A blistering 2014-15 A-League season where the dominant Melbourne Victory finished the season as Premiers and champions is a distant memory.
A new season brings a clean slate as the Victory become the hunted.
We’ll take a look at all the odds on the grand final winner, minor premiership, wooden spoon and golden boot winners and see if we can’t make a few fruitful predictions.
We’ll look at the five favourites closely and then glance over the five wannabes.
Last year: Champions, Premiers
Title odds: $3.85
The champions Melbourne Victory are the hot $3.85 favourites to go back to back.
The Victory tore apart Sydney FC in last season’s grand final and there is an air of the untouchable about them in 2015-16.
Kevin Muscat’s men have welcomed dogged defender Danny Vukovic, but will have to cover for the loss of Mark Milligan.
Fortunately, gun midfielder Oliver Bozanic will step in to fill Milligan’s void. He’s a wonderful attacking midfielder who has the ability to thread the needle and should form a strong partnership next to Carl Valeri.
Olyroo Giancarlo Gallifuoco at just 21 could be the man to partner Matthieu Delpierre in the centre of defence, with the injury to Nick Ansell.
The strike force of superstar Besart Berisha, Kostas Barbarouses and Fahid Ben Kalfallah, with Gui Finkler behind them, is undoubtedly the best in the competition and this side is going to score plenty of goals.
One thing that could throw a spanner in the works for Victory is if they go deep in the Asian Champions League. That adds more game time to the squad, meaning more work for the club’s stars.
Suggested bet: Victory to win the title ($3.85 with CrownBet.com.au) – If everything goes to plan, no one touches this side. On the verge of something great.
Last year: Second, runner up
Title odds: $5
The CrownBet crew has the losing grand finalists Sydney FC next on the line of betting at $5.
The Sky Blues have had several changes in the off season, but none bigger than the loss of the competition’s leading goal scorer, Mark Janko.
Janko fired in 16 goals last season and his defection to Basel leaves a massive hole to fill for Graham Arnold’s men.
They will be hoping Besiktas striker front man Filip Holosko can fill the void.
The new marquee man has 65 caps for Slovenia and scored 42 goals in his eight year stay with the Turkish giants.
He should fit in well in the A-League.
Arnold’s focus might be a little off as his side is set to kick off this weekend.
There’s talk he could be headed to Europe, with prime candidate for the newly vacated Liverpool job Guus Hiddink believed to have sounded the master manager out over an assistant job, should he be installed at The Kop. There is also talk that a president from one of the clubs he played for in either Belgium or the Netherlands has been in touch and could be preparing an offer.
The road warriors will again rely on Vedran Janjetovic to be a boss in goal, the number one keeping the most clean sheets last season and Milos Ninkovic looks the goods.
Suggested bet: Filip Holosko to win the golden boot ($9 with WilliamHill) – Much will be asked of the international striker and he will need to deliver if he doesn’t want to cop the wrath of the Sky Blues’ faithful.
Last season: Fifth
Title odds: $6.50
Expectation can be a harsh mistress when reality sets in. City was, at one point, the title favourite. They had a raft of star players from overseas who were expected to take the league by storm. It didn’t quite pan out. They scraped into the finals and did ok to make it past the Wellington Phoenix, but were then whacked by eventual champions Melbourne Victory.
If there was a lot of expectation last season, it’s through the roof this year.
Will coach John van ’t Schip be able to handle the pressure?
New goal keeper Thomas Sorensen is expected to bring top line talent to the position, something City/Heart has not had for some time, but it is Socceroo Aaron Mooy who holds all the aces for the “other” Melbourne team.
Mooy might have tried his luck in the big Euro leagues, but he’s stuck fast with City and they will be the beneficiaries.
He’s the cream of a midfield crop that includes Erik Paartalu and Robert Koren.
Koren, the side’s marquee Slovenian international, reckons he was played out of position up front last season and the onus will be on him if van ’t Schip decides to give him more time in midfield, where he prefers to play.
The likes of Ivan Franjic, Sorensen, Aaron Hughes, Patrick Kisnorbo and Michael Zullo, who make up a mean back five, each having played for their nation.
This side can win the title. It has the pieces, but it’s up to van ’t Schip to come up with the formula.
Suggested bet: Corey Gameiro to win the golden boot ($17 with CrownBet) – Once contracted by Fulham, this kid started last season in a blaze of glory in Sydney. Can he take the next step for City?
