaide United looking for a win to keep alive their top-two chances.

Coach Kevin Muscat has a fully-fit squad at his disposal for the Coopers Stadium clash against a United side that are one place but nine points behind them in fourth.

Thomas, who has missed the last three matches with a knee injury, is the club's first-choice keeper but Matt Acton has performed well in his absence.

Muscat is not ready to divulge who will start the game against the Reds.

Acton has been an A-League understudy for five seasons, making just eight A-League starts since winning a place in Brisbane Roar's squad in 2013.

Muscat said of Adelaide: "They're desperate for a home final. Especially after last year, that first elimination final was away, was here [in Melbourne].

"Somehow they maybe leave a little bit in the tank for when they play us. I can't remember a dull game against them."

If Victory can't overhaul Sydney FC for second spot they will face eight games in 33 days, including at least four away days, before the Grand Final.

They have to play their remaining three Asian Champions League group games before the end of May, which will stretch their resources.

It will also serve as a distraction for their A-League Finals Series, given that they have no chance of qualifying for the ACL knockout stages following three defeats in their first three matches.

Adelaide, who are aiming to hold off Melbourne City and Wellington to secure fourth place, have named Jordan Elsey in an extended squad after returning from injury, while Pacifique Niyongabire has been promoted.

Melbourne Victory are 9/5 to win their next game against Adelaide United, who are 7/5 with the draw 13/5.

City could get Jamieson back

Melbourne City should have skipper Scott Jamieson back for Sunday's trip to Wellington Phoenix but defender Bart Schenkeveld will miss out.

Jamieson has missed the last three games after injuring his toes in the 2-0 win over Sydney FC.

Coach Warren Joyce said he had trained this week and was in contention to play in the penultimate round clash at Westpac Stadium.

"It's a bonus what he's done so far this week. He's had three days building his work up with no reactions, so we'll just look at it again in the next couple of days and see how he feels really," said Joyce.

"He's worked tremendously hard behind the scenes on the things he couldn't do with the sports scientists and the gym lads and he's got to a stage ahead of schedule but looks in good nick as well."

City go into the game sixth in the A-League, as one of three teams vying for a fourth-place finish along with the Phoenix and Adelaide United.

Joyce's team will finish the regular season against bottom club Central Coast Mariners next weekend and, if they win in Wellington, it will give them an excellent chance of claiming fourth spot and a home elimination final.

Adelaide go into the round one point clear of the other two teams, with City trailing the Phoenix on goal difference.

Schenkeveld suffered a groin injury in the goalless draw with Adelaide last weekend.

Joyce said of the Dutchman: "He won't be travelling; we'll just assess it again. Instead of rushing it now he'll do some kind of training tomorrow and over the weekend with a plan to get him back as soon as we can."

Melbourne City are 9/5 to win their next game against Wellington Phoenix, who are 7/5 with the draw 13/5.

Sage: Glory vision achieved early

Owner Tony Sage admits the speed of Perth Glory's Premiers' Plate success under coach Tony Popovic has come as a surprise.

The West Australian club have clinched the minor premiership with two rounds to go in the regular season, following their 1-0 win at home to Newcastle Jets on Sunday.

It is the first time they have topped the A-League, though they were a big force in its predecessor the National Soccer League.

Sage said plans were hatched midway through last season – when the Glory failed to make the Finals Series under Kenny Lowe – for a different strategy and a new coach.

They turned to Popovic, who had led Western Sydney Wanderers to the premiership in the club's inaugural season, largely due to the urging of football manager Jacob Burns.

"There were several coaching candidates available and Jacob pushed and pushed for Popa (Tony Popovic)," said Sage.

"The vision has been fulfilled a year earlier than we expected – we had to make a decision on which direction we were going to go."

The 15-year silverware drought ended with the victory against the Jets when captain Diego Castro lifted the Premiers' Plate.

Now Sage, who has poured nearly $30 million into the Glory in more than a decade, says the club want to go on and win the championship and then start planning for next year's Asian Champions League campaign.

