Perth Glory v Brisbane Roar | Saturday 16th February 2019, 11:00 | BT Sport
Since the Australian top-flight changed format to the A-League in 2005, Perth Glory have only once reached the end of season play-offs. They would finish runners-up in 2012 to Brisbane Roar in the Grand Final.
The two clubs meet this weekend, but they find themselves at different ends of the table. Whilst Brisbane had the last laugh all those years ago, Perth now find themselves battling for silverware, whilst the Roar are playing for pride.
Whilst Brisbane may only be playing for pride, they are playing for their futures. Interim boss Darren Davies, a Welshman who played for the likes of Forest Green and Dover in his playing days, oversaw an excellent 2-1 home win over Sydney FC last weekend. Considering Sydney are chasing top spot, this was some achievement, even more so after coming from a goal behind.
Davies wants the job full-time, and these players want to be a part of the journey. Perhaps Perth will need to work a little harder than expected to get all three points. However, Brisbane are one of two teams in the league yet to record an away win.
Perth Glory also have a head coach with British connections. Tony Popovic played over 100 times for Crystal Palace between 2001 and 2006 and has been at the helm since May 2018. They currently have a seven-point advantage at the top of the standings after 18 games of action, suffering just the one defeat.
Glory enjoyed a fine 2-1 away triumph away to second in the table Melbourne Victory last time out to open up that gap at the summit. The Glory have the best A-League defensive record, and only The Victory has scored more goals. They’re in a great place at this moment in time.
If anything, Sydney losing to Brisbane last weekend might do a favour to teams like Perth. It just shows that they cannot take any opponent lightly, regardless if they seemingly have nothing to play for. Perth want to secure top spot at the earliest possible moment and another three points at the weekend is of paramount importance. They are clearly the side we want to be with, but as expected they’re slim odds-on pickings.
There has to be another way of getting the hosts on side and we’ve found a little gem. No team has been winning at half-time more than the Glory this season. Only on one occasion where they have been winning at the break have they failed to go on and win outright.
On the flip side, Brisbane have the worst first half record in the league as they’ve been behind in 50% of their matches at the break.
Perth Glory/Perth Glory in the Half-Time/Full-Time market is available at 21/20 (Boylesports).
AZ Alkmaar v VVV Venlo | Saturday 16th February 2019, 17:30
An avid following of the Dutch Eredivisie will tell you that AZ Alkmaar are winning a lot of games at this moment in time. In fact, if the league table was based purely on the eight most recent fixtures, then they’d sit at the top of the standings.
Scoring goals has also become a strong point for AZ after initially starting the season rather poorly. They only won three of their first ten, but over their last nine games in all competitions, it is only league leaders PSV to have defeated them. They’ve won their last five in a row, keeping a clean sheet in them all.
Only Vitesse and Utrecht separate AZ and VVV Venlo in the Eredivisie table after 21 games this season. There is however an eight-point gap and there is still something of a class difference between the two.
Whilst the points tally may suggest otherwise, the Dutch league is separated into different pillars, just like the Premier League and the ‘top six’. PSV and Ajax will battle the title, and Feyenoord can break into that bracket at their best. AZ, Vitesse and Utrecht are very much the best of the rest, with the others playing catch-up in that regard.
Therefore, Venlo will be delighted to see themselves level on points with Utrecht and currently inside a Europa League play-off spot. They would be most delighted if the season ended now. Staying in this position will be a challenge for them however, especially as last season they ended in 15th. A trip to the AFAS Stadion this weekend will seriously test their metal.
Over the last six head-to-head meetings in competitive action, Venlo has not beaten AZ. They did manage to do so away from home back in 2012, but this is generally quite a one-sided fixture historically. The earlier season meeting finished in a 2-2 draw, which was in the midst of AZ’s first real run of form of the campaign.
One thing Venlo, also known as VVV, don’t tend to do is score that many goals. Only five sides have scored fewer than they have in the top-flight of Dutch football. On the other hand, it is only top three PSV, Ajax and Feyenoord who has netted more times than AZ have done.
Boss John van den Brom is leaving at the end of the season to become the next manager of Utrecht, and whilst that is a bit of a strange development considering both are battling to qualify for next season’s Europa League, recent form suggests it isn’t much of a worry right now. AZ are the team to be with at the moment.
Venlo have lost 6/11 away games this season. Something noticeable about AZ is that whilst they are winning games, they are managing to do so in rather comfortable fashion – 3-0, 2-0, 2-0, 5-0 and 3-0 are their last five results, and whilst the clean sheets catch the eye, it is the amount of goals they score which attracts my attention the most. They also have another 5-0 home win to their name this season.
The AZ Alkmaar -1 Handicap is nicely priced at 5/6 (Sportingbet). Venlo tend to struggle against the better teams in the league on the road. They lost 6-0 at Ajax, 4-0 versus PSV, 4-1 in Feyenoord and 4-1 to Heracles.
Also we cannot forget that AZ has already hosted Venlo in the domestic Dutch cup competition this season at home, sealing a 2-0 victory.
Perth Glory v Brisbane Roar – Perth Glory/Perth Glory (21/20 Boylesports)
AZ Alkmaar v Venlo – AZ Alkmaar -1 Handicap (5/6 Sportingbet)