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Finals series to give A-League a much-needed lift

13 April 2018 9:39 AM
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The Sky Blues went through their annus mirabilis of 2016-17 losing only once, although their grand final triumph over Melbourne Victory was a close-enough thing as they required penalties to see off their Victorian rivals.

But this season they have lost three times, showing even for a team that has been hailed as the best the A-League has seen, such lofty standards are all but impossible to maintain.

The most recent of those was defeats a surprise 2-1 home loss to Brisbane Roar on March 17, a scoreline that, however unexpected, at least gave the chasing pack hope that, on any given day, they might turn over the title favourites.

And of course, the Australian finals system is unlike most leagues in the world where the team top of the table at season's end is the champion.

While not everyone is a fan, it gives what on paper looks like an also-ran team the chance to shine on the biggest day of the year and ensures interest right to the last week.

Could anyone overcome Graham Arnold's history-seeking side as it looks to make it two in a row?

The Jets have been a revelation this season after finishing last in 2016-17, but they have run into turbulence at the worst possible time as injuries, transfers, suspensions and international call-ups hit them hard.

The Novocastrians have lost their past three games, shipping 10 goals in the process as they crashed to Adelaide (away) and Melbourne City and Perth Glory in front of their own fans.

The sale of Andrew Nabbout, whose form this season was good enough to earn him his first two Socceroos caps in the friendlies against Norway and Colombia, has obviously had an impact.

But the team from the Hunter Valley had done enough earlier in the season to earn itself a second-placed finish, a home semi-final and leave itself one win from the title decider, so it can't be counted out.

And although their recent form is nothing to write home about, Newcastle will remember they have broken even with Sydney this season, both sides having won one game and drawn the other.

Melbourne City will look to shore up third place when they travel to Wellington for Saturday night's game.

City have got little change out of Sydney this season, but fared well against the Jets.


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