Stats preview: Why late drama is on the cards again for Sunday’s massive top two battle in Melbourne

Late goals are often a potential Hyundai A-League winner's stamp of approval.

So what will the outcome be when the competition’s most prolific scorers at the death clash in one of the games of the season on Sunday?

Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory have already put forward a claim for match of the 2018/19 campaign thanks to Glory’s thrilling 3-2 win back in October.

Chris Ikonomidis popped up in the third minute of stoppage time on that night, and there’s every chance that memorable encounter at AAMI Park is emulated this weekend.

That Ikonomidis strike was one of 12 goals Tony Popovic’s side have scored in the last 15 minutes of matches this season.

It’s the most of any team and a prime reason why many believe the Western Australians will clinch their maiden Premiership.

But to do so, they will need to first navigate this fixture – and the knowledge that Victory boast a measure of resilience comparable to themselves.

Victory are the league’s second-highest scorer of goals after the 75-minute mark this season and, having lost only one of their last 13 matches at AAMI Park, Kevin Muscat’s side will have all eyes on a result to blow the Premiership race wide open.

Melbourne Victory v Perth Glory, Sunday 5:00pm (AEDT)

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Don't give them an inch early on

It’s one of the game's time-honoured clichés: the importance of an early goal.

But early goals - too many conceded and not enough scored - have arguably been the biggest factor in Brisbane Roar's struggles.

The Queenslanders have conceded seven goals in the opening 15 minutes this season. That’s three more than any other side in the Hyundai A-League.

They’re also the only club not to find the back of the net in the opening quarter of an hour. Conversely, Sydney FC have conceded just one and scored three in the opening 15 minutes.

Should the Sky Blues take an early lead at Suncorp Stadium, a familiar feeling of gloom may be prone to set in.

Brisbane Roar v Sydney FC, Friday 7:50pm (AEDT)

Adelaide chasing heady Grand Final memories

Are Adelaide United serious contenders for silverware this season?

The outcome of the Reds’ away trip to Melbourne City may go a long way in determining the answer.

But should they emerge victorious in Saturday evening’s prime free-to-air clash, Marco Kurz’s side will have reason to believe they are Championship dark horses.

That’s because a win against City would mean five undefeated matches in the competition for the Reds – a feat last accrued on the day of their Grand Final victory in 2015/16.

They’ll certainly fancy their chances against City, who have been held goalless in their last two fixtures. The last time they were held goalless in three was back in Round’s 15-17 of the 2014/15 campaign.

The arrival of Caltex Socceroos Jamie Maclaren might just remedy that shortcoming though.

Melbourne City v Adelaide United, Saturday 7:50pm (AEDT)

Adelaide Utd celebrations after beating Brisbane Road_Feb 2019

Tricky travels for Central Coast

Central Coast Mariners will feel they are due some fortune in Saturday afternoon’s date with the Western Sydney Wanderers.

Mike Mulvey’s side enter the contest having relinquished a two-goal half-time advantage against Melbourne Victory last weekend – another second-half collapse from the Gosford club.

But their away form suggests it could be another painful day at the office.

The Mariners have lost their last eight matches away from home, their worst losing streak on the road in the Hyundai A-League.

Incredibly, this is despite leading at the interval in three of their last four away matches.

Western Sydney Wanderers v Central Coast Mariners, Saturday 5:35pm (AEDT)

Now or never for Jets

There's no question Newcastle Jets' inconsistency threatens to curtail the follow-up season to their 2018 Grand Final achievement.

Ernie Merrick’s side have simply failed to build upon good performances. On Thursday night, the club will be seeking back-to-back Hyundai A-League wins at McDonald Jones Stadium for the first time since March 2018.

The Jets triumphed 1-0 over the Mariners last time out at home, but three points are a must if the top six is still a realistic ambition for the Hunter Valley outfit.

It’s an occasion in which Newcastle must banish their profligacy. The Jets have attempted a league-high 290 shots this campaign but their shooting conversion rate of 6.9% is the poorest of any side.

Newcastle Jets v Wellington Phoenix, Thursday 7:50pm (AEDT)

Newcastle Jets