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Watching SBS's World Game program on Sunday, most pundits were of the opinion that its all over for Melbourne and rightly so because of recent form but I think the finals series is a different stage altogether and all teams in a way will be starting from the same position.
Of the teams now left in the finals Adelaide would go in as the form team. In round 20 they overcame Sydney and on Sunday night they easily subdued the Mariners. Newcastle played well against Melbourne no doubt but they were pretty average against Perth Glory and only came to life in the dying minutes of that match.
Although Newcastle have never beaten Sydney FC before, if they play the way they played against Melbourne and most of the season after round 6 they should give Sydney a run of their money. I still think Sydney will prevail though.
Even though Melbourne lost the final two matches of the season, I still think they still have the right kind of players to carry them past what I believe is a very good Adelaide side. With the first leg at Hindmarsh its imperative for Victory to score at least an away goal to ease the nerves before coming to the Dome.
Elsewhere in the A-League, the New Zealand Knights finished off with a flurry and I wonder what would have happened had Ricki Herbert managed them from the start. To some teams they became the finals spoiler and the only blemish for Herbert's team was the fifteen minutes at Olympic Park where they conceded four goals.
With Nick Carle and Milton Rodriguez and also the in-form Mark Bridge, they have very good attacking players but I still think Sydney FC with their experience will be able to contain Newcastle. I could be wrong, and hope I am John.
From a Sydney point of view they had an excellent first half and scored two goals but they should have scored more goals in that half. They have to quickly forget about the second half and see how they can either defend the slender lead or increase it. Either way it doesn't look easy at the moment.
Anyway in the context of the A-League, I think the finals series ensures that the league is relevant all the way to the last round because every team wants to finish in the top four and enter the finals hence we had the exciting Queensland/Sydney battle for fourth place.
Also I think the finals series is the way the other leagues go like the AFL and NRL. Maybe there are other reasons I don't know.
Look at the English Premier League: they play 38 games. Surely, the team that tops the league there is by far the best team throughout the year.
But the finals series is something that Australians are used to, with the AFL, NRL, and NBL, amongst others. It also, I suppose from the FFA's point of view, generates an extra amount of income as well as publicity that they can capitalise on for the future.