Grand Final Preview: Brisbane Roar vs. Western Sydney Wanderers

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This is it. Nearly 10 months ago Brisbane returned to training with the goal of returning to competition on this weekend and now Grand Final week, and Orange Sunday III is here. The game this weekend against the Wanderers should be another tight, tense game played out in front of what will be a fantastic atmosphere. The three games this season have been incredibly tight –even more so if you exclude the 20 minute blitz from Brisbane in round 7- and I see no reason why this game won’t be similar in both style and outcome. All three games Brisbane have taken the lead in this season, and that will once again be an important moment for whichever side gains that advantage.

Both of these two sides know each other inside out now having faced each other seven times in the past two seasons, with the Wanderers owning the record last year, before Brisbane you would say have edged this season picking up five points out of nine. The clash of styles has been mentioned a lot this season, with Brisbane’s flowing football up against the physical nature of the Wanderers. While that narrative is true for the most part, it isn’t entirely accurate.

Brisbane do play a fast paced, flowing, possession based game, a style of play that those who are reading this will have become accustomed to over the past few seasons, and there is no doubt they’ll hold true to that philosophy in the final whatever the outcome. Brisbane use the full width of the pitch and play with something of a fluid front third with Broich given the freedom to cut inside and combine with the rest of the side, while overlapping full-backs provide width and continue to make sure the opponents defensive structure is stretched.

The Wanderers on the other hand are physical, but they’re also extremely well organised, strong on the counter and rather ruthless when they get a chance. The key for the Wanderers is often the defensive pressure they employ on teams- at times it’s suffocating and makes it difficult to penetrate through which results in them being camped in the opponements half. They then rely on the trickery and clever movement of Ono, Hersi, Bridge and Santalab to unlock defences that are sometimes overwhelmed by the pressure, while they’ve got the opponents pinned in their half.

Form:
Brisbane: WLDWW
Western Sydney: WWDLW*
*A-League only.

Top Scorer:
Brisbane: Besart Berisha (12)
Western Sydney: Tomi Juric (8)

Brisbane squad:
1. Michael Theo (GK), 2. Matthew Smith (C), 3. Shane Stefanutto, 5. Ivan Franjic, 7. Besart Berisha, 8. Steven Lustica, 10. Henrique, 11. Liam Miller, 13. Jade North, 14. Diogo Ferreira, 15. James Donachie, 16. Jean Carlos Solórzano, 17. Matt McKay, 18. Luke Brattan, 19. Jack Hingert, 20. Matthew Acton (GK), 22. Thomas Broich, 23. Dimitri Petratos (Two to be omitted)

In: 14. Diogo Ferreira, 19. Jack Hingert (promoted)
Out: Nil.
Unavailable: 25. George Lambadaridis (Knee- season)

Brisbane have a settled squad going into the Grand Final, with the only doubts over the fitness of Dimitri Petratos, who missed training on Wednesday and at the time of writing hadn’t trained all week over a swollen ankle. Mulvey has said that he’s a ‘99% chance’ of playing, and that he’d have to train on Friday to be considered. Doubts over Dimitri aside, Brisbane have no selection issues and will go in with the same team that beat Melbourne on Sunday

Should Petratos not be fit for selection, the obvious thing would be for Henrique to come into the side as a direct replacement, but there would be other, and possibly better alternatives. Ivan Franjic could push forward and play a right wing role reprising what he did earlier in the season where he was a key part in the onslaught that beat the Wanderers. That would result in one of Hingert or Donachie –likely Hingert- filling in at right back.

Expected Brisbane XI:
Theo, Franjic, North, Smith, Stefanutto, Miller, Brattan, McKay, Petratos, Broich, Berisha.
Substitutes: Acton, Donachie, Lustica, Henrique, Solórzano.
Omitted: Ferreira, Hingert.

Western Sydney squad:
1. Ante Covic (GK), 2. Shannon Cole, 3. Adam D’Apuzzo, 4. Nikolai Topor-Stanley, 6. Jerome Polenz, 7. Labinot Haliti, 8. Mateo Poljak, 9. Tomi Juric, 10. Aaron Mooy, 11. Brendon Santalab, 13. Matthew Spiranovic, 14. Kwabena Appiah, 17. Youssouf Hersi, 18. Iacopo La Rocca, 20. Jerrad Tyson (GK), 21. Shinji Ono, 22. Dean Heffernan 23.Jason Trifiro.

