How to replace Berisha

After picking up a slight hamstring strain on Saturday night in the 4-0 win over Sydney FC, Brisbane will be without talismanic striker Besart Berisha for the trip to face Melbourne Victory. This leaves Mulvey with a difficult decision on how to replace the man who has scored 37 goals in 59 games in orange. The problem for Mulvey is that there is no real natural #9 replacement in the group, which means he’s left choosing between a bunch of wide attackers and attacking midfielders for the role. They could sure have used Antonio Murray –whom Mulvey wanted to sign, but was overruled by those above him- right now. The contenders –in no particular order- are Dimitri Petratos, Henrique, Kwame Yeboah and Brandon Borrello.

Henrique:

(Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images AsiaPac)

(Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images AsiaPac)


The Brazilian is the most experienced of the candidates for the role, and has been the man to fill in, in the past when Berisha has been absent- including in the 4-1 thrashing by Melbourne Heart at this time last year. In the post game press conference Mulvey described Henrique as a player who naturally plays his best in a central role, either upfront or in behind the striker. The issue with Henrique however is his conditioning, as he’s still essentially in his pre-season after so long out and only the one pre-season appearance before the season began. He’s copped a bit of stick for his performance on
Saturday, but it’s worth noting that he’s still trying to regain the sharpness in his play. Ideally he’d be playing 90 minutes in the NYL this week to get his conditioning up, but that’s not a luxury at Brisbane’s disposal. I don’t think he’ll start upfront, however I do think he’ll be used in that role off the bench at some stage.

Dimitri Petratos:
Petratos is another of those who has had an injury riddled pre-season since his arrival from Malaysia, although he’s a little further along in his conditioning that Henrique given he was involved in the majority of the preseason before picking up an injury towards the end of it. He made his debut off the bench on Saturday and did ok in his late cameo, but still has more to give. He’s not a natural central player however, usually doing his best work in a wide left position. He did however lead the line well in a game against Brisbane back in 2011 when Sydney ended Brisbane’s unbeaten streak. It’s a difficult one again due to the fact he’s also returning from injury, and again he would probably be best served getting 90 minutes in the NYL side this weekend. If it wasn’t for the fact he’s only just returning from injury, id say he’s the favourite for the role, however because of that I think he might start on the bench on Friday night, with the possibility to come on in the 2nd half.

Kwame Yeboah:

(Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images AsiaPac)

(Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images AsiaPac)

Yeboah was on fire in the preseason, scoring 3 goals against A-League opposition along the way. He too though, despite playing upfront against Central Coast, isn’t a natural #9, and often does his best work cutting inside from wider areas as he did so effectively last year in the youth league. When he did play central against the Mariners, he had a fairly quiet game and was well marshalled by Seip and Anderson on the day, limiting him only to half chances. His movement was alright as was his positioning, but I got the feeling there was work still to be done in getting him up to speed on the role. Due to his excellent preseason form, and injuries to other candidates, I expect him to start up front on Friday against the Victory.

Youth:
The above trio are the most likely men to fill in for Berisha, however there are two others in the youth squad that are an outside chance to be involved in the matchday squad. Brandon Borrello and Patrick Theodore have spent the preseason with the Brisbane squad and Mulvey revealed the duo are amongst 5 NYL players who train regularly with the first team. Further to that, Borrello was a surprise inclusion on the substitute bench for the round 1 game away to Wellington, and despite not getting any game time, he might be a chance to make the bench. Of the two, Borrello would be the best placed it seems to get into the squad, however with the NYL kicking off this weekend I think they’re more likely to remain in Brisbane and play in the u/21 competition.

There are some interesting options available to Mulvey to fill the #9 position, and given that Berisha tends to drop off the front line to link the play and open up space, it may not necessarily be a bad thing that the replacements are all natural attacking midfielders. They will miss the Albanian however, especially his ruthless finishing in the box. As things stand, Yeboah looks the man most likely to come into the starting side, with Henrique and Petratos likely to be available off the bench.

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