Battle for fourth spot: Will it be Adelaide or Wellington?
We’re at the final round of the Hyundai A-League 2018/19 regular season and the main question that remains is who will finish in the vitally important fourth spot.
After an incredible Round 26 over the Easter weekend, the battle for fourth is now down to two – Adelaide United and Wellington Phoenix.
The Reds – currently fourth on 41 points – are in the box seat after their gritty 1-0 win over champions Melbourne Victory at a rocking Coopers Stadium on Good Friday.
George Blackwood’s towering header nine minutes from full time was the difference in a tight arm-wrestle between the two fierce rivals.
That drama was matched in the New Zealand capital on Sunday as the Phoenix edged past Melbourne City 3-2 thanks to Roy Krishna’s sensational hat-trick.
Phoenix’s win puts them on 40 points, not only keeping their top four hopes alive but also ending those of Warren Joyce’s sixth-placed City side.
What’s the scenario?
Everything is in the hands of Adelaide United.
Marco Kurz’s side (41) have a one-point gap to Wellington (40) heading into Round 27.
If the Reds can beat Brisbane Roar – in front of the club’s new coach Robbie Fowler - at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday, they’ll secure fourth spot and a home Elimination Final.
But if Brisbane can get a result in skipper Matt McKay’s last match, it would open the door for the Phoenix.
Mark Rudan’s men though have a mighty difficult task though, away to Premiers Perth Glory on Sunday evening.
If the Reds lose to Brisbane, a draw would be enough for Phoenix to take fourth due to their superior goal difference.
A draw for Adelaide against the Roar would mean Wellington would have to defeat the Glory at HBF Park to leapfrog the Reds.
What does history tell us?
How important is it to finish in fourth spot and secure that home Elimination Final?
Well, since the Hyundai A-League expanded to a six-team Finals Series back in the 2009/10 Season, the fourth-placed club has hosted fifth on nine occasions.
And the home side has prevailed in six of those matches.
The last time the fifth-placed side won away against fourth happened just two seasons ago, when the Glory upset Melbourne City 2-0 at AAMI Park in April 2017.
Interestingly, both Adelaide and Phoenix have been eliminated in the opening week of the finals after finishing fourth.
Wellington fell to fifth-placed Melbourne City at Westpac Stadium 2-0 back in the 2014/15 Season, while the Reds lost 2-1 at home against Brisbane Roar in 2012/13.