Sydney United 58 v Wollongong Wolves, Saturday 3.30pm at Lambert Park
The NPL NSW Men’s U20’s dream will be over for either Sydney United 58 or Wollongong Wolves when the pair clash at Lambert Park on Saturday afternoon.
Both the Reds and the Wolves enter the elimination final needing a win to keep their chances of lifting the Championship alive.
But it is the boys from Edensor Park who arrive into the contest in buoyant mood after scraping into the top five with a win over Sydney Olympic last weekend.
That victory capped what has been a remarkable turnaround in form for United 58. The Reds’ final chances were in tatters following a 7-0 drubbing at the hands of Sydney FC in round 15, but since that defeat United 58 have been among the form teams of the competition.
They’ve won six of their last seven games and kept clean sheets in five of these – a run that included a vital 1-0 win over Sutherland Sharks.
United 58 leapfrogged Wollongong into fourth position on the final day, and while the Wolves have rarely slipped out of the finals spots throughout the campaign, their form entering the elimination final is patchy in contrast.
The Wolves have won just two of their last seven fixtures. They’ll be hoping top scorer Tory Musumeci, who has netted 12 goals in 19 starts for the team this season, returns to the peak of his powers and is the difference between the two evenly matched sides.
Wollongong got the upper hand on their rivals with a 2-1 win back in round six, but these two teams last played out a tense 0-0 draw when they last met in round 17 and there’s no doubt Saturday’s do or die encounter will be similarly nervy affair.
Sydney FC v Sutherland Sharks, Saturday 4.30pm at Lily Homes Stadium
The Grand Final is in touching distance for both Sydney FC and Sutherland Sharks, and the title ambition of each will firmly come to the fore when the two competition heavyweights clash at Lily’s on Saturday afternoon.
These two sides have consistently set the bar in the past two seasons and have supplied some titanic contests throughout their rivalry – including at this very stadium, in last year’s major semi-final, which saw the Sharks book their Grand Final ticket in extra time.
It is sure to be another close encounter on this occasion as the two giants tussle it out to take on Blacktown City in the major semi-final next weekend.
For Sutherland, the raised stakes must help return the Sharks back to their best. It’s been a disappointing season for the 2017 double winners. Nick Dimovski’s side were seemingly on course to repeat the feat after a flawless start, but they’ve faltered for two thirds of the season and have won just three of their last 10 matches heading into this game.
Sydney FC have been similarly enigmatic throughout the year. The Sky Blues have been far and away the competition’s most deadly strike force with 65 goals (21 more than second-best Sutherland), but have failed to marry this ability to score freely with a battle-hardened rear-guard.
This soft underbelly has been exposed several times throughout the year, including by Sutherland who defeated Sydney FC 6-1 back in round two.
Sydney’s approach will make this contest an intriguing affair – don’t miss it!