We’re getting down to the business end of the FFA Cup 2018.
With the quarter-finals on the horizon, the bar will yet again be raised as clubs face off to become part of the final eight.
And it’s sure to be an action-packed evening on Tuesday as the Round of 16 action commences.
FFA Cup holders Sydney FC travel to Cairns, while reigning Hyundai A-League Champions Melbourne Victory take on to APIA Leichhardt.
AVONDALE v DEVONPORT CITY
Avondale were playing in the sixth-tier of Victorian football in 2009.
But after winning promotion five times in six seasons to reach the NPL Victoria top flight, the small club from Melbourne’s north-west will hope to continue their remarkable ascent when they host Devonport City.
Having claimed the famous scalp of Marconi Stallions in the Round of 32, a win over the Tasmanian league leaders would take the Avengers the new heights.
Liam Boland and Kaine Sheppard will be among the chief dangers. They’ve combined for a joint total of 27 goals in the NPL Victoria this season, while Boland’s ability from the penalty spot could prove crucial.
They also have a safe pair of hands between the posts in former Liverpool youth product Chris Oldfield, who was a leading figure in Hume City’s superb cup run to the FFA Cup 2015 semi-finals.
It would be unwise for Avondale to take the visiting Tasmanian side lightly, however. The Strikers have been a shining light in Tasmania and arrive into the contest on the back of a 7-1 win over Northern Rangers on the weekend.
Miles Barnard clinched a hat-trick in that contest – the Devonport striker was responsible for a quickfire brace in his side’s 3-1 win over Northcote City in the Round of 32. Alongside fellow striker Brayden Mann, who has notched a remarkable 32 goals this campaign, Devonport have more than enough firepower to push themselves into the quarter finals.
APIA LEICHHARDT TIGERS v MELBOURNE VICTORY
It’s been a painful end to the NPL NSW season for APIA Leichhardt Tigers, but the visit of Melbourne Victory in the FFA Cup tomorrow night could be just what they need to bounce back from their league worries.
Billy McColl’s side were pipped to the Premiership by Sydney Olympic a fortnight ago, and were beaten on penalties by Sydney United 58 in Saturday’s qualifying final.
The departure of leading goal scorer Jordan Murray to Central Coast Mariners hasn’t helped their cause. The APIA marksman broke a league record with his 23 goals scored in the NSW NPL, and since his loss the Tigers have struggled to retain their bite.
Melbourne Victory secured their passage to the Round of 16 with a 1-0 win over Perth Glory in Western Australia last round, and momentum is building around Kevin Muscat’s squad nicely.
The FFA Cup 2015 winners won’t be arriving in Sydney’s inner-west with Keisuke Honda though, with the fixture against the 2017 NPL NSW Premiers coming too early for the Japanese star.
But Muscat’s side will still be confident of securing a victory – not least because of the pre-season form of Kosta Barbarouses, who grabbed the lone goal in Melbourne’s 1-0 defeat of Perth earlier in the month.
CAIRNS v SYDNEY FC
It will be an intriguing family affair when Sydney FC arrive at Barlow Park to take on Cairns FC.
New Sky Blues’ boss Steve Corica is aiming to maintain his side’s FFA Cup title defence, but one of the biggest obstacles in his way could prove to be nephew Harrison Corica.
The skilful 17-year-old midfielder has been one of Cairns' most consistent and impressive players throughout the NPL QLD season.
He’ll be one to monitor for the reigning FFA Cup Champions, who might have to withstand an early barrage of pressure as the hosts search for a historic upset. Cairns will certainly be buoyed after watching Rockdale succeed in this approach, despite their eventual 4-2 defeat to Sydney FC in the Round of 32.
It means new Sydney signing Jop van der Linden may have to hit the ground running in order to weather an initial storm, should he be handed his debut for the Hyundai A-League outfit.
Alongside the recently-signed Dutch defender, Sydney’s other new acquisitions Daniel De Silva and Trent Buhagiar will be ones to watch. De Silva began life at the harbour city in style with a debut goal and positive showing in their triumph over Rockdale, and former Central Coast Mariner has been one of the most impressive and promising signs for Corica in his tenure’s early stages.
BROADMEADOW MAGIC v BENTLEIGH GREENS
Bentleigh Greens’ 1-0 victory over Wellington Phoenix has made the NPL Victoria side one of the stories of the FFA Cup 2018 so far.
And they’ll have their sights set on continuing the FFA Cup fairy-tale against Northern NSW side Broadmeadow Magic.
Bentleigh appear to be well poised as they journey up to the Hunter. They’ve just enjoyed nine days off to prepare for the contest and despite seeing rivals Heidelberg United claim the NPL Victoria Premiership on the weekend, the Greens have peaked at the back end of the season in recent years.
In contrast, Broadmeadow have lost two games on the bounce without scoring in the Northern NSW NPL to hand rivals Edgeworth Eagles the ascendancy in the Premiership title race.
But in what is the biggest night of the club’s 52-year history, are all the ingredients needed for an upset at Magic Park are there.
Ex-Newcastle Jets striker James Virgili has been the key man up front for Ruben Zadkovich’s side, supplying 14 goals in 15 matches this season.
Virgili’s form has even sparked a potential return to Ernie Merrick’s side – the Broadmeadow danger man was part of the Jets’ tour of China last month.