A-League: Only one team guaranteed to make the finals after more than 20 weeks of the season

It’s been dubbed the closest A-League season ever – but now something has to give.

As Melbourne City stand on the verge of their first league trophy, the logjam of teams fighting for every place behind them stretches all the way down from second to 10th.

Remarkably, only City is guaranteed a place in the finals despite almost all teams having just three or four games left.

City will be presented with the Premier’s Plate on Saturday night if they defeat the Mariners, currently third.

But should coach Patrick Kisnorbo’s side suffer a mini-collapse instead, and lose their last four games, it could slip out of the top three.

City is, however, hardly alone in looking over their shoulder.

Sydney FC, in second spot, could be usurped by every side down to Western United in 10th.

Though the Sky Blues’ 2-0 defeat of Melbourne Victory on Wednesday night put them in a strong position to hold on to second place and guarantee a place in the semi-finals, defeat in the derby with Western Sydney on Sunday (and Sydney haven’t beaten the Wanderers for 2½ years) could yet throw all calculations back up into the air.

[email protected] are peeking into the top 6! 👀

And there are some HUGE games coming up for Matchweek 22!

Here is your #ALeague ladder update, presented by Bunnings Warehouse. pic.twitter.com/bp0TTzIsiw

Perth Glory were dead and buried seemingly just a fortnight ago, but four straight wins have lifted Richard Garcia’s side to eighth, level on points with Brisbane in sixth.

Only Melbourne Victory and Newcastle are mathematically out of the finals race and will be part of a lower-half-of-the-table innovation this year – the teams finishing ninth to 12th will play off for two spots in this year’s FFA Cup.

But most teams aren’t thinking like that – everybody bar the current bottom two has eyes on the finals and from there the possibility of winning the championship.

Melbourne Victory did it from fourth in 2018, but this could be the year that one of the lowest-ranked finalists goes all the way.

“I’ve never known a season like this, where it’s just so tight because everybody is beating everybody,” said former Socceroo and now Fox Sports analyst Robbie Slater.

“Melbourne City have clearly been the best team and deserve the Premier’s Plate, but as we have seen this year, nothing is guaranteed, especially if City lose key players like Jamie Maclaren to the Socceroos next month. In fact, City have only lost five games, but three of those came against teams well outside the top six.

“Realistically, anyone who gets in the finals is going to think, ‘We’ve got a real chance here to win the title’. It wouldn’t surprise me to see some shock results in the finals, except maybe they won’t be so shocking because the gap between so many of the teams is so narrow.

“We’ve seen a whole bunch of kids step up this season, and one or two have the chance to really make a name for themselves when the finals get under way – if their teams get there.”

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