A re-run of last year’s Grand Final could decide which team gets to face Auckland City in this year’s season finale.
The Navy Blues, who have already secured their place in the final on Sunday November 26, play last year’s runners-up Wellington Olympic at Kiwitea Street on Sunday.
While the result makes no difference to the defending champions, Olympic can further their own title hopes, securing their Grand Final spot with a win.
That is, of course, dependent on the result of Friday’s Canterbury derby between Christchurch United and Cashmere Technical.
Paul Ifill’s United can stay in the hunt for a final berth with three points against Technical. Lose, and their season’s over.
If that’s the case, Sunday’s Auckland City-Wellington Olympic game will become a rehearsal for the Grand Final.
The two clubs have become great rivals, with closely-contested games in the National League and last season’s OFC Champions League play-offs.
The competition’s top two goalscorers will get a chance to further their claims for the Golden Boot.
Current leader Gianni Bouzoukis has seven goals from as many games for Olympic while City’s Angus Kilkolly has six for the competition.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Round 8 fixtures are inconsequential in terms of results.
Pride and the chance to help develop young players are the remaining motivators for coaches.
Players to watch
Wellington Phoenix fans will remember Kaelin Nguyen (20) assisting the winning goal in the Australia Cup Round of 32, but the promising youngster has also been in form for the Phoenix Reserves in the National League Championship.
With his team scoring for fun in the past two rounds, he should be in the thick of the action again when the Nix host winless Petone.
— Logan Smith
Always beware of a player facing his former club.
Napier City Rovers midfielder Cameron Emerson (27) will turn out against Eastern Suburbs in their Saturday game at Bluewater Stadium. Emerson was at Suburbs for four seasons before returning to Hawkes Bay.
Emerson’s had a rough couple of seasons before finding solid form this year. In 2021, he suffered a concussion, a broken wrist and had a mini-stroke at an after-match function.
Saturday provides the perfect platform for him to show what he can do.
— Jack Sharp
Two weeks in a row, Napier City Rovers have led at half-time only to lose those games. The results continued a theme of close losses throughout the National League Championship for them.
This weekend, I see them holding on for something at home to mid-table Eastern Suburbs; perhaps a 1-1 draw.
— Logan Smith
Manurewa and Auckland United play to decide which of them can finish the competition with a top-half placing.
With nothing to lose, they could provide a high-scoring game at Manurewa’s War Memorial Park.
I’m picking at least five goals for this match and a result that could go either way.
— Jack Sharp
Game to be played on Friday November 10, 2023
Christchurch United v Cashmere Technical
United Sports Centre, Christchurch, 7pm
Game to be played on Saturday November 11, 2023
Napier City Rovers v Eastern Suburbs
Bluewater Stadium, Napier, 2pm
Games to be played on Sunday November 12, 2023
Wellington Phoenix Reserves v Petone
Fraser Park, Lower Hutt, 2pm
Auckland City v Wellington Olympic
Kiwitea St, Sandringham, 3pm
Manurewa v Auckland United
Manurewa War Memorial Park, Manurewa, 3pm