"We're up for the challenge – it's only going to be a feather in everyone's cap if we can do it," he added. "Asia has been a dream of mine from day one; it's going to be huge."

Perth Glory are 5/4 to win the Grand Final.

The Glory are 2/1 to win their next game against Sydney FC, who are 11/8 with the draw 9/4.

View all Soccer betting

Rudan staying through playoffs

Wellington Phoenix coach Mark Rudan remains focused on guiding the club through the Finals Series before departing, his boss has insisted.

Phoenix general manager David Dome said the club had given no consideration to replacing the Australian at this point, despite him announcing officially last Friday that he would step down at the end of the season.

His departure has been expected for some time, with the coach having spoken of how difficult it has been for him personally while his family remained in Sydney.

He is expected to be unveiled as the inaugural coach of Western United when they enter the A-League next season.

The Phoenix squad only found out in the hours leading up to Friday's defeat to Brisbane Roar that Rudan would be utilising the eight-week notice out-clause in his two-year contract.

Despite their loss at Suncorp Stadium, the club have made sure of finishing in the top six.

Rudan has become the first coach in Phoenix history to guide the club to the playoffs in his first season.

"Over the last couple of weeks it has got more and more obvious that it was unlikely that his family was going to move across the ditch to Wellington, so the middle of last week we reached the conclusion where it was probably in everybody's best interests to end the speculation and move on so we can start planning for the rest of the season and next season," said Dome.

Though Wellington have lost their last two games, Dome said the speculation over Rudan's future had not been a factor.

"We respect Mark, we respect what he has done here and we believe he is the coach to take us through to the final," he added. "In my conversations with Mark and in my conversations with the players and the football ops team they are adamant that it [his departure] has not contributed at all.

"I can assure you they're still very focussed on that and Mark is very focussed on that and everyone at the club is focussed on that."

Melbourne City coach Warren Joyce is understood to be among the candidates to take over from Rudan.

Wellington Phoenix are 25/1 to win the Grand Final.

The Phoenix are 7/5 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 9/5 with the draw 12/5.

View all Soccer betting

Wanderers hurt rivals’ chances

Western Sydney all but killed off Sydney FC's chances of winning the A-League Premier's Plate when they held the Sky Blues to a 1-1 draw in the derby at ANZ Stadium.

With Steve Corica's men needing victory to give themselves any realistic chance of catching Perth Glory and winning the premiership for the third consecutive season, it was their rivals who arguably were deserving of three points.

They conceded the opening goal to Alex Brosque's powerful low strike seven minutes into the game, but after Alexander Baumjohann levelled they looked the more likely team to grab a winning goal.

Their fans celebrated at the final whistle as though they had won, and coach Markus Babbel felt happy with the performance.

"They [the fans] have been through a lot this season," he said. "I think today they deserved a performance and I am very happy that the boys could bring a performance today."

Adam le Fondre forced a turnover which started the move that put the Sky Blues in front.

Anthony Caceres then burst through the middle and picked out skipper Brosque, who fired home his sixth goal against Wanderers from just outside the area.

Wanderers forward Mitchell Duke had two chances to level midway through the half, with keeper Andrew Redmayne saving his first effort and Duke then spurning another from a Baumjohann free kick.

A foul by Brandon O'Neill on Roly Bonevacia gave Wanderers the chance to equalise on 57 minutes.

Baumjohann struck his free kick from just outside the box low and hard and saw the ball deflect past Redmayne for Western Sydney's first goal against their rivals in four games.

The home side were unlucky to see Oriol Riera's header rebound off the woodwork, and late on substitute Abraham Majok beat the offside trap to home in on goal but missed from close range with only Redmayne to beat.

The Sky Blues are 66/1 to win the Asian Champions League Grand Final with Al-Hilal 7/1 and Kashima Antlers priced at 8/1.

View all Soccer betting

Reds up to fourth after stalemate

Adelaide United earned a point from a goalless draw away to Melbourne City that lifted them into the A-League top four.

