Normally this time of the year we’d be gearing up for the next A-League season and the FFA Cup would have started.
Instead, Adelaide United will play its final league game of the 2019/20 season tonight against Melbourne City in arguably the most bizarre season of football ever.
With a spot in the top six still not confirmed, the Reds will need to wait on other results before knowing if their season ends tonight.
I have already spoken about why the Reds could reflect on this season as a success – even if they play don’t make the finals.
Despite my initial ambivalence about the A-League’s re-start, I find myself increasingly anxious that Adelaide will not make the post-season.
And if they don’t, it will solely come down to that horrible patch of form before the shutdown which saw the Reds lose four straight games and concede 15 goals in the process.
There’s nothing that can be done about that now, but it would be a shame if the lapse costs this Adelaide team – who on their day can match it with the best – a chance to play finals.
Since the re-start, United will have played all the teams in the top six by the time they conclude tonight’s game.
If they avoid defeat, they will have taken points from all of them and that is a marked improvement on how things were tracking under Verbeek.
I don’t shy away from my previous sentiments – I did and still do rate Verbeek as a coach.
But he wasn’t a good fit at United and it is now well known that most players were not enamoured with his methods.
Carl Veart has done a very good job in his short time as coach.
The young players know him well from his time at Football SA and the senior players seem to be enjoying their football again.
He’s tweaked the tactics and it’s worked.
And if Adelaide does make finals, the opportunity is there for them to make a huge statement.
So what needs to happen for Adelaide to secure their spot in the top six?
Three teams are vying for the final two spots: Adelaide, Perth and Western United.
Adelaide and Perth have one game left to play, while Western United have three.
Adelaide plays Melbourne City tonight. Perth plays Western United tomorrow.
Western then concludes with games against Sydney FC and Melbourne City.
Get your abacus out as we go through what could happen.
Adelaide Win/Perth Glory Lose
This is the simplest scenario. Adelaide will overtake Perth in the standings and be assured of a finals birth, regardless of what Western United do in their final two games.
Adelaide Win/Perth Glory Win
The Reds will be five points clear of Western United and will only be eliminated if Western wins their final two games.
Adelaide Lose/Perth Glory Lose
Adelaide is eliminated.
Adelaide Draw/Perth Glory Draw
The Reds will remain two points clear of Western United. Western will overtake United if they win one or draw both of their final games.
Adelaide Draw/Perth Glory Lose
There’s always one quirky one in the pack.
If this happens, Adelaide will fall to seventh spot and will be technically (but not mathematically) eliminated.
If Western gets a single point from their last two games, then the Reds are out. But, if Western get hammered in their last two games (and I mean conceding a ridiculous amount of goals) Adelaide will climb back into sixth on goal difference.
It’s virtually impossible.
Western has a 13 goal advantage on Adelaide. So, it would need that, plus whatever they beat Perth by plus one more for Adelaide to overtake them.
For example, if Western beat Perth 1-0, they would need to lose their last two games by a combined total of 15 goals for Adelaide to jump back into sixth.
Tonight’s game is also important for Melbourne City. A win will secure them a top-two spot and a guaranteed spot in the semi-finals and put them in reach of a maiden grand final appearance.
They won’t be taking it easy but neither will Adelaide.
And another thing…
If things weren’t weird enough this season, another peculiar anomaly is being played out in the UEFA Champions League.
While the remaining games of the 19/20 edition are being played out, the 20/21 competition has started at the same time.
The semi-finals of the Preliminary Round saw San Marino’s Tre Fiori lose at home to Northern Ireland’s Linfield, whilst Kosovo’s Drita beat Andorra’s Inter Club D’Escaldes.
Drita host Linfield tomorrow morning for a chance to progress to the first qualification round, a mere 24 hours before Atalanta host Paris Saint-Germain in the Quarter-finals of the 19/20 competition.
Spiro Karanikos-Mimis is InDaily’s soccer columnist.
Make your contribution to independent news
A donation of any size to InDaily goes directly to helping our journalists uncover the facts. South Australia needs more than one voice to guide it forward, and we’d truly appreciate your contribution. Please click below to donate to InDaily.