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A-League Rev-Up: Under-performing Honda must step up against plucky Phoenix

07:20 GMT+3 03/05/2019
Keisuke Honda Melbourne Victory
The Japanese star had a quiet April and Victory fans will be hoping he reawakens in the finals

After another long A-League season where the top six was decided months ago, the finals are finally here and we've got two cracking games to look forward to.

Kicking things off on Friday night will be Melbourne Victory and Wellington Phoenix - two teams that have clashed three times this season and couldn't be split on either occasion. 

Two days later Adelaide United will host Melbourne City with both sides scoring ten goals between them to end their regular seasons on a high last week. 

Get revved-up, a huge weekend of A-League awaits...


Time for Honda to shine again


After starting his time in the A-League with an almighty bang, Keisuke Honda has gone relatively quiet for Melbourne Victory over the past month.

The Japanese superstar failed to register a goal or assist in April across five games and hasn't looked quite as sharp since a hamstring injury that kept him sidelined for two months to start 2019.

Honda is a smart man however and it wouldn't be surprising if the 32-year-old has purposely held himself back somewhat in order to fully fire come finals.

Having confirmed he will be leaving the A-League at season's end, Honda is desperate to leave Australia a champion and must find another gear against Wellington. 

With Honda underwhelming over the past month, Victory have themselves failed to impress, scraping to wins over Central Coast Mariners and Western Sydney Wanderers while losing to Sydney FC and Adelaide United. 

Form has also deserted their opponents on Friday night, Wellington Phoenix, who ended the regular season with a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Perth Glory.

With confirmation coach Mark Rudan will be walking away at season's end, the Nix have lost three of their last four games - conceding 12 goals during that stretch. 

Those results saw Wellington slip to sixth and leaves them as perceived underdogs against Victory. 

The two clubs have however met three times this season and drawn on each occasion in what were consistently entertaining affairs. 

Despite those results, Rudan is embracing anyone willing to write off his side's chances. 

"No one's giving us the slightest chance to get past Victory and that's fine with us - that's how we want it," Rudan said. 

"I've told the players throughout the season there are moments where people questioned us...there is absolutely no pressure on us."

Boasting golden boot winner Roy Krishna in their side, the Nix are more than capable of testing Victory on Friday, but if Honda was to rediscover his early season form, it's a test Kevin Muscat's men will back themselves to pass. 


A tale of two attacks finally clicking 


Adelaide United and Melbourne City have both had plenty asked of their attacking quality this season and it's a question they emphatically answered last week. 

The Reds put Brisbane Roar to the sword in a 5-3 win, while City's young guns fired Warren Joyce to a 5-0 win against the Mariners. 

Those wins and goals will have given both a timely confidence boost and will hopefully result in a different game to their most recent clash. 

Less than a month ago, the two sides couldn't be split in a match that somehow found a way to remain goalless.

Despite taking 37 shots between them that night, neither team could find the back of the net in a performance that summed up their respective struggles in the final third.

In the few games since however, both the Reds and City have seemingly turned a corner, finding a necessary edge in attack. 

For Adelaide, their biggest edge remains Craig Goodwin, who ended his mini goal drought against the Roar with a quality strike. 

While for City, the late-season combination of Jamie Maclaren and Shayon Harrison has proved fruitful as both strikers step up in the final third. 

Though this elimination will likely be a tight affair, there's a much better chance of a few more goals this time around.