Last season: Third
Title odds: $7.50
The FFA Cup winners fell at the penultimate hurdle in the A-League last season, but will no doubt be hit hard by the shock departure of inspiring boss Josep Gombau.
Gombau was a fan – and journalists – favourite, with his witty lines delivered in a thick accent, and new coach Guillermo Armor will have some huge shoes to fill.
They are already out of the FFA Cup, so they only have to concentrate on the A-League.
The key for United is the midfield.
It is as good as any, with the supremely talented Marcelo Carrusca joined by star men Sergio Cirio and Isaias.
Man mountain Bruce Djite started off last season firing in goals just about every week, but then went a bit quiet. He will want to bounce back with Pablo Sanchez and new man Eli Babalj waiting in the wings.
Awer Mabil is a big loss. He produced moments of magic for them last season and his pace down the wing will be missed.
Armor will probably have a bit of grace, considering the man he replaced was so beloved, but he will need to produce results to keep the Reds fans happy.
Suggested bet: Marcelo Carrusca to win the Johnny Warren Medal ($6 with WilliamHill.com.au) – Arguably the best midfielder in the game and a leader of men. Is on the second line of betting and must be considered.
Western Sydney Wanderers
Last season: Ninth
Title odds: $11
Two years in and the Wanderers were champions of Asia. But the A-League performances have not been great.
The Wanderers were a disappointing ninth last season, after many touted their title chances, but things seem a little different in Sydney’s west this season.
It’s a new look squad that many think will go well under Tony Popovic.
Mitch Nichols is back to boss the midfield after his Japan forage, gun Dario Vidosic is expected to make a big impact and Federico Piovaccari is expected to lead the line, with the strike force depleted thanks to the departures of Kerem Bulut and Tomi Juric.
Piovaccari has Champions League experience with Steau Bucharest and played in the La Liga last season, so he is no slouch.
But, let’s forget about what’s going on in the middle or up forward.
It’s the defence that’s the real worry for the Wanderers.
They conceded 44 goals last season – that’s far too many.
The defence is new look and it will be under pressure to perform from day one.
A pair of Scotts, Jamieson and Neville will fire in from full back, with new goal keeper Andrew Redmayne hoping to turn things around for the Wanderers.
Suggested bet: Federico Piovaccari to win the golden boot – Didn’t score a ton of goals in the La Liga, but this is a step down in class that should provide more opportunity.
Last season: Fourth
Title odds: $12
The Phoenix were the feel good story of the A-League last season, rising up the ranks to nab a spot in the finals. But it was gone in a puff when they wet the bed against Melbourne City on their home pitch in New Zealand. They will be keen to atone for that, while still producing that lovely free flowing play they became known for last season. Socceroo Nathan Burns is gone, meaning they will need to find someone else to score some goals. Roly Bonevacia is a gun, but this is an even side that went well last season, but needs to find a way to keep the defence together in the pressure cooker situation of finals football.
Suggested bet: Wellington Phoenix to make the top six ($1.70 with CrownBet) – Will need to find goals, but should still be good enough to sneak into the finals.
Last season: Sixth
Title odds: $13
Socceroos penalty hero John Aloisi gets another crack at running an A-League side and he’ll be hoping it goes a little better than his last stint. He’ll be a cult figure in Brisbane, especially if he can produce early results. He’ll have to come up with a holding midfielder to replace gun Luke Brattan – but maybe he won’t have to worry. Almeria machine Corona – yep, like the beer – could be the man to fill some big shoes. He also has to hope 34 year old Thomas Broich’s body holds up.
The German superstar is as good as any one who has graced the A-League. He has twice won the Johnny Warren medal and is owner of some of the finest goals ever struck in the competition. He had his injury dramas last season and will need to stay healthy for the Roar to challenge.
Suggested bet: Brisbane Roar to win the wooden spoon ($8 with CrownBet.com.au) – Call us crazy, but this side has been gutted and Aloisi doesn’t inspire. High risk, high reward.
Last season: Seventh
Title odds: $13
The salary cap debacle of last season is still fresh in Glory supporters minds. They might have been a title chance at one point. But salary cap breaches uncovered by the A-League left their season in tatters as they were stripped of points. Perth has replaced one A grade goal keeper with another, the departure of Vukovic off set by the arrival of Ante Covic. Covic is 40, but is still expected to be among the best shot stoppers in the A-League. He’ll need to better the 35 goals conceded by the Glory in 2014-15 if they are to be any chance, because they’ve lost their two leading goal scorers in Jamie McLaren and Andy Keogh. New man Guyon Fernandez will be relied upon heavily to find the goals, or they can hope that young buck Chris Harold can finally deliver on his potential.
