Meanwhile for the sides already holding one of the coveted finals-series positions, points are required to avoid any nasty surprises with the finish line now extremely close.
A.P.I.A.-Leichhardt Tigers and Bankstown City sit in sixth and seventh positions on the League ladder respectively with two-points separating the two sides who are walking a very tight-rope towards a Top-Five finish.
Round 19 action kicks-off on Saturday evening with both these sides involved in very delicate encounters ? ironically, both sides are up against two Top-Five outfits with maximum points eagerly sought-after by all involved.
In the earlier kick-off, it really is a last call for Bankstown City who no-longer holds their future in their own hands following the 3-1 defeat at Sutherland Sharks last weekend. The Lions sit seven-points behind Sydney United, and will require nothing less than a win against Wollongong FC to maintain any hope of sneaking into the Five.
Bankstown put together a very positive performance for the ?umpteenth? time against the Wolves, yet fell short of winning the match despite outplaying the League leaders for the majority of the encounter.
Wollongong FC, on the other-hand, has been in great touch with the arrivals of striker Dez Giraldi and goalkeeper Michael Turnbull proving very effective. Three-points away from home will almost certainly clinch a Top-Five spot for the Wolves, meanwhile Bankstown City will still be depending upon other results to go their way in case of a Lions win on Saturday.
Across at Sydney United Sports Centre, the Reds will be up against the fierce challenge of A.P.I.A.-Leichhardt Tigers following the Tigers strong tactical showing against Manly United in Round 18. Following the reverse fixture earlier in the season ? where Sydney United outplayed the Tigers to clinch a comprehensive win ? the Tigers have turned the corner for the better, with John Romeo?s men almost flawless, collectively, against Manly in Round 16.
Sydney United suffered a minor hiccup away at the difficult Campbelltown Sports Stadium where Macarthur Rams have made a habit of troubling their more fancied opponents.
The Tigers will be sweating on the fitness of captain Michael Galluzzo and striker Franco Parisi ? both players substituted for a hamstring and ankle/knee problem respectively against Manly.
Sydney United will again be without goal-machine Luka Glavas ? the Reds to place much expectation on the shoulders of Ben Vidaic in attack.
On Sunday afternoon, Sydney Olympic will be looking to steady their ship following a return to the winner?s list last weekend. The Blues face Macarthur Rams at Belmore Sports Ground, and Milan Blagojevic will be glad to field stars Shannon Cole and Matthew Mayora who have returned from injury and provided much of the spark in the recent win against Penrith-Nepean ? an ingredient that had been a long-time lacking.
For the Rams, the platform is set for yet another upset as Paul Carter?s group of players have made a habit of being a ?nuisance? for their more fancied opponents. Shannon Hankin has taken the reigns as the side?s ?go-to? man, and recent results have been attributed to the great form of the Rams? midfielder.
Manly United and Penrith-Nepean United do battle at Cromer Park with the home-side in much need of three-points to lift confidence amongst the squad.
Manly is win-less at home since Round 6 when they defeated West Sydney Berries 2-1. Since that day Manly has drawn with A.P.I.A.-Leichhardt Tigers and lost to Sutherland Sharks, Bankstown City and Wollongong FC ? a completely different picture to that of their away form to-date.
If a win is vital for the home-side to keep their grasp of second-spot, a three-pointer is also much needed for Penrith-Nepean United, even though the side is well and truly out of the running for a Top-Five finish.
Penrith-Nepean has suffered the fact it possessed a smaller playing squad than other sides in the competition ? a huge dip in terms of results following an exceptional start to the campaign clear evidence of this. With four-matches remaining, the side is still not mathematically safe of avoiding the wooden-spoon that stung the side last season, though a win at Manly will certainly avoid such a finish.
At Gabbie Stadium, Sutherland Sharks play visit to Blacktown City Demons ? the Demons fresh from their second win of the season last weekend.
For the Sharks, top-spot will almost certainly be clinched in case of a win; meanwhile the Demons need points to get off the bottom of the table.
Brian Brown has an in-form Brad Boardman as part of his attacking arsenal, meanwhile the exceptional form of Brendan Gan and Nick Stavroulakis out of midfield has added a much more stable balance to an already strong side.
Blacktown City?s defeat of Marconi in Round 18 did Ken Schembri?s side the world of good, though the job is still ahead of the Demons. With three-points separating the side from the Rams and Berries ? and one home match to come in the penultimate Round ? opportunities to avoid the wooden-spoon are at a minimum.
In the final match of the Round, Shamon Ramsin?s West Sydney Berries are still in search of their first win following the young coach?s ?takeover? as boss.
The Berries will be without the suspended Kosta Lagoudakis following his sending off last weekend, meanwhile their opponents ? Marconi Stallions ? will be looking to finish off a disappointing season on a high.
The Stallions ? along with Blacktown City ? have won the least amount of matches this season (2) a far cry from the pre-season expectations that surrounded David Barrett?s men. The Sydney Olympic Athletic Centre promises to provide an open match with chances a plenty, as both sides will be desperate to find some meaning from a season that has slipped from their grasp.
-By Joseph Carlucci