The Reds moved a point clear of Wellington Phoenix with just two rounds left of the regular season, after an action-packed encounter at AAMI Park.

Both keepers were in superb form and the woodwork helped preserve the deadlock.

City keeper Eugene Galekovic was called into action first, when he made a save with his feet to deny Craig Goodwin, who had been slipped in by Ben Halloran.

Adelaide were relieved soon after as City midfielder Kearyn Baccus curled in a shot from the edge of the box that ricocheted off the post.

The home side also struck the woodwork before the interval, substitute Nikola Mileusnic cutting inside and seeing his shot deflect off Ritchie De Laet and onto the post.

Galekovic made a double save at the other end to deny United, first stopping a George Blackwood effort and then thwarting Halloran's follow-up effort.

City again came close when Harrison Delbridge's header from inside the six-yard box from a Shayon Harrison set-piece was tipped onto the bar by Reds keeper Paul Izzo.

The frame of the goal was again rattled 15 minutes from time as Jamie Maclaren just failed to squeeze his shot past Izzo from a narrow angle. The keeper got a touch to the attempt to beat him at his near post and diverted it against the upright.

Adelaide will secure a top-four spot and a home final if they win both their remaining matches, though their next game is against defending champions Melbourne Victory on Good Friday.

Meanwhile, Sydney FC are 66/1 to win the Asian Champions League final with Al-Hilal 7/1 and Kashima Antlers priced at 8/1.

View all Soccer betting

Another ACL defeat for Victory

Melbourne Victory suffered a third consecutive Asian Champions League defeat when they went down 4-0 in China to Guangzhou Evergrande.

The A-League champions were three goals down before half-time at Tianhe Stadium, with former Benfica striker Anderson Talisca scoring twice in the opening 10 minutes.

It leaves Kevin Muscat's side marooned at the bottom of Group F while the other three teams in the group have six points each.

Talisca could have had a hat-trick inside 10 minutes, being denied with his first effort when his curled free-kick hit the post.

He broke the deadlock two minutes later when he headed home a cross from Gao Lin, and then made it 2-0 with a superb curling strike into the top corner from 20 yards.

Victory keeper Matt Acton saved three times from former Tottenham and Barcelona midfielder Paulinho in the first half, before Kosta Barbarouses forced a save from keeper Liu Dianzuo at the other end with a low strike.

The visitors couldn't prevent Guangzhou grabbing a third goal three minutes before the break, when Yang Liyu finished off a counter-attack by finishing into the bottom corner.

Barbarouses created a chance for Victory early in the second half, but Keisuke Honda fired across the face of goal.

The home side scored their fourth goal with 17 minutes left, despite the best efforts of Acton.

The keeper parried a Talisca free-kick and then denied Gao, only for the ball to bounce in for an own goal off Leigh Broxham.

Muscat said: "We were beaten by the better team on the night. To concede two goals in the first 10 minutes, it became very, very difficult from there."

Melbourne Victory are 3/1 to win the A-League Grand Final.

Victory are 3/10 to win their next game against Central Coast, who are 15/2 with the draw 9/2.

View all Soccer betting

Crunch time for Sky Blues

Reza Ghoochannejhad is hoping to get a starting role when Sydney FC bid for a first win in the Asian Champions League against Shanghai SIPG.

The Iranian star has only scored one goal in nine appearances since arriving on a loan deal from Cypriot side APOEL. He's been overlooked for a start by coach Steve Corica in three of the Sky Blues' last four matches.

Sydney FC face a must-win clash with the Chinese side at Jubilee Stadium on Wednesday, having picked up just one point from their two games so far.

Ghoochannejhad is confident he can make a goalscoring impact for the team, who have three huge matches in a row.

After taking on Shanghai SIPG, the Sky Blues face Western Sydney in the derby on Saturday knowing anything less than a victory would mean the Glory can wrap up the minor premiership by beating Newcastle the next day.

