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A-League Grand Final: 50-50 challenge

Australian A-League

A-League lacks a Del Piero or Yorke but has quality imports for 2017-18

The 2017-18 A-League season begins on Friday night when Melbourne City host Brisbane Roar at AAMI Park before the blockbuster Grand Final replay between Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC the following evening.

The 13th edition of Australia's domestic competition has seen significant changes at every club, including coach Tony Popovic's shock departure from Western Sydney Wanderers on the eve of the season.

Here's a summary of comings and goings, with an influx of quality European imports, albeit lacking in the star power of an Alessandro Del Piero or Dwight Yorke.

Adelaide United:

Ins: Paul Izzo, George Blackwood, Ersan Gulum, Johan Absalonsen, Vince Lia, Karim Matmour, Daniel Adlung

Outs: Dylan McGowan, George Mells, Sergio Cirio, John Hall, Jesse Makarounas, Eugene Galekovic, Kim Jae-Sung, Marcelo Carrusca , Iacopo La Rocca, Riley McGree, Eli Babalj

Prediction: Let's be honest, Paul Izzo is no Eugene Galekovic. The Reds will miss Galekovic's distribution from the back as much as his leadership, but the finals are still well within reach.

Fahid Ben Khalfallah
Tunisia international Fahid Ben Khalfallah has moved from Melbourne Victory to Brisbane Roar.

Brisbane Roar:

Ins: Fahid Ben Khalfallah, Corey Gameiro, Massimo Maccarone, Mitchell Oxborrow, Peter Skapetis, Emiliano Martinez, Eric Bautheac

Outs: Thomas Broich, Brandon Borrello, Jamie Maclaren, Manuel Arana, Cameron Crestani, Joey Katebian, Nathan Konstandopoulos, Tommy Oar, Kye Rowles

Prediction: Can Fahid Ben Khalfallah truly replace the influential Thomas Broich? More importantly, can the Roar cover for Maclaren's goalscoring ability? Regardless, in Maccarone and Bautheac the Roar should have enough class to make the top six.

Central Coast Mariners:

Ins: Tom Hiariej, Alan Baro, Antony Golec, Andrew Hoole, Ben Kennedy, Kye Rowles, Josh Rose, Tom Glover, Asdrúbal, Wout Brama

Outs: Paul Izzo, Roy O'Donovan, Fabio Ferreira, Ivan Necevski, Nick Montgomery, Jacob Poscoliero, Jacques Faty, Scott Galloway, Mickael Tavares, Michael Neill, Jake Adelson

Prediction: A few good signings for the Mariners, including Daniel de Silva, but who will score the goals? This solid squad appears much improved on last year, but they will need immense spirit to overcome the teams from larger cities.

Melbourne City midfielder Tim Cahill
Tim Cahill, who turns 38 in the middle of the 2017-18 season, remains the biggest drawcard at Melbourne City.

Melbourne City:

Ins: Eugene Galekovic, Scott Jamieson, Iacopo La Rocca, Connor Metcalfe, John Roberts, Ramy Najjarine, Stefan Mauk, Luke Brattan, Bart Schenkeveld, Marcelo Carrusca, Braedyn Crowley, Marcin Budzinski

Outs: Corey Gameiro, Steve Kuzmanovski, Josh Rose, Nicolas Colazo, Thomas Sorensen, Paulo Retre, Ivan Franjic, Anthony Caceres

Prediction: Very little star power, aside from Tim Cahill, in the richest club in the A-League. Will this be a blessing in disguise in terms of keeping egos in check? Unlikely. This underwhelming squad could miss the finals.

Melbourne Victory:

Ins: Rhys Williams, Thomas Deng, Kosta Barbarouses, James Troisi, Mark Milligan, Matias Sanchez, Leroy George, Pierce Waring, Josh Hope, Cameron McGilp

Outs: Daniel Georgievski, Rashid Mahazi, Fahid Ben Khalfallah, Nick Ansell, Alan Baro, Alastair Bray, George Howard, Lucas Spinella, Marco Rojas

Prediction: Losing Rojas is certainly a blow, but there is a lot to like about the spine of this team. It's hard to see anything but a strong title tilt in the Victory's future.

