Perth looking for A-League Glory
As the A-League reaches the business end of the 2018/19 season, Perth Glory lead the way and a first-ever Grand Final at Optus Stadium appears likely, while the SCG has also been booked as a potential venue.
Round 23 kicks-off this weekend, and with just five rounds remaining, the top six appears just about set, although Newcastle may sneak into the Finals Series with a strong finish to the regular season.
The regular season has given some form of indication as to who will eventually progress all the way to the Grand Final, although anything can happen in the sudden-death finals series format.
Take last year, for example, when Sydney FC finished top of the regular season standings by a stunning 14-point margin. A margin that made them look pretty much invincible.
However, there is always the danger of peaking too early and this is exactly what happened when Graham Arnold's men found themselves dumped out at the semi-finals stage by eventual winners, Melbourne Victory.
Should history repeat itself 12 months later and the early pacesetters fail to go the distance once again, it will not be a good omen for current runaway table-toppers Perth Glory and their manager Tony Popovic.
The 45-year-old former Crystal Palace defender has created a well-drilled squad of players at HBF Park and it is clear to see just why they are head and shoulders above the rest of their A-League counterparts right now.
The football they have served up this season has won them many admirers and therefore it comes as no surprise that they are the expert's choice to win the 2019 A-League Grand Final - a feeling that is also shared by the bookmakers.
A look at the current A-League betting has bet365 offering odds of 6/4 for Perth Glory to be crowned champions, followed by Melbourne City and Adelaide United at odds of 14/1 and 16/1 respectively.
Should Perth earn hosting rights for the big game, the 60,000-seat Optus Stadium is likely to host it, favoured over the club’s regular home ground, HBF Park. It would be the first time since 2003 that Perth has hosted the Grand Final, when almost 40,000 packed into Subiaco Oval.
FFA has booked the Sydney Cricket Ground over ANZ Stadium should Sydney FC earn hosting rights, while Marvel Stadium, AAMI Park, Adelaide Oval and Wellington’s Westpac Stadium have also been tentatively booked.
The key to Glory’s impressive early form this A-League campaign was down to the goals of Andy Keogh and after two previous seasons of rather indifferent performances, the former Wolves and Millwall forward has been in the middle of a purple patch when it comes to goals.
However, like most clubs who are in the pursuit of success, no one man alone can deliver silverware and, thankfully for the 32-year-old Keogh, he has not had to deal with the burden of scoring goals all by himself.
That’s because the evergreen Diego Castro - who, at 36, is four years Keogh’s senior - seems to be having something of a footballing Indian summer as of late and, consequently, his contribution in the final third has been acknowledged by manager and fans alike.
Those same fans have never seen their beloved team crowned as A-League champions and, with each year that this silverware drought is extended, their anguish at a lack of success only extends further.
However, there is a real belief that this could be the year that Perth Glory manages to go one better than their 2012 Grand Final defeat and be crowned A-League champions in the third week of May.