In: 14. Kwabena Appiah, 22. Dean Heffernan, 23. Jason Trifiro (promoted)
Out: 19. Mark Bridge (ankle- 1 week)
Unavailable: 12. Tahj Minniecon (hip-season), 34. Golgol Mebrahtu (knee-season)

The Wanderers likewise only have the one issue going into the game, although there’s has gone the other way with Mark Bridge ruled out of the decider due to an ankle injury picked up in the win over the Mariners. Given Bridge’s record of scoring in two previous deciders –for Newcastle and Sydney- that looks to be something of a blow for the Wanderers.

Replacement wise, the obvious candidate thrown up all week as a replacement has been Labinot Haliti to play a wide left role and I do think that’s the way they’ll go. The other options could be throwing youngster Kwabena Appiah or Shannon Cole in, or switching Santalab into a wide left role with Tomi Juric coming into the starting side. Popovic may also consider starting Aaron Mooy ahead of one foreign duo Mateo Poljak or Iacopo La Rocca. I cant see him wanting to make too many changes however after the success they enjoyed last weekend. With that in mind I think Haliti will start, with Appiah coming onto the bench.

Expected Western Sydney XI:
Covic, Polenz, Spiranovic, Topor-Stanley, D’Apuzzo, Poljak, La Rocca, Hersi, Ono, Haliti, Santalab.
Substitutes: Tyson, Cole, Mooy, Appiah, Juric.
Omitted: Heffernan, Trifiro.

Meetings this season:

Round 7:
Brisbane Roar (3) Berisha 5’, Franjic 19’, Yeboah 91’
Western Sydney Wanderers (1) Santalab 28’

Brisbane flew out of the gates in this fixture, with Mulvey imploring his men to for the Wanderers early and they did just that going 2-0 up inside the first 20 minutes of the game. It could of actually been 3 or 4 had some of the other chances been put away. From that moment on however the Wanderers settled down and the game took more of the usual flow we’ve become accustomed to- a close game with few chances for either side. The Wanderers worked their way back into the game via a sloppy mistake at the back from North, before going on to hit both the post and the bar in pursuit of a point in the second half. Brisbane then wrapped the game up in stoppage time on the counter to give the scoreboard a more comprehensive look, one though which probably didn’t really reflect the game- especially from the 20th minute onwards,

Round 18:
Western Sydney Wanderers (1) Haliti 85’
Brisbane Roar (1) Berisha 13’

This game took a similar direction to the first with Brisbane attempting to come out early and hit the Wanderers –who needed a win to keep their Premiers Plate hopes alive- hard. Berisha scored again inside the first 20 minutes and for the rest of the half Brisbane were in pretty good control of the game with neither side really creating much. In the second half the Wanderers did what they do best- they employed their suffocating pressure and made it very difficult for Brisbane to play through them, and that helped swing the game their way with the home side creating some solid openings. Brisbane did however squander a guilt edge chance to see the game through substitute Henrique before Haliti bundled home from 3 yards with five minutes remaining on the back post to give the Wanderers the equaliser after some solid pressure for the second half.

Round 26:
Western Sydney Wanderers (1) Juric 61’
Brisbane Roar (1) Miller 35’

This game was essentially a dead rubber for Brisbane with no real meaning for them, while the Wanderers needed something to make sure the top 2 spot was in their hands, while also keeping an eye on their ACL commitments. Once again Brisbane took the lead although this time it was more through good fortune than good play as the ball dropped to Miller in the box. The second half Brisbane continued their control of the game for the opening third of it at least, until both sides made a change on the hour mark. Brisbane brought Donachie on for conditioning in the preparation for the finals, while the hosts brought Appiah on to provide some speed in the wider areas and within about 3 minutes the hosts levelled the scores. Appiah floated a speculative ball across the face which got through to Bridge, who cut back to Juric who had drifted slightly and wasn’t picked up, he beat Theo and that was the end of the game. There wasn’t the same ferocity in the second half as we’d seen in round 18, but they still got their equaliser.

Tale of the tape:
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