Semi Final Preview: Western Sydney Wanderers vs. Brisbane Roar

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After last week’s dominant 2-1 win against Adelaide, Brisbane are just 90 minutes away from a third successive Grand Final appearance. The task in front of them however isn’t an easy one, with Premiers Plate winner Western Sydney riding some strong momentum and are currently 13 games unbeaten. The fact that Brisbane will be missing reliable full-back Jack Hingert and going in with atleast some questions over the fitness of Thomas Broich adds to the task. More on the injuries and how it could affect the side in a moment.

 

 

Form:
Brisbane: WWWLD
Western Sydney: WDWWW

 

 

Top Scorers:

Brisbane: Besart Berisha (14)
Western Sydney:
Mark Bridge (11)

 

Season against Western Sydney Wanderers:

Round 4: Brisbane Roar 0-1 Western Sydney Wanderers (Bridge 19’)
Round 10: Western Sydney Wanderers (Ono 89’- pen) 1-0 Brisbane Roar
Round 17: Brisbane Roar (Nichols 22’) 1-2 Western Sydney Wanderers (Bridge 65’, Hersi 69’)

 

Squads:

Brisbane Roar squad:

1. Michael Theo (gk), 3. Shane Stefanutto, 4. Matt Jurman, 5. Ivan Franjic, 7. Besart Berisha, 8. Massimo Murdocca, 9. Stef Nijland, 11. Ben Halloran, 12. Julius Doe, 13. Jade North, 14. Steven Lustica, 15. James Donachie, 17. Mitch Nichols, 18. Luke Brattan, 20. Matt Acton (gk), 22. Thomas Broich (c), 21. James Meyer, 25. George Lambadaridis, 26. Corey Brown, 29) Kwame Yeboah (Four to be omitted)

 

 

Western Sydney Wanderers squad:

1. Ante Covic (GK), 2. Shannon Cole, 4. Nikolai Topor-Stanley, 5. Michael Beauchamp, 6. Jerome Polenz, 7. Labinot Haliti, 8. Mateo Poljak, 9. Dino Kresinger, 10. Aaron Mooy, 11. Tarek Elrich, 13. Joey Gibbs, 14. Kwabena Appiah-Kubi, 15. Reece Caira, 16. Rocky Visconte, 17. Youssouf Hersi, 19. MarkBridge, 21. Shinji Ono, 23. Jason Trifiro, 24. Yianni Perkatis, 25. Josh Barresi, 30 Carlos Saliadarre (GK) (Five to be omitted)

 

 

Expected line-ups:
Brisbane: Theo, Franjic, North, Donachie, Stefanutto, Brattan, Lustica, Halloran, Nichols, Broich, Berisha.
Subs: Acton, Brown, Murdocca, Yeboah, Nijland.

Omitted: Jurman, Lambadaridis, Doe, Meyer.

 

 

Western Sydney: Covic, Polenz, Beauchamp, Topor-Stanley, Cole, Poljak, Mooy, Ono, Hersi, Bridge, Kressinger.
Subs: Saliadarre, Elrich, Trifiro, Visconte, Haliti
Omitted: Gibbs, Appiah-Kubi, Caira, Perkatis, Barresi.

 

Brisbane played extremely well on Sunday down in Adelaide controlling the game from just about start to finish and they could have won the game by a bigger margin, however they’ll have to play even better tonight to beat the Premiers. Western Sydney have a tendency to sit deeper and allow sides comfortable possession in the defensive third, before crowding sides out in the middle to front thirds to win the ball back. And it’s when they do win the ball back that they’re at there most effective on the counter attack with the pace of Hersi on the right a constant threat all season long, and it’s this exact tactic that has got Brisbane into some trouble this season. Brisbane as we all know love to get numbers forward in attack to create overloads in the wider areas especially with the fullbacks so if they do lose possession high up the pitch recovery in defensive transition will be critical and it could be up to Brattan and Lustica at the base of midfield to step in and cut out counter attacks if the fullbacks are caught up the pitch.

