Aussies Abroad Preview: Championship play-offs loom large for Sainsbury and Giannou

It’s a big weekend for Aussies in the Mediterranean as Trent Sainsbury and Apostolos Giannou look to get their Championship Play-off campaigns off on the right foot.

Sainsbury’s Maccabi Haifa will hope to get off to a strong start in their first assignment in the Israeli Premier Leagues’ top six play-off series in a clash with the Hapoel Tel-Aviv on Tuesday at 5:15am (AEDT).

Haifa should be full of confidence going into the clash having beaten the same opponents 5-0 when they met in the regular season just last month.

Sainsbury's side sit second on the ladder, six points adrift of leaders Maccabi Tel-Aviv but still have the title in their sights  with the teams due to meet twice before the championship is decided.

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In Cyprus, Giannou and his AEK Larnaca teammates have a similarly tough assignment when they tackle top of the table Anorthosis in their first play-off meeting on Monday at 1am.

Larnaca won 2-1 when the two clubs met just a week ago in their final match of their regular season, and will again have to be at their best with their opponents out to avenge the defeat.

Strong performances in the Championship Play-offs can have big rewards for both Sainsbury and Giannou, with the title and European places determined at the end of the 10 game series in both Israel and Cyprus.

Read on to find out where and when the rest of your Socceroos are in action over the weekend, with all times AEDT.

Aaron Mooy
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Big points up for grabs for Aussies in the UK

In the English Premier League, Mat Ryan and Aaron Mooy are looking to give Brighton & Hove Albion breathing room above the drop zone when they head to this season’s surprise packets Wolves on Sunday at 2am.

The Wolverhampton club are currently sitting sixth on the league table, while the Seagulls are just one point clear of the relegation zone in 15th position.

Without a win in the league since before the New Year, Graham Potter’s side need a spark to reignite their campaign and will be desperate to avoid incurring their first ever top-flight defeat to Wolves in their 10th such meeting.

In the Championship, Kenneth Dougall and Brad Smith could potentially go head-to-head at Oakwell when Barnsley welcome Cardiff City on Sunday at 2am.

Currently languishing in the drop zone, 23rd-placed Barnsley will fancy their chances against the out-of-sorts Bluebirds, who are aiming to avoid a fifth straight league match without a win.

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Massimo Luongo
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At the same time, Jackson Irvine will be aiming to stop the rot for Hull City when they travel to Adam Federici’s Stoke City with the Tigers currently winless in 11 games in all competitions.

Massimo Luongo’s Sheffield Wednesday will look to bounce back from their midweek FA Cup exit against Manchester when they head to fifth-placed Brentford, also at 2am on Sunday.

Down in League One, Harry Souttar could see his Fleetwood Town side potentially rise as high as third on the table should they be able to snag a win at home to Blackpool on Sunday at 2am.

Tom Rogic
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Moving further north, and fresh of his late heroics mid-week, Tom Rogic is looking to return Celtic FC to winnings ways in the Scottish Premier League against lower-table St Mirren on Sunday at 2am.

Rogic netted an injury time winner as the Hoops fought back to secure a 2-2 draw with St Johnstone in their last start and will be eager to avoid any further slip-ups as they look to maintain their place atop the standings.

Staying in Scotland, Martin Boyle’s sixth-placed Hibernian have the opportunity to edge further up the standings when they travel to Aberdeen also on Sunday at 2am (AEDT).

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Matthew Leckie
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Leckie out to end Hertha’s horror run

In Germany, Matthew Leckie and Hertha BSC line-up against long-time bogey-side Werder Bremen at 1:30am on Sunday in a clash that could prove crucial to their ambitions of remaining in the top flight.

Without a win at home in their past five matches, Hertha have also not defeated Werder in their past 12 Bundesliga meetings – their longest winless run against any side currently in the competition.

Staying in Germany, Brandon Borello’s SC Freiburg take on fellow mid-tablers Union Berlin also on Sunday at 1:30am; while just across the border in Austria James Jeggo’s Austria Wien side will be eyeing three points against bottom-of-the-table Saint Pölten at 3am on Sunday.

Milos Degenek
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In Serbia, Milos Degenek will be working hard to avoid any slip-ups in Red Star Belgrade’s charge to the Serbian Superliga title when they head to bottom-placed Mačva Šabac on Sunday at 2am.

It’s a similar story in Turkey, where Aziz Behich’s Istanbul Başakşehir look to build on their one point advantage atop the Süper Lig against mid-table Göztepe on Sunday at 1am.

In Denmark, Awer Mabil and his league leading FC Midtylland are eyeing a fourth straight win against mid-table Randers on Monday at 6am, while Musatafa Amini’s AGF Aarhus can solidify their hold on third position when they head to JYSK Park to face bottom-of-the-table Silkeborg on Tuesday at 5am.

In the Netherlands, Ajdin Hrustic's FC Groningen are in action in the Eredivisie against PSV Eindhoven on Monday at 2:45am.

And, in the Saudi Arabia Pro League, Craig Goodwin’s Al-Wehda side could move up to third with a win over second-from-last Damac on Saturday at 3.05am.

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Meanwhile, on the home front...

Mitchell Duke will be aiming to further Western Sydney Wanderers’ recent turnaround when they tackle Brisbane Roar on Friday night, with win for the Wanderers set to lift them into the top six for the first time since (kick-off 8.30pm)

The Saturday fixtures commence with Josh Risdon and his Western United looking to post back-to-back wins when they travel to Adelaide United at 5pm, before Sydney FC duo Rhyan Grant and Andrew Redmayne look to take rivalry bragging rights in the Big Blue against Melbourne Victory at 7.30pm.

While on Sunday, Jamie Maclaren’s Melbourne City close out the round in a second v third clash with Perth Glory at 6pm.