The 2018 A-League Championship will be decided on Saturday night when the Newcastle Jets and Melbourne Victory square off at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Sydney FC were the league benchmark all season and looked to be the team to beat again this year, but they stumbled at the worst possible time and were eliminated by the Victory in a thrilling edition of the Big Blue last weekend.
Not a lot was expected of the young Jets squad prior to the 2017/18 A-League season, but at the time of publish they are warm $2.40 favourites to beat the Victory ($2.80) on Saturday.
The signing of proven coach Ernie Merrick has proven to be an absolute masterstroke by the Jets, who have spent much of the ten years since their sole championship win in the wilderness.
Merrick, who interestingly guided the Victory to two championships early in the A-League’s existence, has assembled a squad rich with exciting young talent, but has also drawn on the experience of several key veterans.
Perhaps the most decisive move made by the Jets in 2017/18 however, was the signing of Argentine star Pato Rodriguez, who has completed their line-up and taken the team from a top-six teams into a genuine title contender.
For much of the A-league season, the Jets were the only club that looked capable of competing with the defending-Champion Sydney FC and they shared the spoils with ‘big brother’ this season; winning once, losing once and drawing once.
The Jets ended the regular season second in overall standings, having posted fifteen wins and five draws through twenty-seven rounds. They had the luxury of a week off in the first week of finals and won through to their second A-League Grand Final with a 2-1 triumph over Melbourne City last weekend.
The Victory are one of the A-League’s most successful clubs and will seek their fourth championship on Saturday night.
The foundation club were actually pretty slow from the blocks at the beginning of the 2017/18 season, but they have found form at the absolute perfect time and they will take plenty of confidence into Saturday’s decider after ending the season of former championship-favourites Sydney FC.
Kevin Muscat has been integral to the Victory set-up since he captained the club in Season 1 and there arguably isn’t a better coach in the league at getting the best out of his players when everything is on the line.
A smart run of form leading into this year’s finals saw the Victory finish fourth overall and while they have had to go the long way around, their tough wins over Adelaide United and Sydney will have them primed for another big performance on the final Saturday of the season.
The Victory’s roster always boasts some of the biggest names in the league and they will need their stars to fire to overcome the fast, youthful Jets squad.
The Jets have been outstanding all season and they are currently warm $2.40 favourites in betting to beat the Victory ($2.80) in front of their home crowd.
Interestingly, both teams have been on the verge of elimination in their respective finals campaigns and each showed plenty of fight to get back into their games and subsequently, progress to Saturday’s decider.
The Victory are clearly the more experienced side at this point of the season and that could prove to be the difference in an extremely even contest.
Tip: Back Melbourne Victory to Win ($2.80)