With Brisbane securing the Premiers’ Plate with three rounds to go, all eyes are now on the race to the A-League finals.
Western Sydney now have their eye on the championship prize after Brisbane took their Premiers’ Plate, while the race to the A-League finals is set to go down to the wire.
After Luke Brattan’s last-gasp winner sealed the premiership for the Roar, all attention is now focused on who will be joining Brisbane in the playoffs.
For the Wanderers however, they’re looking slightly further.
“I would have loved to have the Premiers’ Plate again, that’s acknowledgment of being the best team in the league, and Brisbane have been the best over the course of the season,” coach Tony Popovic said.
“That’s Brisbane’s achievement and one they deserve, so full credit to them.
“Last year the Mariners were the champions … and we still have a chance of achieving that.”
The Wanderers’ 3-0 win over Perth on Sunday officially ended the Glory’s finals hopes but six teams still have strong claims on the remaining five spots.
With sides further down the table still in with a mathematical chance, the final three rounds are sure to be intriguing.
Clayton Zane’s Newcastle Jets have one of those strong claims after a resounding 5-0 win over Wellington Phoenix.
An Adam Taggart double and Emile Heskey’s first goal of the season allowed Zane to start dreaming of returning to the finals even before the match was over.
“When it went to three or four nil, my mind was almost wandering across to what is going to happen (against Perth Glory) next week,” he said.
Exiting the top six to make way for Newcastle is hot and cold Sydney FC, who were outplayed by Adelaide on Friday night.
Their 3-1 loss means Frank Farina’s men face an uphill battle to make April’s finals.
The stage is set for a dramatic three-week run-in.
Progression up the table brings rich rewards under the re-jigged A-League finals system.
Third and fourth host the top six’s bottom two in week one.
The top two are afforded the luxury of a week off – a precious commodity especially to those clubs competing in the Asian Champions League – before hosting a one-off match to make the grand final.
Further complicating the picture is the race for the second ACL place – likely to go to the second-placed team.
And now that Western Sydney have reclaimed second spot, they have no intention of giving it up.
But Melbourne Victory and the Central Coast, who both sit just two points adrift of the Wanderers, will surely have other ideas.
“You’d probably expect it to go down to the wire, all three of us are pretty close,” Popovic said.
“With three games to go, we’re on top at the moment and we want to stay there and we’ll do everything we can to stay there.”