Fans of the world game in Australia are patient – and they have to be.
The longest sporting off-season on the planet is finally over, with the A-League officially kicking off on October 7 when Melbourne City host Western United at AAMI Park in a grand final replay.
At the same venue on May 28, John Aloisi’s squad stunned City 2-0 due largely to a man of the match performance from Serbian striker Aleksandar Prijović.
Since then, the 12 A-League men’s outfits have been working towards another shot at silverware – and come Friday, it is showtime.
Daily Mail Australia has taken a close look at the new-look squads – and boldly predicted where YOUR team will finish.
Any team with Ben Halloran and Craig Goodwin on their team sheet should be competitive. Also look for youngster Alexandar Popovic and Sydney FC recruit Harry Van Der Saag to impress.
Coach Carl Veart has been in charge now for three seasons and will look to hit the ground running.
Key recruit Charlie Austin will look to offer Brisbane Roar a cutting edge up front in the A-League (pictured, with wife Bianca)
Predicted finish: 9th
Coach Warren Moon landed a much needed big fish in the form of journeyman English striker Charlie Austin. The one-time Southampton forward knows how to find the back of the net – although he may take time to adjust to the brutal heat in Queensland across summer.
Jay O’Shea will provide grunt in the middle of the park, with Japanese attacking midfielder Riku Danzaki also impressing during pre-season.
Predicted finish: 10th
Central Coast Mariners
Young gun Garang Kuol will look to turn heads for the Mariners so he can be in the frame for Socceroos selection ahead of the World Cup
All eyes will be on forward Garang Kuol as the 18-year-old uses the A-League to push his case for Socceroos selection ahead of the World Cup in Qatar come November.
Coach Nick Montgomery will have his team fit, with fellow World Cup hopeful Jason Cummings also tipped to find the back of the net with ease.
Predicted finish: 7th
With Dwight Yorke at the helm they loom as the A-League’s entertainers, and collectively the Bulls will have a spring in their step after winning the Australia Cup.
Daniel Arzani looms as their x-factor, as he looks to realise his considerable potential following a succession of niggling injuries. Ulises Davila is another to watch closely as Manchester United legend Yorke places emphasis on attacking football.
Manchester United legend Dwight Yorke has already won silverware, lifting the Australia Cup (pictured, with captain Ulises Davila)
Predicted finish: 4th
Melbourne City FC
Last season’s minor premiers failed to do the double – and it would have burned Pat Kisnorbo’s men. They will look for Jamie Maclaren to provide the goals, Socceroo Mat Leckie the assists and for Tom Glover to be an assured figure in goal.
Predicted finish: 3rd
Marquee signing Nani is a match-winner and the ex-Manchester United winger is guaranteed to put bums on seats at Melbourne Victory games
Tony Popovic wouldn’t have been happy with bombing out in the semi-finals last season, and in marquee signing Nani, he has a match-winner on his team sheet. The ex-Manchester United winger is guaranteed to put bums on seats, and will look to strike up a combination with talented – but injury prone – striker Chris Ikonomidis.
Predicted finish: 1st
Arthur Papas has promised attacking football – and plenty of responsibility will fall on the shoulders of key recruits Reno Piscopo and Brandon O’Neill. Defence may be an issue, with English star Carl Jenkinson tipped to be very busy.
Predicted finish: 11th
In a rebuilding phase, coach Ruben Zadkovich will pin his hopes on winger Ryan Williams and striker Bruno Fornaroli. If they don’t start well, it could be a long season in the West.
Predicted finish: 12th
Andrew Redmayne was the hero as the Socceroos beat Peru to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar – he will turn out for Sydney FC in the A-League
One-time English prodigy Jack Rodwell has joined Sydney FC from bitter rivals Western Sydney Wanderers
Under pressure coach Steve Corica has opted for an English flavour in his squad after finishing eighth last campaign. In comes former Nottingham Forest star Joe Lolley and one-time Everton star Jack Rodwell, as the Sky Blues look to push for a spot in the top two.
Predicted finish: 2nd
After being forced to spend the past two years in Australia due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Kiwi fans are likely to rally around the club in the wake of their return to New Zealand. Look for goalkeeper Oli Sail and elegant midfielder Steven Ugarkovic to have big seasons.
Predicted finish: 8th
Western Sydney Wanderers
Mark Rudan has lured Sydney FC legend Milos Ninkovic to Commbank Stadium, and Brandon Borrello joins the club from German side Frieberg. Terry Antonis will also provide some classy touches going forward.
Predicted finish: 6th
John Aloisi’s men will look to win back to back championships, with Dylan Pierias’ electric pace offering an x-factor. Alessandro Diamanti has declared this will be his final season, and the playing group will be motivated to send out the Italian a winner as he draws the curtain on a decorated career.
Predicted finish: 5th