It’s finals time in the PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition and the competition’s top five teams are ready to do battle for Championship honours.
Premiers APIA Leichhardt Tigers get free passage through the first week of the playoffs, but for Manly United, Sydney Olympic, Rockdale City Suns and Blacktown City FC the race to the grand final starts this weekend.
In the Elimination semi-final Manly United FC will host Sydney Olympic FC at Cromer Park on Saturday from 5pm.
The Preliminary Semi-Final will be played on Sunday at Lily’s Football Centre with second placed Blacktown City FC taking on third placed side Rockdale City Suns.
Manly United FC v Sydney Olympic FC, 5pm Saturday at Cromer Park
The equation is simple for Sydney Olympic FC and Manly United FC. Win or face an early offseason.
The pressure is on the fourth and fifth placed sides to keep their Championship dreams alive and Saturday’s clash is sure to be an absolute blockbuster.
Manly United come into the match on the back of consecutive wins but suffered a comprehensive 5-0 loss to APIA Leichhardt in Round 20.
Warren Grieve’s side has bounced back from that defeat and has steeled themselves for a solid showing in the finals series.
Scott Balderson has been a star performer for Manly this season and is a dangerous customer out wide for the Northern Beaches outfit.
United’s midfield is anchored by Sasa Macura and his finals experience during his time at Blacktown City will put him in good stead to lead his teammates in their upcoming key matches.
A return to winning ways during the final three weeks of the season helped Sydney Olympic scrape into the top five after a midseason drop in form.
The Belmore side has had three head coaches this season but new gaffer Gorka Etxeberria seems to have Olympic fighting back to their best.
Yu Kuboki has been the Blues go to in attack, while Jason Madonis and Will Angel’s contributions will be imperative to their chances.
Olympic claimed a 1-0 win against Manly at Cromer Park in Round 6, but it was Manly who claimed a 2-1 victory when they traveled to Belmore in Round 17.
With a chance to take on either Blacktown City or Rockdale City Suns, nothing short of a complete performance will be enough.
Blacktown City FC v Rockdale City Suns FC, 3pm Sunday at Lily’s Football Centre
Three week’s ago Blacktown City would’ve been planning to have a week off during the first week of the finals. However, APIA Leichhardt Tigers incredible run to snatch top spot and the Premiership has meant a shock second placed finish and face-off against Rockdale City Suns.
The second placed finish is sure to cut deep for Blacktown’s players and nothing short of a Championship win will be enough.
Despite leading the competition for almost the entire season, two untimely defeats during the final four rounds, including a loss to APIA, proved fatal to Mark Crittenden’s side.
The reigning PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Champions have been the pace setters this season and at times looked unbeatable.
While established stars Matt Lewis, Mitch Mallia, Connor Evans, Zach Cairncross and Joey Gibbs have once again been key contributors, it has been the performances of rising talents James Andrew, Grant Lynch and Daniel Araujo which have really given Blacktown the edge this season.
Their opponents Rockdale have had one of their most successful seasons in the PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition and will be looking for a return to the Grand Final for the first time since 2013.
Led by player coach Paul Reid, the Suns have shown glimpses this season of their destructive best but have lacked the consistency to truly dominate.
Striker Jordan Figon was one of the main contenders for the golden boot this season and his 12 goals were a big part of Rockdale’s success this season.
Rockdale boasts a high-powered midfield with an eye for goal. Wingers Alec Urosevski and Aleks Canak are a constant goal threat, while Harris Gaitatzis and the industrious Blake Ricciuto also know their way to the back of the net.
In Round 9 Blacktown comprehensively defeated Rockdale 4-0, however it was a different story during their Round 20 match with both sides sharing the points after a 1-1 draw.
While a loss doesn’t mean elimination from the finals, the prospect of a shorter passage to the grand final would be encouragement enough for both the Suns and City.
With the stakes raised, It is sure to be an edge of your seat encounter.