AAP hands out the mid-season report cards for the A-League's 10 teams and predicts where teams will finish the season.
Title defences are never easy, especially not when the list of departures includes key figures like Bruce Djite, Craig Goodwin, Stefan Mauk and Bruce Kamau. But Guillermo Amor's side are a shadow of their championship-winning selves and without major renovation in January, are headed for the wooden spoon.
Predicted finish: 9th
John Aloisi says he's got a team of winners; that may be true given the squad's mental resilience following last season's semi-final heartbreak and more off- season turbulence. Though they've largely flown under the radar until now, the well-balanced Roar should be in it right until the end - if Jamie Maclaren sticks around.
Predicted finish: 4th
CENTRAL COAST MARINERS
Paul Okon has reinstalled structure into last season's laughing stock. With the former Socceroo at the helm and young talent like Connor Pain on board, there's new-found hope within the league's least experienced and resourced team. That said, the defence is still the leakiest and they're unlikely to pick up many more points.
Predicted finish: 10th
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Melbourne City are in thick fog with the departure of John van 't Schip, who leaves with an FFA Cup in the cabinet. Interim boss Michael Valkanis inherits a team sitting in fourth but on a winless run of five games. He could do worse than shore up his defence; without a clean sheet since the opening day.
Predicted finish: 3rd
After early bumps, Melbourne Victory appear to be setting sail for a top-two finish with a run of form unmatched in the league over the last two months. Marco Rojas can't stop scoring or assisting, Besart Berisha has the all-time goals record and Carl Valeri is marshalling a midfield capable of squeezing out results.
Predicted finish: 2nd
There's a sense of renewed confidence and grit in Mark Jones' side that could take them to a first finals berth in seven seasons. Yet there's always an if, and evidence shows the Jets lack depth when injuries hit. The fitness of livewire winger Andrew Nabbout will be paramount, as will some quality January reinforcements.
Predicted finish: 7th
Have the wheels fallen off Kenny Lowe's side or is the tide turning? Pre-season expectations haven't been realised with just three wins in 13 matches but the club is fifth and has enough up front to challenge any side. Steadiness is needed at the back; Dino Djulbic's suspension hasn't helped and the Rhys Williams saga needs to end one way or another.
Predicted finish: 5th
Could hardly have done more right, as a record-breaking unbeaten start suggests. Water-tight at the back and scoring goals for fun, the Sky Blues are unrecognisable from last season. It's hard to view Graham Arnold's men as anything but champions-in-waiting, though Matt Jurman's exit will test defensive depth.
Predicted finish: Premiers
Ernie Merrick's decision to resign his post looks a little premature in hindsight but there's no doubting the Nix had a shocker of a start to the season. Now under dual bosses, the Phoenix are four unbeaten and have a foundation to rebuild. A few extra faces in the crowd could help; despite their woe, Wellington are just two points behind fifth place.
Predicted finish: 8th
WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS
Last season's grand finalists are hanging onto the top six by the skin of their teeth after scraping out eight draw from 13 games, all betraying chronic problems at the front and back despite their attractive midfield. The January transfer window is vital and a reliable striker crucial if they're to play past round 27 and compete in the Asian Champions League.
Predicted finish: 6th