Front Page Football's 2020-21 A-League Season Predictions
After four long months, the A-League will return tomorrow night when Western United faces Adelaide in Geelong.
Today, we will give our final predictions ahead of the 2020-21 season.
Premiers: Melbourne City
City narrowly missed out on a maiden title last season.
However, having kept most of their core from 2019-20, they will finish top at the end of the home and away season.
Jamie Maclaren should find the net with regularity again, whilst Andrew Nabbout and Florin Berenguer's creativity will cause problems in attacking areas.
The only question mark that remains is over the manager, as Patrick Kisnorbo is a rookie in his first season.
The 39-year-old will follow the same style that Erick Mombaerts introduced last campaign.
City fans will hope he can build onto the Frenchman's foundations.
Champions: Western United
Yep, we're sticking our necks on the line with this one, but hear us out for a second.
In their inaugural season, Western overachieved by reaching the Semi-Finals.
However, the way they adapted to Mark Rudan's style so quickly should breed confidence for 2020-21.
Alessandro Diamanti and Besart Berisha are likely to pick up where they left off last season.
Berisha will be at the forefront of any success Western have this season. (AAP)
Josh Risdon and Connor Pain should continue to cause problems as wing-backs.
Victor Sanchez will come in and be a fantastic acquisition too, being the lynchpin in midfield.
This prediction is undoubtedly bold, but in a season more unpredictable than ever, it might just be wise to put your money on the unexpected horse.
Surprise Package: A Western Sydney team
Either one of Macarthur or the Western Sydney Wanderers will overachieve in 2020-21.
The Bulls have built a strong squad on paper and should be optimistic given the first season success of expansion sides in recent years.
A strong contingency of foreigners including Spanish pair Markel Susaeta and Beñat underlines the star quality at coach Ante Milicic's disposal.
Meanwhile, the Wanderers have poached an excellent coach in Carl Robinson from Newcastle.
They have a strong core of experienced players too.
It is about time a club of their stature wakes up from cryogenic sleep and stops disappointing their large supporter base by playing finals football again.
The new rivalry between these two clubs should be a fascinating watch as well.
Biggest Disappointment: Melbourne Victory
Many critics have Grant Brebner leading the Victory back where they belong in the top six, but we're not entirely convinced.
Their recruitment policy does not seem that much better than last season.
The manager's lack of experience is also a question mark.
Rudy Gestede seems a top acquisition, but his comments in the press recently stink of another foreigner underestimating the competition's quality.
“Hopefully I will dominate the league more than Toivonen," he was quoted as saying in the Sydney Morning Herald recently.
Gestede is confident he can fill the void left by Swede Ola Toivonen. (Getty Images)
It is all well and good being confident, but if the Victory thinks they will waltz back into the six, they will come unstuck yet again.
We also feel Brebner is in a position where he is set up to fail, as youthful managers often need time to make progress.
However, Victory must return to finals football immediately.
Golden Boot: Jamie Maclaren
Maclaren is the ultimate A-League poacher.
If he receives similar service to last season, then there is no reason why he can't win a second successive golden boot.
You only need to look at his City record of 34 goals in just 39 appearances to understand the impact he has.
Since his arrival, the team have become far more clinical as well.
Berisha was the only player who came close to the ex-Hibernian man's tally last season, netting 19 times.
Adam Le Fondre also came close with 20 strikes.
However, he has gone to India, meaning J-Mac has less competition to win the coveted accolade.
Most Assists: Alessandro Diamanti
We honestly would not be surprised if Diamanti won a second straight Johnny Warren Medal.
It was like watching fellow countryman Alessandro Del Piero back down under at times last season.
If the 37-year-old stays fit, then he could lead Western to a maiden title.
It is not just his quality, but how he lifts the quality of others as well.
Risdon and Pain would not have been so successful in their roles without the Italian's supply.
Likewise can be said for Berisha, whilst Max Burgess is no doubt learning a lot by training and playing with the ex-West Ham midfielder every week.
Rudan should also take a lot of credit in managing the attacking midfielder's workload and getting the best out of him in Western's 3-4-3 formation.
First Sacked: Alen Stajcic
In our preview of the Mariners season, we gave Stajcic a big wrap, suggesting he was more than capable of turning the club's fortunes around.
However, we all said the same when Paul Okon and Mike Mulvey took over, but they also failed.
Therefore, the playing group are the common denominator.
Stajcic will be the first to go because the players will down tools as soon as the losses start creeping in, just as they did under the previous two managers.
Stajcic has a tough job bringing finals football back to the Central Coast. (Getty Images)
Unfortunately for the Mariners, they are in a vicious cycle of avoiding the spoon, unless significant changes are made within the playing squad or on the board.
Wooden Spoon: Newcastle Jets
The off-field problems at the Newcastle Jets have been well-documented of late.
We think the pressure to survive as a club will eventually take its toll on the first-team.
For some clubs in financial disarray, a return to on-field action can be a welcome distraction.
However, the Jets aren't even fully prepared for that.
Just a day out from the season opener they are still without a manager.
Their headline signing right now is goalkeeper Jack Duncan.
We're not saying Duncan isn't a good keeper, but you need more than that if you want to be competitive in this league.
Newcastle supporters should be very concerned.
Full Ladder Prediction:
1st - Melbourne City
2nd - Sydney FC
3rd - Western United
4th - Western Sydney Wanderers
5th - Macarthur FC
6th - Adelaide United
7th - Wellington Phoenix
8th - Melbourne Victory
9th - Perth Glory
10th - Brisbane Roar
11th - Central Coast Mariners
12th - Newcastle Jets