A-League Rev-Up: Tinkering Victory face tough Jets test

Kevin Muscat
No Honda, big problems for Muscat?

It's not a crisis yet for Melbourne Victory but with struggling form and Keisuke Honda's absence, Newcastle Jets are not going to be a welcome sight at AAMI Park.

Wellington Phoenix are shooting for a record against the Central Coast Mariners as the club campaigns for fans to start attending matches.

Perth Glory have shaken off all doubts of their title challenge ahead of a visit from the Western Sydney Wanderers.

Can anyone get a handle on whether Sydney FC are a challenger or not? And Melbourne City look to continue their resurgent form against a recovering Brisbane Roar.

There may be plenty of Asian Cup on, but the A-League is just starting to fire up...

Tinkering Victory need to recapture magic

Honda/Toivonen Melbourne Victory

It was only a little over a month ago the A-League world waxed lyrical as Melbourne Victory demolished Western Sydney Wanderers 4-0 at Marvel Stadium.

Many proclaimed it to be one of the best displays of football they had seen in Australia, while others believed the performance signalled Victory's title favouritism.

But things change quickly in football and while Kevin Muscat isn't having to deal with a crisis, there are plenty of concerning signs.

Victory appear to be a shadow of the team we saw earlier in the season when they are missing their marquee star Keisuke Honda.

Since the Japanese gun has been absent, Victory's performances have been declining and it felt like the defeat against Adelaide was coming.

Even Muscat knew the writing was wall versus the Reds and changed the team's shape from its 4-4-2 narrow diamond to the 4-3-3 formation used over the past few seasons.

The result was an even further disjointed performance in the first-half - but there was an improvement in the second stanza.

Ernie Merrick's Newcastle Jets will show no fear when they come to Melbourne and Saturday night's match should be an absolute cracking contest.

Another poor performance from Victory will confirm the 'no Honda, no Melbourne' train of thought, while the Jets are too good to be seven points outside the six and need to start getting results.

Perth Glory deserve to be title favourites

Neil Kilkenny Perth Glory

It was clear Perth Glory were going to be stronger under Tony Popovic but their dominance this season has been completely unprecedented.

Wednesday night's 3-1 win over Sydney FC should be a wake up call to the Sky Blues and Victory.

If neither team improve their performances shortly, Glory will be out of sight with the Premiers Plate in the bag.

What makes Glory's effort this campaign even more extraordinary is that they have had several injuries to key players such as Diego Castro and Matthew Spiranovic, while Chris Ikonomidis is currently with the Socceroos at the Asian Cup.

Popovic seems to have the squad well tuned, with each player having a role they need to fill each week - and no one is letting the former Wanderers coach down.

A great example is striker Joel Chianese, who is in career-best form after being a player on the A-League's periphery for a number of years.

Interestingly a spell banging in the goals in Malaysia seems to have revived his career, much in the same way Andrew Nabbout discovered his mojo.

Chianese has seized his opportunity with Ikonomidis' absence and will be looking to inflict more pain on the Wanderers this weekend.

You fear for Western Sydney with Perth being the toughest trip in football at the moment but maybe it's time for Markus Babbel's men to make a stand?

How good is the Wellington vibe?

Wellington Phoenix

Wellington have struggled for a lot of their existence in the A-League but it's superb to see the club up-and-about to possibly be a contender this season.

If the club manages to win or draw against struggling Central Coast Mariners on Saturday, it will be a record eighth consecutive match unbeaten.

While it appeared Mark Rudan was struggling early on, he has got things right over the past two months, with the Phoenix solid at the back but also exciting to watch in attack.

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In previous seasons, the Kiwis have teased us with their form so it will Rudan's job to make sure they perform consistently throughout the campaign.

There is no excuse for Phoenix supporters to not attend this weekend's match at Westpac Stadium with even the weather supposed to be alright.

You could also win a few dollars as well - so get along Nix fans.