Who needs a relegation battle or a gripping race for the premiership when you can have three teams fighting for their place in a six-team finals series…right?
While the top three and bottom four are set – three teams have it all to play for as a possibility for a home final looms for two sides.
Adelaide United currently sit in fourth and as things stand will host the Wellington Phoenix in an Elimination Final – but this fixture could be switched altogether.
For Melbourne City, they can only finish as high as fifth – but is it within their best interests to remain in sixth and challenge the Victory at AAMI Park?
Here is each of the three sides’ best- and worst-case scenarios for week one of the finals.
Adelaide United 4th: 41 points
Best Case: Home final against Wellington/City
Worst Case: Travel to Wellington
It’s been an ambivalent season for the Reds.
A poor goalscoring record coupled with insufficient funds had many scratching their heads as to how the side would win matches. In addition, uncertainty loomed around Marco Kurz’s future – with the German even linked to the Brisbane Roar at one stage.
But after a run of four matches without a loss the Reds find themselves in pole-position to host a final.
Hosting the Phoenix at Hindmarsh Stadium would ideal for Adelaide – considering they’re yet to lose to Mark Rudan’s side this season and defeated them 3-1 only a few weeks ago.
While Adelaide also defeated the Phoenix in Wellington – with the same score-line – it would be risky business facing a fired-up Phoenix in their first final in four years in what could be Mark Rudan’s last match in New Zealand.
Adelaide could mathematically host Melbourne City – should City smash the Central Coast Mariners and Wellington lose – but remains unlikely.
Wellington Phoenix 5th: 40 points
Best Case: Home final against Adelaide United
Worst Case: Travel to Adelaide
The Phoenix travel to Perth in the final match of the regular season – one which could attract the attention of a number of fans.
Should Adelaide lose to Brisbane Roar on Thursday it opens the door for the Phoenix to jump into fourth against a Perth Glory side already crowned premiers.
If fourth is there for the taking there is no doubt the Phoenix will look to take it with both hands. Not only will give them a home-advantage but will give Mark Rudan at least one more home match in front of the fans.
Melbourne City 6th: 37 points
Best Case: ‘Away’ final against Victory
Worst Case: Travel to Adelaide
The most likely option appears to be the best one for City.
Barring a big win against the Mariners and a Phoenix loss – City will face their cross-town rivals in a Melbourne derby elimination final at AAMI Park.
It’s certainly what the fans want and probably what the club wants as it means they will not have to travel and will face a Victory side they’re yet to lose against this season.
City sit three points behind the Phoenix and will have to make up a goal difference of six goals to replace them in fifth position.
The news gets better for City as given Adelaide cannot drop past fifth, it is impossible for City to travel to Wellington – with their only other option to playing in Melbourne being travelling to Adelaide.
City has only travelled the one time to Adelaide this season and came away with a 2-0 win with Eugene Galekovic taking out another man of the match performance against his old side.
It may not be the most exciting end to the regular season but fear not for the finals have never failed to resurrect what a tired end to a season.
Featured Image: Ngau Kai Yan