Sutherland Sharks? colossal season to-date has taken the League by storm ? Brian Brown?s men have almost certainly clinched the Minor-Premiership, even at this early stage, as the team holds a commanding seven-point lead over their closest rival.
Between second and fifth-place, one-point separates Manly United and Sydney Olympic with a further seven-points the distance with A.P.I.A.-Leichhardt Tigers in sixth-spot.
Saturday evening provides Bankstown City with one of their last chances of staking a claim for a Top-Five finish as Sydney Olympic visit Jensen Park.
A win for the Lions would cut the Blues? lead over Peter Tsekenis? men to four-points, a very positive proposition with five-matches to follow this weekend?s Round.
Bankstown City will carry the confidence of a morale-boosting victory against Macarthur Rams in Round 16, meanwhile Sydney Olympic will be out to put an end to a form-slump following an extremely hectic playing schedule over the past two-weeks.
These two-sides met one-week ago in the re-scheduled Round 6 fixture with the much expected physical encounter ending 1-1.
Macarthur Rams? mid-season revival seems all but forgotten as Paul Carter?s men have conceded eleven-goals in their last two outings.
Sutherland Sharks visit Campbelltown Sports Stadium on Saturday evening with the belief amongst the players riding sky-high following the immense fight-back against Sydney United last weekend.
The Rams will need to be much more precise in-front of goal – Carter?s side having created a number of chances against Bankstown in Round 16, though failure to convert those chances rewarded the Lions who ran out 4-0 winners.
At Marconi Stadium, the eagerly anticipated ?Italian Derby? promises to be a dog-fight between two sides that have struggled to live up to the weight of expectation bestowed upon them.
Six-points separate the Tigers and the Stallions, with A.P.I.A.-Leichhardt desperately needing three-points to keep alive a final sprint for Finals football.
Marconi Stallions on the other-hand has re-found goal-scorer Tolgay Ozbey and another player who has made goal-scoring a habit, Ante Deur.
Both players were on-target last weekend, and both will again need to be firing against the Tigers if the Stallions unbeaten run of eleven matches ? between League and Cup ? is to continue.
On Sunday afternoon bottom-placed Blacktown City Demons host Penrith-Nepean at Gabbie Stadium. The Demons? heart-breaking campaign to-date, due largely to the side?s ?never ending? list of injuries and suspensions, does not look likely to improve.
Coach Ken Schembri has been courageous in the space he has given his younger squad members ? a move that has proven to be successful in the improvement of the side?s performances, though the results have not been so forth-coming.
Penrith-Nepean was extremely unlucky not to grind out a result against Marconi Stallions last weekend, with Abbas Saad?s men conceding a late goal to deny the team three-points.
West Sydney Berries will be looking for their first win under new coach Ramsin Shamon following his replacement of Scott Baillie as the club boss.
The Berries have impressed with their attacking football displays in recent weeks, though the team has failed to secure wins. The Sama brothers will again be the ?go to? men in attack against the struggling Manly United at Sydney Olympic Athletic Centre ? the visitors in much need of a win to re-find the confidence that has somewhat abruptly befriended them.
The final scheduled match for Round 17 pitted Wollongong FC against Sydney United though the match has been re-scheduled.
In-order to avoid a clash with the Socceroos ? who play China in a World Cup Qualifier in Sydney on the same afternoon ? Wollongong FC opted to have the match re-scheduled.
A Wollongong FC spokesperson commented the club?s decision:
?The alternatives were to play the game early at 1.00pm but the club felt that this would not allow our supporters enough time to get to the Sydney game.
?Having United come down for a Friday night or Saturday provided other issues so the game has been moved to the free weekend of Sunday 20th July at John Crehan Park.
This will mean three consecutive weekends of Wollongong FC playing at home, and it gives the team and supporters a real chance to build up some momentum.?
-By Joseph Carlucci