Venezuela attacker Ronald Vargas of Newcastle Jets
Venezuela forward Ronald Vargas hopes to bring much-needed goals to last season's wooden spooners Newcastle Jets.

Newcastle Jets:

Ins: Daniel Georgievski, Mario Shabow, Roy O'Donovan, Kosta Petratos, Glen Moss, Dimitri Petratos, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Jake Adelson, Ronald Vargas, Joe Champness

Outs: Andrew Hoole, Iain Fyfe, Morten Nordstrand, Joel Allwright, Labinot Haliti, Ben Kennedy, Ma Lei Lei, Daniel Mullen, Prio Nielsen, Mateo Poljak, Tomislav Arcaba, Kristian Brymora, Aleksandr Kokko

Prediction: The defensive unit of Topor-Stanley, Nigel Boogaard, Georgievski and Jason Hoffman looks sound. However, it may take some time before the squad gels after a massive turnover in personnel. The top six is still realistic.

Perth Glory:

Ins: Mitch Nichols, Scott Neville, Jacob Poscoliero, Joe Knowles, Jake Brimmer, Andreu Guerao, Xavi Torres, Daniel Stynes

Outs: Dino Djulbic, Kosta Petratos, Richard Garcia, Josh Risdon, Aryn Williams, Rhys Williams, Lucian Goian, Nebojsa Marinkovic, Mitchell Oxborrow, Jordan Thurtell, Rostyn Griffiths

Prediction: So much hinges on Diego Castro's pairing with Xavi Torres. If it works, coach Kenny Lowe will ride this team through to the finals. If not, it could be a long season ahead.

Adrian Mierzejewski, of Sydney FC
Poland international midfielder Adrian Mierzejewski will add midfield strength to Sydney FC's already formidable squad.

Sydney FC:

Ins: Paulo Retre, Alex Cisak, Luke Wilkshire, Chris Zuvela, Adrian Mierzejewski, Anthony Kalik

Outs: Riley Woodcock, Bernie Ibini, Filip Holosko, George Blackwood, George Timotheou, Danny Vukovic, Bai Antoniou, Milos Dimitrijevic

Prediction: Last season's Sydney FC were arguably the best side of all-time in the A-League. Their ability to replicate that success will lie as much in their attitude as anything else. Expect another title push.

Wellington Phoenix:

Ins: Daniel Mullen, Sarpreet Singh, Scott Galloway, Goran Paracki, Dario Vidosic, Andrija Kaludjerovic, Ali Abbas

Outs: Roly Bonevacia, Shane Smeltz, Jacob Tratt, Vince Lia, Ben Liftin, Glen Moss, Alex Rodriguez, Kosta Barbarouses

Prediction: Some very shrewd acquisitions in attack such as Ali Abbas and Dario Vidosic will give Phoenix fans hope. However, to challenge the top sides they will need to strengthen defensively.

Aston Villa defender Chris Herd
Midfielder Chris Herd comes with baggage, but did play five seasons with Aston Villa in the Premier League.

Western Sydney Wanderers:

Ins: Oriol Riera, Álvaro Cejudo, Keanu Baccus, Roly Bonevacia, Josh Risdon, Michael Thwaite, Abraham Majok, John Hall, Nicholas Suman, Marc Tokich, Chris Herd, Mark Bridge, Raul Llorente

Outs: Ryan Griffiths, Shannon Cole, Mario Shabow, Scott Neville, Dimas, Bruno Piñatares, Liam Youlley, Stefan Zinni, Emilio Martinez, Terry Antonis, Nicolas Martinez, Jackson Bandiera, Aritz Borda

Prediction: Tony Popovic has walked out to join Turkey's Karabukspor, but his signings remain after another massive overhaul. If the new head coach can hit the ground running, the finals beckon once again.

Rob Brooks writes about Australian football and the A-League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @RobNJBrooks


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