The 2020/21 A-League season is scheduled to kick off on Sunday, December 27, and for the first time ever, there will be 12 teams competing in Australia’s top flight.
Macarthur FC joins the league this year, hoping to enjoy the same success that Western United experienced in their debut campaign. But with Sydney FC on a seemingly unstoppable rampage, the newcomers won’t find life easy
Many of the leading online betting sites are already offering odds for the upcoming season. Let’s start by taking a look at the bookies’ prices for the 2020/21 A-League winner.
Western Sydney Wanderers17.00
Central Coast Mariners34.00
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As you can see, Sydney FC (4.00) is the favorite to defend their crown. The Sky Blues have completely dominated Australian soccer in recent years, so Steve Corica’s side will be difficult to stop.
Following a standout breakthrough season, Western United (8.00) has been given a chance by the bookmakers. Newcomers Macarthur FC (21.00) find themselves ahead of struggling Central Coast Mariners (34.00).
I assess each teams’ chances below.
Sydney FC (4.00)
It is hardly surprising that Sydney FC heads into the 2020/21 campaign as the bookies’ favorite to win yet another A-League title. After all, Corica’s men clinched the Premiership last season before going on to beat Melbourne City in the Grand Final.
The Sky Blues have won three of the last four Championships on offer, with last term’s triumph further cementing their status as the country’s most successful club.
Of course, the question on everyone’s lips is – can they do it again?
Well, without star striker Adam Le Fondre, it won’t be straightforward. The Englishman netted a phenomenal 20 goals in 26 appearances last season, but he recently joined Mumbai City FC on loan. Le Fondre is set to remain in India until May 2021, with the A-League campaign finishing in June.
But even without Le Fondre, Corica can rely on experienced duo Milos Ninkovic and Kosta Barbarouses to fire Sydney FC to a third straight title.
Melbourne City (4.75)
Melbourne City will probably still be hurting from August’s cruel extra-time Grand Final defeat. But following Erick Mombaerts’ departure, the club will be looking forward to a fresh start under new head coach Patrick Kisnorbo.
There is no hiding from the fact that last season was the closest City has ever come to winning the A-League title. But rather than dwelling on what could have been, the players must dust themselves down and go again.
After his most impressive season at City, Florin Berenguer is looking to take the positives into the upcoming season. pic.twitter.com/WCLPPEr2QT
If Jamie Maclaren can pick up where he left off last season, City will almost certainly be in Championship contention again. The forward beat Le Fondre to the 2019/20 Golden Boot, racking up 22 goals in 23 matches.
However, Kisnorbo will be eager to tighten things up at the back. City conceded 37 goals last term, while four sides finished the previous campaign with a better defensive record.
Western United (8.00)
It’s safe to say that Western United’s debut A-League season could not have gone much better.
Okay, winning the title would have been the best possible outcome. But realistically, the newcomers will be seriously pleased to have finished fifth and made it to the semi-finals in their maiden top-flight campaign.
Veterans Alessandro Diamanti and Besart Berisha led the way last term, with the team gaining plenty of admirers. The fact that the bookmakers have named Western United as the third-favorite for the upcoming campaign speaks volumes about the club’s recent rise.
Manager Mark Rudan will be hoping that his side can avoid the dreaded “second-season syndrome.”
Perth Glory (10.00)
It is difficult to gauge how Perth will fare when the new campaign gets underway. The club recently enjoyed two hugely successful years under the guidance of Tony Popovic. But following the Glory’s semi-final defeat to Sydney FC, the popular head coach packed his bags and headed for Greece.
Former Glory player Richard Garcia is the man tasked with taking the team forward. The 39-year-old was Popovic’s assistant, but he is still very inexperienced on the managerial stage.
The Western Australia outfit won their first piece of A-League silverware in 2018/19, with Popovic being named Coach of the Year for his efforts. Perth supporters can’t expect Garcia to emulate Popovic’s success straight away, although there is a reason for optimism.
Garcia has wasted no time in promoting a number of promising youngsters from the youth team, taking pressure off aging stars Diego Castro, Neil Kilkenny, and Bruno Fornaroli.
Adelaide United (11.00)
2019/20 was a season to forget for Adelaide United. Sure, the Reds may have won the FFA Cup for the second year in a row. But they also failed to qualify for the Finals Series for the first time since 2011/12.
The South Australia side ended up finishing seventh – just a single point behind Perth. Needless to say, new head coach Carl Veart will be desperate to secure a top-six finish in his first full campaign in charge.
Scoring goals wasn’t an issue last term. In fact, the Reds were the fourth-highest scorers in the division. But Veart must address the team’s defensive problems. Only one team conceded more goals than Adelaide last season – and that was the Mariners, who finished bottom of the table.
It is difficult to imagine Adelaide failing to qualify for the Finals Series again. Still, Veart has a lot of work to do if his side is to bounce back.
Brisbane Roar (12.00)
Brisbane appeared to be heading in the right direction under Robbie Fowler. The former EPL star set the foundations for a successful campaign last season, yet he was unable to finish what he started.
