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Can Anyone Beat Sydney FC to the 2020/21 A-League Title?
Last season’s triumph cemented Sydney FC’s status as the undisputed kings of Australian soccer. The Sky Blues have now won more A-League Championships than any other team (5), while no club has won more Premierships (4).
A quick glance at the bookmakers’ odds for the 2020/21 A-League season shows that Sydney FC is expected to defend their crown again. Unsurprisingly, Steve Corica’s side is the favorite to go all the way in the upcoming campaign.
While it is difficult to argue with the bookies’ viewpoint, there are a number of teams that will be confident of ending the Sky Blues’ hegemony in the coming year.
In this post, I look at the top contenders for the 2020/21 A-League season and discuss whether or not anyone can stop Sydney FC from clinching yet another title.
What Makes Sydney FC So Good?
Sydney FC boasts an undeniable winning mentality, which no other current A-League team possesses. It’s as simple as that.
Not only have the Sky Blues clinched three of the last four Premierships, but they have also secured three of the last four Championships. Most teams generally win one or the other, but Sydney FC hasn’t just been content with half of the glory in recent years.
In 2018/19, Corica’s men finished eight points behind Perth, yet they still managed to beat the Glory in the Grand Final. Last season, they finished six points clear at the top of the table before securing a Grand Final victory over Melbourne City.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that Sydney FC dominated the Team of the Season last term, with four players being named in the A-League’s best XI. Defenders Rhyan Grant and Alex Wilkinson were recognized for their efforts, while midfielder Luke Brattan also made the cut.
After netting 20 goals in 2019/20, Adam Le Fondre was one of three forwards in the Team of the Year. But following the Englishman’s move to Mumbai City FC, the Sky Blues will have to cope without their star striker in the upcoming campaign.
However, experienced New Zealander Kosta Barbarouses is more than capable of stepping up and filling the void left Le Fondre. The 30-year-old has almost 250 A-League appearances under his belt, with over a century of goal involvements to his name (69 goals, 34 assists).
Sydney FC’s squad is also brimming with exciting rising stars. Indeed, I’m expecting young left-back Joel King to be one of the A-League’s standout players in 2020/21. The club’s strength in depth is unrivaled.
Corica’s men will no doubt be eager to lay down an early marker when they face Melbourne City on the opening day of the new season. If they can overcome last term’s Grand Final opponent in Round 1, it would send out a huge statement to the rest of the league.
Who Are Sydney FC’s Main Challengers?
Below are five teams that I believe could challenge Sydney FC in 2020/21.
Melbourne City Will Be Desperate to Impress
It’s fair to say that Melbourne City pushed Sydney FC all the way last term. In fact, the Victoria outfit even managed to claim a 2-0 victory over the Sky Blues during the regular season, although Corica’s side eventually got their revenge when it really mattered.
Still, I think City can take huge confidence from their Grand Final performance. They eventually fell to a single extra-time goal, yet the players definitely proved they could compete with Sydney FC.
There has been a recent managerial change at the club, with former player Patrick Kisnorbo replacing Erick Mombaerts at the helm. It may take a bit of time for the team to gel under their new head coach, but I don’t see that being too much of a problem.
Jamie Maclaren finished as the league’s top scorer last season, netting a phenomenal 22 goals in 23 games. If the forward hits the ground running in 2020/21, Melbourne City will automatically find themselves in the Championship conversation.
Can Western United Continue to Shine?
Nobody expected Western United to enjoy too much success in their maiden A-League season. But after finishing fifth and coming within one match of the Grand Final last term, many believe that Mark Rudan’s side is already primed for a title charge.
Led by experienced duo Besart Berisha and Alessandro Diamanti, Western United stunned Australian soccer in 2019/20. The question is – how much longer can the veteran pair carry the team?
We all know that Berisha is the A-League’s all-time leading scorer, while Diamanti has 13 international caps for Italy. But at 35 and 37, respectively, there is a sense that the aging stars could struggle with the demands of another jam-packed fixture schedule.