Suggested bet: Perth Glory to win the wooden spoon ($8 with CrownBet.com.au) – Like the Roar, it’s going to take some time for these guys to be back up the top.
Last season: 10th
Title odds: $21
The Jets finished on the bottom last season, so they’ll be hoping they can somehow lift themselves out of the mire. New boss Scott Miller is starting with the lowest of expectations. How about put a team on the park that looks professional? That’s something they struggled with last season at times, a 7-0 loss to Adelaide United the low point. They’ll rely heavily on overseas men Milos Trifunovic and Leonardo Santiago and will want to see the continued development of Mitch Cooper. Nigel Boogaard is a massive in to lead the leaky defence. With Nathan Tinkler out of the picture, the Jets are doing their best to get it right off the pitch. They will be hoping the results follow on the pitch.
Suggested bet: Can we pass? They’re $3.25 for the spoon with CrownBet.com.au, but it feels like they will be just good enough to avoid the dubious honour. They’re $2.75 to make the top six if you feel lucky.
Central Coast Mariners
Last season: Eighth
Title odds: $23
Poor old Central Coast. The catch cry under Tony Walmsley is promising a more exciting brand of football. But you need the cattle to do that. And the Mariners just don’t. They tried hard last season, but never really looked like challenging. It’s hard to see them rising up any higher than the bottom couple. The Mariners couldn’t even muster a goal a game last season and will be hoping new man Roy O’Donovan can change that. There won’t be many expectations on the Mariners this season and that’s probably a good thing.
Suggested bet: Same deal. How bout Roy O’Donovan to score the most goals at $11.
2015-16 A-League title market
Melbourne Victory ($3.85)
Sydney FC ($5)
Melbourne City FC ($6.50)
Adelaide United ($7.50)
Western Sydney Wanderers ($11)
Wellington Phoenix ($12)
Brisbane Roar ($13)
Perth Glory ($13)
Newcastle Jets ($21)
Central Coast Mariners ($23)
2015-16 A-League golden boot market
Besart Berisha ($3.50)
Shane Smeltz ($10)
Filip Holosko ($10)
Harry Novillo ($10)
Ray O’Donovan ($13)
Guyon Fernandez ($13)
Jamie Maclaren ($15)
Corey Gameiro ($17)
Fabio Ferreira ($17)
Blake Powell ($17)
Archie Thompson ($23)
Bruce Djite ($23)
Matt Simon ($23)
Roy Krishna ($23)
Jean Carlos Solorzano ($26)
Mark Bridge ($26)
Sergio Cirio ($26)
David Williams ($31)
Labinot Haliti ($31)
Robert Koren ($31)
Alex Brosque ($34)
Brendon Santalab ($34)
Kosta Barbarouses ($34)
Connor Pain ($41)
Devante Clut ($41)
Michael McGlinchey ($41)
Nik Fitzgerald ($41)
Chris Harold ($51)
Dimitri Petratos ($51)
Golgol Mebrahtu ($51)
Thomas Broich ($81)
2015-16 A-League Round One markets
Western Sydney Wanderers ($2.35), Draw ($3.40), Brisbane Roar ($2.90)
Adelaide United ($2.70), Draw ($3.40) Melbourne Victory ($2.50)
Central Coast Mariners ($2.65), Draw ($3.30), Perth Glory ($2.65)
Sydney FC ($2.30), Draw ($3.40), Melbourne City ($3)
Wellington Phoenix ($1.85), Draw ($3.60), Newcastle Jets ($4)
2015-16 A-League Johnny Warren Medal markets
Aaron Mooy (M City) ($5)
Marcelo Carrusca (Adl) ($6)
Milos Ninkovic (Syd) ($10)
Thomas Broich (Brs) ($11)
Roly Bonevacia (Well) ($11)
Fahid Ben Khalfallah (M Vic) ($12)
Gui Finkler (M Vic) ($13)
Filip Holosko (Syd) ($13)
Harry Novillo (M City) ($15)
Besart Berisha (M Vic) ($15)
Kosta Barbarouses (M Vic) ($15)
Milos Dimitrijevic (Syd) ($15)
Diego Castro (Per) ($15)
Nebojsa Marinkovic (Per) ($17)
Matthieu Del Pierre (M Vic) ($19)
Dario Vidosic (WSW) ($19)
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