Western Sydney ofcourse had the weekend off which is a nice luxury in comparison to Brisbane having just 5 days recovery/preparation for this one, however I don’t expect them to be rusty. They’ve been building to this game for some time now, and for them it’s a matter of shutting down their midfield. At times in the three games their midfield completely outplayed the Brisbane midfield –especially in the 1st meeting- with Ono and Mooy in particular looking dominant at times. That was however the old Roar midfield with Mulvey implementing basically and entire new midfield structure since the sides last met in late January.

 

 

Injuries:

Both sides going into this one tonight have their own equally important injury and suspension concerns. Brisbane are obviously weakened at the back with Jack Hingert joining Matt Smith in being out for the season, which likely has ramifications in the front third and the bench too. In all likelihood –and Marco is reporting this in the paper today aswell- Ivan Franjic will being moved back to the right back slot, with the inconsistent yet potential x-factor Ben Halloran coming into the starting line-up.

 

 

I asked the question earlier in the week about what is the best way to solve the problem at right back and the vote was very close on both options, and for mine the above is the best choice simply for the fact it requires less of a change to the rest of the team. While Brown did an admirable job filling in a couple of weeks ago, the fact it would require 3 positional changes to accommodate him makes it too risky for such a big game imo.

 

 

If as expected Halloran does come into the side, it creates another problem for Mulvey- who are his game changers if required off the bench? In recent weeks Halloran and Nijland have filled those roles well, but if Halloran starts someone else has to step up Would it be the young Yeboah who has a handful of minutes in the A-League and was a surprise on the bench last week, Julius Doe who’s had a similar amount of 1st team exposure since his arrival in January, or would the exiled James Meyer come back into calculations? There’s also a chance that it could be Corey Brown added to the bench as defensive cover with just Yeboah, Murdocca and Nijland to change the game if required.

 

 

Western Sydney have their own concerns with Iacopo La Rocca out suspended and reportedly 1st choice left back Adam D’Apuzzo will also miss with injury. Shannon Cole is the logical replacement there and with his set piece qualities he adds something to the side. They’ve also got question marks over Ono, Polenz and Mooy but like Broich and Brattan they’re all going to start the game.

 

 

Season recap against the Wanderers:

Western Sydney have won all three games this season against the Roar, however it must be pointed out that two of those were throughout the struggles of the Vidosic era, and the third and final meeting was back before Mulvey had really stamped his authority on this team so in some was that is an irrelevant fact. They did however totally control that first meeting up here when they picked up their 1st ever win –and goal-. I remember Aaron Mooy being utterly dominant in the match and the Wanderers hitting Brisbane on the counter attack constantly.

For the rematch in Parramatta the 1st half was largely uneventful, however the Wanderers had the better of it. Brisbane were far better in the second half right up until the 18 yard box where they had no idea how to create the opening and they were eventually punished by Ono from the penalty spot after a softish but sloppy piece of defending from Jurman. Only after that did they have any real shot of note when Stefanutto hit the crossbar from 25m after a corner was cleared. The third and final meeting was right in the middle of that transition period for Brisbane. The Wanderers ended up winning the game with a run down Brisbane’ left hand side when the players were appealing for offside and the Wanderers just played the whistle and got their rewards. They were the better side once again however it must be said, but it’s not a true reflection on Brisbane for a number of reasons.

 

 

For starters Erik Paartalu had just departed which meant that Luke Brattan was only just getting a chance –and he was coming back cold after an ankle injury-, new signings Julius Doe, Steve Lustica and Jade North had just arrived, and Stef Nijland was still a few weeks away from touching down in Brisbane. In addition to that the move of Franjic to right wing which has made the whole late season resurgence click hadn’t happened and the key attacking duo of Thomas Broich and Besart Berisha still weren’t quiet themselves. So this is really the 1st time the Wanderers will have seen this current variation of Brisbane, albeit slightly altered given Franjic will once again be in the defensive line.

 

 

For mine this is going to be an incredibly tight contest that could even go to extra time and penalties. This is going to be an extremely close –and probably nerve wracking at times- semi final, but hopefully Brisbane’ big game experience is enough to see them into a third successive Grand Final.

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