Having said that, you’d be foolish to write off the Green & Black in the upcoming campaign. After all, only Sydney FC and Melbourne City scored more goals than Rudan’s men in their debut season.
With a years’ worth of top-flight experience in the locker, I’m expecting Western United to enjoy another successful season. Whether or not the team can push the country’s top sides closer this time around remains to be seen.
Perth Glory Knows What It Takes
If Perth is to challenge for the title next year, it is vital that the club continues to build on the solid foundations laid by former head coach Tony Popovic.
The former Socceroo guided the Glory to the Premiership in 2018/19 before suffering an agonizing penalty shootout defeat in the Grand Final against, you guessed it, Sydney FC. But with Popovic moving to Greek side Xanthi, Richard Garcia will lead the club into the new campaign.
Perth certainly has enough good players to make the transition between managers a smooth process. In Bruno Fornaroli, the Glory possesses one of the best forwards in the league. The Uruguayan averaged a goal every other game last term following his move from Melbourne City.
Club legend Andy Keogh has also returned to bolster Garcia’s attacking options, joining highly-rated winger Christopher Oikonomidis.
I’m confident that Perth will improve on last season’s sixth-place finish, although it might be too soon to expect the Glory to end Sydney FC’s dominance.
Will Adelaide United Bounce Back?
It is no secret that if the Reds want to bounce back from a disappointing 2019/20 campaign, they must fix their defensive problems. Only last-place Central Coast Mariners conceded more goals than Adelaide United last season. Needless to say, that can’t happen again.
The Reds were crowned Premiers and Champions back in 2015/16, yet they missed out on the Finals Series altogether last term. Adelaide has been praised for their consistency in recent years, but the team was nowhere near good enough last season.
Having said that, I’m sure the South Australia outfit will up their game this year. The recent arrival of former Melbourne City duo Joe Gauci and Yaya Dukuly will undoubtedly improve the squad, while midfielder Joe Caletti will be desperate to reignite his A-League career after returning from Norway.
New head coach Carl Veart is a relative novice on the managerial scene, but if the ex-Socceroo can apply his vast playing experience to his new role, we are likely to see Adelaide United challenging at the top end of the table again in the coming year.
Brisbane Could Roar Again in 2020/21
Despite ending up as the second-lowest scorers in the league, Brisbane managed to secure an impressive fourth-place finish last term. Better still, only Sydney FC conceded fewer goals than the Roar in 2019/20, so the club has plenty of reasons for optimism.
If new manager Warren Moon can maintain the team’s solid defensive record and get his side scoring more goals, there is a feeling that Brisbane could make a serious mark on the upcoming season.
With veteran striker Scott McDonald alongside youngster Dylan Wenzel-Halls in the attack, it’s difficult to imagine the Roar struggling to hit the target on a regular basis. Throw new recruit Joe Champness into the mix, and Brisbane’s forward line suddenly looks lethal.
I’m sure the club will still be disappointed to have lost Robbie Fowler, although Moon is viewed as an adept replacement for the departed Englishman. 2020/21 is going to be a season of transition for the Queenslanders, but that doesn’t mean they can’t cause a stir in the title race.
After recording their highest-ever finish last season, Wellington Phoenix will be confident of challenging the country’s best teams again. Let’s not forget about Newcastle Jets, too.
Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers will both be looking to bounce back from hugely disappointing 2019/20 campaigns, while anything other than a last-place finish will be viewed as a success for newcomers Macarthur FC.
Ultimately, it is going to be very difficult for any team to prevent Sydney FC from claiming a third straight Championship. Melbourne City arguably stands the best chance, with Western United also expected to challenge.
As Perth Glory, Adelaide United, and Brisbane Roar look to rebuild under new head coaches, they could all struggle to keep pace with the frontrunners.
The 2020/21 A-League campaign gets underway on Sunday, December 27. If you’re interested in wagering on the new season, make sure you keep an eye out for free betting tips, and predictions in our soccer picks section.