If the Premier's Plate is still up for grabs after this round, Corica's team will be able to cut the gap on 18th April when they host Perth.

Ghoochannejhad said: "At the end of the day, I just want to play and score goals because that's what I'm here for.

"I'm ready, whenever the coach needs me – whether it's in the Champions League or the A-League, I just want to play and be important for the team. We'll see on Wednesday but I'm very excited, delighted and eager to play."

Reigning Chinese champions Shanghai SIPG boast a star-studded team including captain Hulk, former Chelsea midfielder Oscar and prolific striker Elkeson.

Ghoochannejhad added: "They have big names, of course. But big names don't decide the game – it's a team effort that gets you the win."

Sydney FC are 12/5 to win the A-League Grand Final this season 7/10 to win their next game against Western Sydney, who are 7/2 with the draw 3/1.

Ikonomidis hopes to face Jets

Striker Chris Ikonomidis is confident he will be available for Perth Glory's trip to Newcastle Jets on Sunday when the league leaders could clinch the Premier's Plate.

The Australia international missed the second half of the 3-0 win over Central Coast at the weekend after dislocating his right shoulder.

He dislocated the same shoulder two years ago and says his experience of that injury lends him to believe he can win his fitness battle to play against Newcastle at HBF Park.

"It's feeling all right. My gut feeling is it's not too serious, not as bad as last time. I'm pretty optimistic," he said.

"I knew straight away what was going on but it went back pretty quickly, which is positive. I don't want to miss games, especially this close to the end of the season when we could win the title."

If Sydney FC fail to win their derby clash with Western Sydney on Saturday, Perth will go into the Jets clash knowing victory will secure their first A-League minor premiership.

It would mark a big turnaround for the club under Tony Popovic, who took over as coach in the off-season after Kenny Lowe had failed to get them into the Finals Series last season.

Popovic says Socceroos central defender Matthew Spiranovic has been a big factor in their success. The 30-year-old returned against the Mariners for his first game in five weeks and was a commanding figure in the victory against the bottom club.

In the 11 games Spiranovic has played this season the Glory have conceded just six goals and have kept six clean sheets. In their 13 matches without him they have let in 16 goals.

Popovic said of him: "He is a classy player, that's exactly what he is. We've tried to nurse him along in this little period and not force him back and he showed his quality amongst the team."

Perth Glory are 7/5 to win the Grand Final and 4/9 to win their next game against Newcastle Jets, who are 6/1 with the draw 10/3.

Perth close in on premiership

Perth Glory will have the chance to win their first A-League Premier's Plate next week after they beat Central Coast Mariners 3-0 in Gosford.

The leaders handed the league's bottom club a fifth consecutive home defeat to maintain their six-point advantage over Sydney FC.

If they beat Newcastle Jets at Optus Stadium next weekend and the Sky Blues fail to win their derby clash with Western Sydney the minor premiership will belong to the Glory.

Tony Popovic's side continued their unbeaten league record away from home – they have now won eight and drawn four outside Perth.

The Mariners, watched by a crowd of 3774 that is just 14 more than their lowest ever attendance, shipped two goals in the first half-hour.

Joel Chianese put the Glory in front with a crisp low finish past keeper Ben Kennedy into the far corner. Neil Kilkenny's corner picked out the head of Dino Djulbic for the second goal – his first for the club in four years.

The Glory lost Socceroos striker Chris Ikonomidis just before the break to a dislocated shoulder but made the game safe 11 minutes after the restart.

Substitute Diego Costa won a penalty when he was brought down by Jacob Melling in the area and Kilkenny fired home from the spot.

Perth almost grabbed a fourth goal when Juande's shot was kept out by a combination of Kennedy and the post after he was found by Kilkenny's deep corner.

The Mariners were denied a consolation goal when they hit the crossbar from a deflected Andrew Hoole free-kick.

Perth Glory are 7/5 to win the Grand Final and 4/9 to win their next game against Newcastle Jets, who are 6/1 with the draw 10/3.