Canberra FC v Riverina Rhinos | Saturday, 3pm @ Deakin Stadium
The reigning Champions will be looking to keep their finals flame burning when they host the Rhinos at Deakin on Saturday afternoon. A 3-3 draw with Woden-Weston last week robbed them of the chance to draw level with Gungahlin and Belconnen for fourth and with teams around them all having their sights on the same ladder spot they need to get maximum points here. Their three goals was the first time they scored more than two since their round six game against this weekend’s opponents, and Luka Ujdur will be hoping for a similarly productive attacking display once more.
The Rhinos went through a brief patch of sustained form a few weeks back, but a bye and the loss to Tigers last week may have halted their momentum heading into the final few rounds. They take on a big challenge this week in a team that beat them 3-0 in Griffith earlier in the year, but on the contrary Gabriel Abdala’s side have pride to play for and nothing to lose, so expect to see them come out firing. Jacob Donadel will miss this game after he was sent off late against Tigers so Abdala will have some reshuffling to do as they approach a tough period of Canberra FC, Gungahlin United, Canberra Olympic and Tuggeranong United to end the season.
Belconnen United v Canberra Olympic | Saturday, 3pm @ McKellar Park
Canberra Olympic have all but mathematically secured top four and finals football, and are all but locked in for a top two finish as well after their win against Monaro last weekend. Frank Cachia’s side are hitting their stride at the right time and he will be pleased with the contributions from different players last weekend. They get the opportunity to make ground on Tigers this weekend as Gaby Wilk and co. sit out the bye ahead of their FFA Cup meeting with Hume on Wednesday, with the chance to close the gap to two points. If they do that then the prospect of an all-in title decider on the final day at O’Connor grows, but first they must get past a Belconnen side fighting tooth and nail to lay their claim on fourth spot.
United were down 2-0 to Gungahlin last week when Christian Pratezina suffered a serious injury, and the side must bounce back mentally for another massive game this weekend. The continuation of that game will be in the coming weeks, but for now Belconnen must focus on getting points to ensure they do not fall out of the top four race before then. Gungahlin still have a game in hand on them, as well as a 2-0 lead when that round 14 match continues, so Steve Forshaw’s men know it is now or never. A loss here and a Gungahlin win on Sunday could prove fatal to their finals hopes, but much will also depend on results from Deakin and Greenway. Forshaw will be hoping for a better start than the opening few minutes last weekend, and need to be in good form to overturn the 2-0 loss they suffered at the hands of Olympic back in round six.
Gungahlin United v Woden-Weston | Sunday, 3pm @ AIS Grass 1
Gungahlin will also need to bounce back from the confusion of last weekend and put their foot down in the race for finals. They have five games to play, one of which they are leading 2-0 in, and would consider themselves in the box seat for fourth spot. This weekend they meet a Woden-Weston side that they blitzed 5-0 in round six, flying out of the blocks to lead by two goals inside the opening four minutes. They had a similar start last week and Marcial Munoz would be pleased if they got on the front foot at the AIS this time. With Josh Gaspari headed back to the USA soon points are at a premium, and a win here puts United in a good spot ahead of a run in featuring the Rhinos, Tigers, Canberra FC and the Belconnen game.
Woden-Weston went behind, drew level, went ahead, were pulled back, went behind and drew level again all inside the span of 90 minutes last weekend and Rey Castro will probably be hoping for a few less emotions this time out. They will need to start better than the afore-mentioned last outing against Gungahlin, and they also took time to settle last week against Canberra FC. They played well after going behind though, and could have been ahead at the break save for a late own goal in stoppage time. Their finals race is run barring a win here and the perfect combination of results moving forward, but expect this team to come out all guns blazing with their potent forward line.
Tuggeranong United v Monaro Panthers | Sunday, 3pm @ Greenway
It’s now or never time for Tuggeranong United this weekend, needing a win to keep their slim finals hopes alive and stop them fading altogether. A loss here could leave them as many as seven points out of the top four with just four games to play, and Monaro would move nine ahead in third with a win. United must jump Gungahlin, Belconnen and Canberra FC if they are to take fourth, and it will take a concerted effort from a side that has shown flashes but not consistently put it together this season. None of their four wins this season have been in succession, and they are one of only two sides to not draw a game through the campaign. The form of Aisosa Ihegie is often linked to their success, and Mitch Stevens will be looking for the young talisman to fire this weekend and drag Tuggeranong back into the dogfight in mid-table.
Monaro remain in third after a 3-2 home loss to Canberra Olympic last weekend, but their gap to the chasing pack is now just a single point and points are more important than ever. Josh Gulevski continued his stunning form with two goals against his former club and now leads the Golden Boot race by a couple of goals, and Jimmy Kanaridis’ side may be looking forward to getting on the road given their better strike rate away from Riverside. They have won two out of seven at Riverside but won half of their road games, and this time face a Tuggeranong side who they shrugged off 4-1 earlier in the year. They were on fire that night and a return to that form would be a big boost heading into the season’s final stretch.