FFA Cup round of 32 Preview: Brisbane Roar vs. Stirling Lions.

The past week has been dominated by the talk of new logo’s, new kit manufactures and new jersey’s, but it’s time to put all of that to one side as the on-field action is back as Brisbane make their FFA Cup bow tonight in the west in the final matchday of the first round proper in FFA Cup history, and they’ll do so over in the west against NPL Western Australia outfit Stirling Lions. The romance of the cup is well and truly alive with Western Sydney falling victim to Adelaide City last week. Already, four A-League sides have been eliminated with Newcastle, Melbourne City and Wellington joining Western Sydney as first up losers, and Brisbane will be out to make sure they don’t suffer a similar fate.

From a Queensland football perspective, the cup got off to a dream start with both Olympic FC and Brisbane Strikers successfully advancing to the last 16 on first night of competition in the round of 32, with a big crowd on hand out at Goodwin Park in the first ever FFA Cup game here in Brisbane. Last week saw disappointment for FNQ Heat who went down to Sydney United 58 down in Sydney, while the 4th Queensland local side –Palm Beach- are also in action tonight against Hakoah Sydney City. Best of luck to the side from the Gold Coast, hopefully by Wednesday morning we’ll have four Queensland sides in the last 16 of the Cup.

Back to the game of most interest around here now, and one controversial aspect of the build-up to this tie is the venue with the game being shifted by the FFA from Stirling’s traditional home of Macedonia Park, to the Western Australian Athletics Stadium, a venue that will also host another round of 32 tie on Wednesday evening. For mine, this cup was all set up to play at the local suburban grounds, and as such it probably should be at the Lions traditional home, but the decision is what it is.

Brisbane Roar:
2014 FFA Cup to date: Enter competition at this round:

Brisbane goes into this fixture at something less than 100% with just the pair of pre-season games against Moreton Bay (8-1) and Redlands (3-0) under their belts, so match sharpness could be an issue late in the game if it’s still in the balance.  Matt McKay. Luke Brattan, Liam Miller, Jack Hingert and new signing Mensur Kurtisi are all unavailable for various reasons with the latter only returning to the country late last week after getting married. That provides a difficult selection headache for Mike Mulvey, who has already flagged that Jade North will come into that #6 role tonight- ahead of youngster Ben Litfin or the returning from injury George Lambadaridis to provide a more experienced spine to the team in what could be a tricky away tie.

James Donachie seems like the obvious replacement at the back for North, with Bowles a ready made right back in the absence of Hingert. It’s the final starting spot which could prove interesting, with rumours it’s a toss up between Corey Brown and Devante Clut, and depending on who gets the nod, Thomas Broich may be shifted into a central midfield role for the night. For mine, id just go with Clut in the middle and keep Broich in the role he’s dominated the league in over the past four seasons however it sounds like it’s the left footed Brown who has the edge. Upfront, Henrique will in all likelihood get the nod ahead of Solórzano, if only because he’s looked sharper in the hit-outs so far this pre-season.

Expected Brisbane XI:
Theo, Bowles, Smith, Donachie, Stefanutto, North, Clut, Lustica, Petratos, Broich, Henrique.
Subs: Young, Brown, Lambadaridis, Borrello, Solórzano.

Stirling Lions:
2014 FFA Cup to date: Qualifying R4 (2-0 vs. Joondalup City), Qualifying R5 (8-1 vs. Rockingham City), Qualifying R6 (3-2 vs. Floreat Athena), Qualifying R7 (3-1 vs. ECU Joondalup).

While Brisbane are still in the early stages of their pre-season, Stirling are coming towards the business end of theirs and the West Australian side sit 5th in the NPL Western Australia after 21 games. They’ll also be coming into this cup tie with some confidence after a last gasp 2-1 win over ECU Joondalup at the weekend, with former Perth Glory man David Micevski scoring in the final minute. Stirling have fought hard to qualify for the last 16 of this years Cup, with qualifying wins against Joondalup City (2-0), Rockingham City (8-1), Floreat Athena (3-2) and ECU Joondalup (3-1) to see themselves become one of Western Australia’s two local league representatives in the last 32.

Player wise, while it’s impossible to really know what kind of side they are, they do have some players of note and some names that should be familiar to A-League fans. Goalkeeper Aleks Vrteski, versatile defender/midfielder Dean Evans, midfielder Hayden Doyle and midfielder David Micevski all spent time with Perth Glory in the earlier years of the competition, with Evans being the most recent of the trio to be apart of the professional game. Micevski may be the man to watch given he’s Stirling’s top scorer with 11 goals in 16 appearances this season. In addition to those, right back Rikki Smith is the cousin of Brisbane Roar captain Matt so extended family bragging rights go on the line there, while Phil Arnold and Brisbane’s path has crossed before as well. Arnold appeared in the trial game for the Roar back in the 2011 pre-season, coming on as a sub up in a win over Peninsula Power. Young attackers Moses Kalau and Clayton Arnez are also worth keeping an eye on from what I can gather.

*Expected Stirling XI:
Vrteski, Smith, Pugliese, Pavlovic, Petkov, Vujacic, Brown, Kalau, Micevski, Arnold, Ghoulami.
Subs: Campbell, Galan, Evans, Salter, Arnez.

*This was the Stirling squad for their weekend clash with ECU Joondalup.

There’s no doubt that this is a tricky first up away tie and the draw wasn’t overly kind to Brisbane, but it’s still a winnable tie and the three time A-League Champions will go into the game as the raging hot favourite. Kick-off in Brisbane’s first ever FFA Cup fixture is set down for 9.30pm tonight Brisbane time, and in lieu of there being no TV broadcast, the game can be seen live via an online stream on the clubs official website


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