Belconnen United v Gungahlin United | Saturday, 3pm @ McKellar Park
For the second week in row Belconnen United find themselves in a massive clash when top four context is considered, coming up against Gungahlin who sit ahead of them only on goal difference. Their win against Canberra FC last week was important to keep their finals hopes alive and came about thanks to two goals from Michael Taurasi, and snapped a two-game losing streak. They had to weather a number of chances in the first half from the visitors and could find themselves on the back foot here against Gungahlin. Their opponent’s have a top-three attack in the league and could be hard to stop but the Blue Devils showed plenty of spirit to overcome the reigning champions last week and are clearly not ready to give up their top four plans without a fight.
Gungahlin meanwhile also snapped a two-game losing streak with victory over Monaro at Riverside Stadium and will be aiming to build on that here. That win dropped them into fourth spot, a point behind the Panthers and ahead of Belconnen on goal difference, and victory here could jump them into third depending on Saturday’s result at Riverside. Jack Green played a crucial role last week as marauding centre-back, playing a hand in both goals and will be important with his forward runs against Belconnen. When these team met in round five they played out an enthralling 1-1 draw at the AIS, but it’s doubtful whether either side will be happy to settle for a draw here when points will be at such a premium in the closing rounds.
Woden-Weston v Canberra FC | Saturday, 3pm @ Melrose Synthetic
A last-minute loss to Belconnen United last week means that Canberra FC are on the outer of the top four, and a win here could be pivotal as they chase finals football. They now sit in sixth spot, three points behind Gungahlin and Belconnen and four behind third placed Monaro, with just five games left to play. The visitors failed to impress at McKellar, although should welcome back some firepower with Daniel Colbertaldo potentially set for a return to action after being sorely missed. Nikola Jadric remained in Croatia for a trial with a side there after the tour, but fellow youngster Lucas Mauragis impressed when dropping deep last weekend so that may be a move for the staff to make this weekend. A win here drags them right back into the mix, particularly with fourth taking on fifth at the same time, but a loss would see Woden-Weston overtake theme for sixth spot.
The Wanderers lost out to Tigers last weekend in Cooma, and their finals hopes are looking more dire than Canberra FC’s. After defeating Belconnen way back in round one they have struggled to just two more wins, despite being one of the most free-flowing sides in the competition on their day. They lost this game 4-1 earlier in the year as their opponents scored twice in both halves, almost all the goals coming in a similar fashion as players drove to the byline and cut back, something Rey Castro’s men need to be wary of here. A loss in this game could leave them as far back as nine points back from the eight, but a win keeps them in the hunt, particularly if results go their way elsewhere. They will need to find their scoring boots though, having netted only 12 times in 11 games, a strike rate only better than the last-placed Rhinos.
Riverina Rhinos v Tigers FC | Saturday, 5pm @ Solar Mad Stadium
The ladder-leaders hit the road this weekend, heading to Griffith to take on the Riverina Rhinos ahead of the bye next weekend. Tigers triumphed at Nijong on Sunday afternoon with a 3-0 victory over Woden-Weston, scoring once in the first half and twice late in a comfortable win. Gaby Wilk’s side seem to be mostly coping so far with the loss of Nico Abot thanks in large part to Mark Shields while their midfield and backline continue to power along. They remain the stingiest defence in the league and will be aiming to replicate their 4-1 win over the Rhinos in round five when they meet here at Solar Mad. With the bye up next week for Tigers ahead of their blockbuster FFA Cup tie with Hume all three points will be important, particularly if Olympic pick up a win at Riverside.
The Rhinos meanwhile face a tough task, looking to pick up some more points after strong performances in the two weeks leading into their bye. Their win over Belconnen was backed up by a draw against Woden-Weston, but if they are to make relegation into a battle then they have the unenviable challenge of taking a win off the ladder leaders who have lost just once. Keith Jackson will be pivotal having scored six of the Rhinos nine goals this campaign, including a brace in the Belconnen game and their goal the weekend after. When the Rhinos travelled to Nijong earlier in the season they were on the wrong end of a 4-1 scoreline but have improved since then and face a Tigers side who have lost personnel. It will be a big effort though and they will need to be at their best however given the win they pulled out over Olympic in round 15 here last year, it’s certainly not out of the equation.
Monaro Panthers v Canberra Olympic | Saturday, 5:30pm @ Riverside Stadium
Monaro were beaten at home by Gungahlin last weekend after a big win over Canberra FC and will want to rebound here as they host second-placed Canberra Olympic. Josh Gulevski again got on the scoresheet for the Panthers and he is now tied in the Golden Boot lead with Stephen Domenici, who he will face on Saturday night. Their backline was undone too easily by some nice play from Gungahlin that lead to the two goals, and they will be hoping to steady things at the back a little. For a side that finished at the foot of the table last year they have been so impressive and stand on the cusp of securing a finals berth. A win here would be a big step in the right direction and would close the gap on Olympic to just three points, but Jimmy Kanaridis will have one eye on the rear vision mirror, knowing that either of Belconnen or Gungahlin could potentially pass them by before kick-off at Riverside.
For Olympic the game is a chance to help secure their finals spot and a step closer to locking in top two, while also keeping the pressure on Tigers as they toil away in Griffith. Frank Cachia’s side fired at O’Connor last weekend against Tuggeranong but also gave away a couple of penalties, and will want to have those errors ironed out before taking on a dangerous Monaro forward line. Having once played with him, and conceded twice to him in round five, many of Olympic’s players will be wary of the danger Gulevski poses, but they also have plenty of weapons up top and have scored 10 goal in their last two games. That includes the 7-2 win over Gungahlin United that put the league on notice, and overturning that round five result would give Cachia’s side a whole lot of momentum heading into crunch time.