FRIDAY, January 3
Adelaide United v Sydney FC at Coopers Stadium 7.30pm
Head to Head: AdUtd 11 SydFC 3 drawn 12
Last clash: Round 21 2012-2013 - SydFC 2 bt AdUtd 1 at Allianz Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: AdUtd $1.93 SydFC $3.60 Draw $3.50
The quirky A-League draw pits Adelaide and Sydney against each other for the first time this season in January - two days after the Wanderers and Phoenix completed their three match-ups. Sydney have fallen in a hole - their sole win since November coming against Melbourne Heart. Star man Alessandro Del Piero continues to carry FC on one leg as he recovers from injury but Sydney's defence will be the key concern to coach Frank Farina. Sydney conceded five to a rampant Roar last week and are without Seb Ryall this week. As Sydney have never kept a clean sheet in Adelaide, Josep Gombau may well be licking his lips at what his tiki-taka could do to Sydney.
Key: Sergio Cirio and Bruce Djite were too much for Newcastle to handle last time out and in similar form will ensure Adelaide beat Sydney FC.
Tip: Adelaide Utd
SATURDAY, January 4
Newcastle Jets v Perth Glory at Hunter Stadium 5.30pm
Head to Head: Jets 6 Glory 13 drawn 6
Last clash: Round 2 - Jets 0 drew Glory 0 at Hunter Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Jets $1.85 Glory $4.00 Draw $3.40
Perth Glory get a chance to atone their New Year's Eve meltdown up the F3 motorway in Newcastle but are unlikely to find the going any easier in the Hunter. Boasting wins over Victory and Brisbane in the past month, Newcastle should bounce back from a 1-0 defeat in Adelaide last time out. Ruben Zadkovich continues to dictate games from midfield and how Glory react in midfield to the loss of captain Scott Burns through suspension could dictate their chances in this game.
Key: Nathan Burns' loan deal with the Jets expires a week after this game and will look to leave Newcastle on a high.
Melbourne Victory v Brisbane Roar at AAMI Park 7.45pm
Head to Head: Victory 11 Roar 8 drawn 6
Last clash: Round 3 - Victory 1 bt Roar 0 at Etihad Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Victory $2.55 Roar $3.40 Draw $2.55
The undisputed game of the round, Saturday night's clash of the two best attacking forces is a mouth-watering one. Victory edged their last meeting 1-0 but the two leading scorers should produce more goals this time out despite key injuries. The Roar will leave Besart Berisha at home while Archie Thompson was restricted to running at training this week. Victory will bring in Nick Ansell for Pablo Contreras (quad) while intrigue surrounds whether Kevin Muscat hands last week's free kick hero Gui Finkler his first start of the season.
Key: Mitch Nichols. The star of Victory's midfield was the subject of a J-League bid this week and how he responds will be pivotal.
SUNDAY, January 5
Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Heart at Bluetongue Stadium 5.00pm
Head to Head: Mariners 7 Heart 1 drawn 2
Last clash: Round 2 - Heart 2 drew Mariners 2 at AAMI Park
Tab Sportsbet: Mariners $1.48 Heart $6.50 Draw $4.00
After 12 rounds of trying, Heart gave up on favourite son John Aloisi winning a match this season and returned foundation coach John van't Schip to the helm. van't Schip will be hoping to replicate the form of fellow new boss Phil Moss, who has four wins from his seven matches as Mariners boss. A win would make it five wins from five for Central Coast at home to Heart but Moss will have to prepare his team for an unknown quantity. There's plenty of room for improvement in the Heart team but whether van't Schip persists with a lacklustre Harry Kewell and non-scoring Michael Mifsud up front are among the boss's most pressing concerns.
Key: John van't Schip brings an X factor to this game that makes it a potential banana peel for the Mariners.