Adelaide United face a tough task of claiming back-to-back Hyundai A-League titles.
You sense the Reds can’t wait for the season to start.
It’s been a disastrous off-season for them. Following that momentous day on May 1 – and those post-game celebrations that included Gui Amor’s pressa being hijacked and sprayed with champagne by exuberant Reds – the bubble has seemingly burst.
On the pitch, a loss to PS4 NPL side Redlands in the FFA Cup Round of 32 was a hammer blow. The champions were taken down by a hardy bunch of semi pros in one of the biggest shocks in Cup history.
This happened after losing five key players who helped them win the A-League double last season – Pablo Sanchez, the two Bruces Kamau and Djite, Craig Goodwin and Stefan Mauk.
Then, as if cursed, playmaker Marcelo Carrusca got injured recently and is out for around eight rounds.
Defender Jordan Elsey is on the long-term injury list, too, after doing his ACL.
But it’s not all bad news. The side still retains much of their defensive power – and adding James Holland to central midfield is a big boost – and going forward they’ll have a renewed impetus.
Adelaide will hope Henrique can sprinkle some of his Roar magic on the Reds forward line.
Ryan Kitto could be the breakout player we all believed he’d be at Newcastle while there’s hope a Guardiola (import Sergi Guardiola) can be a new star in Red.
If they can all fire, and Carrusca comes back 100%, don’t rule the Reds out from making the six again.
The burning questions
*How will the new faces live up to the high standards of the players they lost?
*Can they adapt to the ACL and A-League schedule?
*Can they get Carrusca back to 100% after this untimely injury?
Lessons learnt from last season
*A bad start isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
On paper it’s a relatively easy opener away to the Jets, who are still bedding in a new coach.
Then it gets serious with Wanderers back in Adelaide and looking for revenge in Round 2, followed by a blockbuster home clash with Victory and a road trip to City to round out October.
The Reds finish the season against three likely top six sides, home to Perth, away to City and home to Wanderers in Round 27.
They won’t have FFA Cup commitments in October and November but the ACL kicks in around February/March.
That’s when it gets tricky.
*Amor’s knowledge and insights into the A-League are even greater now.
*Their defensive solidity was the platform for a Championship/Premiership double. That shouldn’t change this year.
*Losing a quintet of hugely talented Championship winners isn’t easy to replace.
* Tag of champions can weigh heavy on some.
*ACL commitments – will it help or hinder their title defence?
*Can they cover for Carrusca’s loss, expected to be for the opening eight rounds of the season.
The biggest difference between Amor and his predecessor Gombau is the team’s structure and pressing. Under Amor, the team is more aware of its defensive shape and doesn’t press as high all the time. When they lose the ball they still work hard to retain possession but their block is a little lower on the pitch so they don’t get played through so easily. They still press, just a little more cleverly and with a more solid structure.
This won’t change.
Ryan Kitto. Showed some quality at the Jets last season. Expect him to shine this time around.
The Reds make it to the Finals Series and qualify through the ACL group stage to the Round of 16 in late May.
Football Federation Australia