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It's the halfway point of the A-League season. Time for Guy Hand to take a pulse check of each club and how they're travelling

BRISBANE ROAR
What's good: They're seven points clear atop the table, and deserve to be. They have scored three in a match against both their two key rivals - the Wanderers and Victory - this season. All were quality goals. Well coached, the Roar keep possession well and importantly, they consistently turn weight of possession into goals. They have also won their past four away matches. The team to beat.
What's bad: Only the news for their rivals. Even with several key players missing multiple matches through injury this season - Berisha, Theoklitos, North, Miller and Stefanutto - the Roar have consistently managed to win games with whichever 11 they put on the park.
What's next: Three of their next four games at home, then a huge Round 18 battle with the Wanderers away which is likely to make the premiers' plate and championship races far clearer.

WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS
What's good: Up and down form, but only one loss in their last six. Look dangerous when striker Tomi Juric is playing, but less potent when he's been injured. In a better ladder position than they were at the same time last season, and look what happened then.
What's bad: Wannabe ultras in their fan base have put an unwanted spotlight on the entire A-League. Whispers persist that Shinji Ono wants out to return to Japan during the January transfer window.
What's next: Three games in eight days against Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United which they'll need big points from to keep pace with the Roar. Then the Roar at home in Round 18.

CENTRAL COAST MARINERS
What's good: Are amassing a decent record under new coach Phil Moss. Four wins, two draws, two losses since Moss replaced Graham Arnold. Sitting third despite being well short of their best and with several players down on form.
What's bad: Have lost Arnold, and don't look anywhere near the solid outfit which was so difficult to beat under his coaching. The outstanding Michael McGlinchey is off to Japan. Marcos Flores is out for the season injured. Two massive losses.
What's next: Wellington (away), Sydney FC (away), Newcastle (home), Roar (away) and Victory (home). The same old Mariners, or sub-Mariners? We'll know after this run of matches.

MELBOURNE VICTORY
What's good: When they're on, play football as pretty to watch as any in the league. Mitch Nichols and James Troisi having excellent seasons, though the rice has dropped out of Nichols' nori since news of a possible Japanese transfer arose.
What's bad: Have all the teeth of The Pogues' Shane MacGowan in the front third. Inconsistent. Jury still out on Kevin Muscat as a coach. Club at war with its largest active supporter base, as well as being dragged into the "soccer shame" headlines thanks to the wild scenes in Bourke Street in late December.
What's next: Three games in eight days, including a January 14 showdown with the Wanderers at AAMI Park - hopefully with the pyrotechnics and physicality confined to the pitch.

SYDNEY FC
What's good: They keep getting points, though they're never entirely convincing. Serbian striker Ranko Despotovic looks a decent signing, with four goals in seven matches. Fellow Serb, defender Nikola Petkovic, is all quality - among the best in the league this season.
What's bad: Alessandro Del Piero has been really struggling with injury in his second season. Not a great Christmas-New Year period, which has seen the Sky Blues take a few steps back after a promising few weeks. Their only win in the past five weeks has been against the dismal Heart.
What's next: The Sydney derby this weekend will be critical in which way their season goes. Mariners (home) and Victory (away) to follow.

NEWCASTLE JETS
What's good: Beaten the Roar twice and Melbourne Victory this season. Adam Taggart is a terrific striker, Andrew Hoole has emerged, Nathan Burns has re-emerged. Their defence has really become a solid unit which is keeping them in matches.
What's bad: Maddeningly inconsistent, losing three of their past four. Marquee player Emile Heskey looks a shadow of what he was last season, with injuries cruelling his impact. 
What's next: Home clash with Melbourne Victory, but give the impression their top six fate won't be decided until the death - such is their up-and-down nature. Will suffer badly over next few weeks with the loss of four key players to Australian under-22 duty.

PERTH GLORY
What's good: Goalkeeper Danny Vukovic has been outstanding all season in one of the competition's best defences. Still in the mix for the top six despite most people writing off the season as a development one.
What's bad: Ugly sacking of coach Alistair Edwards was amateurish and poorly handled. High-priced marquee William Gallas can't get on the park. Skipper Jacob Burns can't stay on it.
What's next: Home games against Melbourne Heart and Brisbane Roar - the latter should give a clearer indication of where the Glory are at. Their round 25 and 26 home clashes with the Jets and Mariners will probably decide their finals fate.

ADELAIDE UNITED
What's good: Are now chances to make the top six after being bottom two a few weeks ago. The Reds seem to have finally tightened up at the back and are getting to grips with coach Josep Gombau's possession-based strategy, albeit one he has tweaked in recent weeks to add a bit of strategic long-ball.
What's bad: Still not quite able to see out 90 minutes playing this way. 
What's next: The Roar and Wanderers in successive weeks. Certain to be better next season once Gombau gets the players he wants for the system he wants.

WELLINGTON PHOENIX
What's good: A terrific run of three wins in a row to get reward for their commitment to a style of play and some decent football. Beat the Wanderers away, and finally broke their Melbourne hoodoo along the way. No more disruptive national team commitments either, which had hampered the club's start to the season.
What's bad: Losing Paul Ifill for the season and Carlos Hernandez for several weeks because of injury. That loss of quality could prove the difference between them making the top six and just missing out.
What's next: Successive home matches against the Mariners and Victory, which could set up a tilt at the top six unlikely just a few weeks ago. Whatever they do this season, they'll be hoping to build on it for 2014-15.

MELBOURNE HEART
What's good: That Michael Mifsud is a Heart player, not a heart surgeon. Imagine he missed the target that often with a scalpel…
What's bad: Pretty much everything. They've sacked their coach, haven't won this season, haven't won in their past 18 matches, haven't won in their past 25 matches outside Melbourne, can't score, and can't defend. Their games have a familiar pattern. Play great football for a while, squander opportunities, then get hit with a sucker punch. They're eight points off second-last, and deserve to be.
What's next: Trying not to be as statistically bad this season as the New Zealand Knights were in season one. New coach John van 't Schip at least knows most of the squad he inherits from his previous stint at the club.

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