Fowler’s side lost seven of their 22 games before the pandemic struck, with ten wins and five draws, putting the club in a strong position. However, the Englishman decided not to return to Australia, leaving the Roar in a bit of a mess.
The Queenslanders still managed to finish fourth, but they were beaten by Western United in the first round of the Finals Series.
New head coach Warren Moon will be hoping that recent arrivals Joe Champness and Riku Danzaki can solve the team’s attacking issues. Indeed, only the Mariners scored fewer goals than the Roar last season.
If Brisbane wants to challenge the top clubs in the country again, Moon’s side must start hitting the net more frequently.
Newcastle Jets (13.00)
Following a managerial merry-go-round at McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle is currently searching for a head coach to guide the club into the 2020/21 campaign.
Long-standing leader Ernie Merrick was sacked after a poor start last season, with Craig Deans and Carl Robinson both coming and going soon after. With the new campaign fast approaching, it goes without saying that Jets supporters will be looking for a sense of stability.
Still, Newcastle is an attractive option for any head coach. Not only is the squad packed with experienced players, but there are also plenty of promising youngsters at the club.
Joe Ledley, Roy O’Donovan, and Nikolai Topor-Stanley bring the know-how, while Angus Thurgate, John Koutroumbis, and Matthew Millar offer the youthful exuberance.
If the Jets can appoint the right manager, they will almost certainly improve on last term’s eighth-place finish.
Wellington Phoenix (13.00)
Led by Ulises Davila, Wellington Phoenix registered their highest-ever A-League finish last season. The Mexican notched up 12 goals and five assists in 2019/20, firing the Nix to third in the final standings.
Time will tell whether or not Davila can cope without his strike partner. Former EPL forward Gary Hooper contributed eight goals and five assists last term, but he recently joined Indian Super League side Kerala Blasters.
The New Zealanders impressed throughout the previous campaign, yet they are quite far down the bookies’ list of favorites this time around.
Despite enjoying one of their best seasons to date, there is a sense that Wellington overachieved last term. Ufuk Talay’s men will be keen to prove their doubters wrong.
Melbourne Victory (15.00)
What happened to Melbourne Victory last season?
Following years of success, 2019/20 was arguably the worst campaign in the club’s history. With three Premierships and four Championships coming since 2006/07, the Boys in Blue have gotten used to challenging at the top end of the table.
But last term, the team won just six matches on their way to finishing second-bottom. Victory’s demise shocked Australian soccer.
German Marco Kurz and Spaniard Carlos Perez Salvachua both tried – and failed – to turn the club’s season around before former player Grant Brebner was eventually brought in to steady the ship.
Western Sydney Wanderers burst onto the scene in 2012/13, securing the Premiership in their debut season, before going on to win the Asian Champions League the following year.
But you only have to look at their previous four league rankings to see which direction the club has been heading in recently. Finishes of 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th in the past four campaigns underline WSW’s fall from grace.
Following a brief stint in charge of the Jets, Carl Robinson was appointed as Wanderers manager in October. He will be the third different man to lead WSW in 2020, with Markus Babbel and Jean-Paul de Marigny both leaving the club this year.
Unfortunately, Robinson won’t be able to call upon Mitchell Dukes for the upcoming campaign. The forward netted 15 goals last season, attracting attention from Saudi Arabian side Taawon.
Macarthur FC (21.00)
There has been plenty of buzz around the A-League newcomers in the lead up to the 2020/21 season – and it’s easy to see why!
Ante Milicic has been a busy man in recent months. The head coach has already convinced homegrown heroes Mark Milligan and Tommy Oar to join the franchise, while former EPL players Adam Federici and Matt Derbyshire are also on board.
Newest addition to our inaugural squad – what a young gun trio! 😍
Of course, the Bulls won’t be expected to challenge the big guns straight away. But having assembled a competitive squad, Milicic will surely be quietly confident that his side can cause more than a few upsets in their debut campaign.
It would probably be unfair to measure Macarthur’s maiden voyage against Western United’s. But if the Bulls get anywhere near the level of last term’s newcomers, they will enjoy a successful first season in Australia’s top flight.
Central Coast Mariners (34.00)
A run to the semi-finals of the FFA Cup was the only thing that the Mariners had to celebrate last season. The Central Coast side finished rock bottom of the A-League table for the third consecutive year, so it is hardly surprising that the bookmakers have made Alen Stajcic’s team the rank outsider again.
Granted, off-field issues have plagued the Yellow & Navy for a while now. But performances on the pitch have been nowhere near good enough.
Not only were the Mariners the lowest scorers in the division last term, but they also finished the campaign with the poorest defensive record. Having ended the previous season with a measly 18 points and an ugly goal difference of –29, Central Coast isn’t expected to upset the odds next year.
With 12 teams competing in the upcoming season, 2020/21 is set to be the most exciting A-League campaign to date.
There is no denying that Sydney FC will be tough to stop. But after watching Western United enjoy an outstanding debut season, newcomers Macarthur FC will be eager to show what they can do.
Don’t forget, the new campaign kicks off on December 27. You will be able to keep up to date with all the latest betting tips, and predictions over in our soccer picks section.