Round 25 sees Brisbane play the first of two successive home games against Sydney FC with the chance to return to the top of the league win a win.
Last week the Roar started the game well against Melbourne City, playing a controlled, composed game and taking the lead before a red card and a penalty just after the half time break swung the game in favour of the hosts who ran out 3-1 winners and went top of the league as a result.
Results however have been favourable for John Aloisi’ side and they find themselves with another chance to claim top spot on the table with a win, although City would have the chance to go ahead on goal difference with their game on Monday.
As things stand with just three games remaining, Western Sydney still sit in the box seat, however with their loss tonight the chance is there for Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne City to take top spot this weekend.
Sydney looked to be cruising to a vital win last Saturday on the Central Coast before a late fight back from the Mariners saw the home side snatch a point and leave the Sky Blues desperately clinging to their finals hopes.
Tonight result which saw Melbourne edge six points clear of Sydney for the final spot in the top 6 wont help their cause and leaves the visitors needing a win to remain in the hunt. These two sides have met twice this season, both in Sydney, with Brisbane returning home with four points out of six after a 0-0 draw in round 5 and a 3-1 win in round 17.
The first meeting this season between the two was one that was dominated by the Sky Blues in terms of territory and possession, but a resolute defensive display kept chances to a minimum, with neither side creating a clear cut goal scoring chance over the 90 minutes.
That win in round 17 was an important one for the Roar who were coming off back to back hidings against Melbourne and Adelaide, and a Jamie Maclaren brace set the Roar on their way. Matt McKay also netted for Brisbane, before a Sydney set piece deflected off Spaniard Corona and into the back of the net.
Brisbane Roar squad 1) Michael Theo, 3) Shane Stefanutto, 5) Corey Brown, 7) Corona, 8) Steven Lustica, 9) Jamie Maclaren, 10) Henrique, 13) Jade North, 14) Daniel Bowles, 15) James Donachie, 16) Devante Clut, 18) Javier Hervas, 20) Shannon Brady, 21) Jamie Young, 22) Thomas Broich, 23) Dimitri Petratos, 24) Tommy Oar 28) Brandon Borrello.
*two to be omitted.
Sydney FC Squad 1) Vedran Janjetovic, 2) Sebastian Ryall, 4) Zac Anderson, 5) Matt Jurman, 6) Robert Stambolziev, 8) Milos Dimitrijevic, 9) Shane Smeltz, 10) Milos Ninkovic, 13) Brandon O’Neill, 17) David Carney, 18) Matt Simon, 19) Jacques Faty, 20) Ivan Necevski, 21) Filip Holosko, 22) Ali Abbas, 23) Rhyan Grant, 24) George Blackwood, 27) Mickael Tavares.
*Two to be omitted.
Brisbane XI- Young, Bowles, North, Donachie, Brown, Petratos, Corona, Lustica, Borrello, Broich, Maclaren.
Substitutes- Theo, Stefanutto, Hervas, Oar, Henrique.
Omitted- Clut, Brady.
Brisbane will have to make two changes to their starting line-up from the side who lost to Melbourne City last week, with Jack Hingert suspended after his sending off, and Matt McKay a late call up to the National Squad this week.
The timely return of James Donachie will result in Daniel Bowles shifting to the right side of the back four, while Steven Lustica seems to have beaten Javi Hervas and Tommy Oar to a start on the left side of the midfield three. Hervas however will get a reprieve of sorts by returning to the substitutes bench.
Sydney XI: Janjetovic, Ryall, Anderson, Jurman, Grant, Tavares, O’Neill, Holosko, Ninkovic, Blackwood, Smeltz.
Substitutes: Necevski, Faty, Dimitrijevic, Carney, Simon.
Omitted: Stambolziev, Abbas.
Sydney’s side is a tough one to pick given their situation in the league and having a big ACL clash next week which could cause them to rest some individuals ahead of that clash with Pohang. For the sake of this, I’ve just listed their strongest available side based on recent weeks.
Brisbane- Jamie Maclaren (17)
Sydney – Filip Holosko (7)
All-Time Record against Sydney FC
Brisbane captain Matt McKay is a late addition to Ange Postecoglou’s Socceroos squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Tajikistan and Jordan this week.
After being left out of the initial squad for these games, McKay replaces young midfielder Terry Antonis in the squad after he was ruled out with a groin injury.
With two games to play, Australia sit top of Group B, two points clear of Jordan and need to finish top of the group to guarantee a spot in the final round of World Cup Qualifying with only the four best second placed sides progressing.
Australia play against Tajikistan on Thursday night in Adelaide before rounding out the fixtures with a clash against Jordan on Tuesday in Sydney, meaning that McKay will miss this Saturday’s home game against Sydney FC but will be back in time for the final home game of the regular season against Newcastle.
The loss of McKay gives John Aloisi an interesting selection headache this week, with Steven Lustica the logical and most likely replacement for the captain, with Javier Hervas coming back onto the substitute bench.
There is however the possibility of using this opportunity to throw Tommy Oar into the starting side following his cameo against City on Friday night, with the possibility of moving Thomas Broich into a more central role.
That would be a bold and attacking move on Aloisi’s part, and would perhaps throw up questions about Lustica’s future with Brisbane given he’s been seen as the logical successor in midfield and has yet to sign a new contract.
Id lean towards Lustica for this game, he’s done a solid job in midfield and suits that left sided role well. It will be interesting to see which way Aloisi opts to go.
The season may be reaching the pointy end but the planning for next season continues with reports this week suggesting that Michael Zullo is a target for next season.
Zullo, who made his professional debut for the Roar in 2007 against Adelaide as a left winger before transitioning to left back under Ange Postecoglou in 2009.
All up Zullo made 54 appearances for Brisbane over three seasons before departing Australia for FC Utrecht in a deal which saw Adam Sarota and the recently re-signed Tommy Oar head to the Eredivise.
That move to Europe failed to materialise into what Zullo was hoping for, with just 34 appearances in a four year spell where injuries also played a big part
While both Sarota and now Oar have returned to the Roar since departing back then, Zullo has so far resisted the temptation of returning to his hometown club, opting instead for a loan with Adelaide in 2013 before joining City this season.
This season Zullo has made 12 appearances this season for City, split at both left back and left wing, splitting time with the likes of Ben Garuccio, Harry Novillo and Nick Fitzgerald in the side.
For the Roar, left back has been a problematic position for the past two seasons now and with Shane Stefanutto retiring in May there is a glaring need for someone to come in, with Corey Brown the only option currently.
Zullo would appear to fit the bill of a Brisbane full-back, with his attacking instincts a natural fit in the Roar system and his return would continue a trend which has seen Brisbane bring back players who were successful in previous seasons.
Despite the focus being on this season, Brisbane’s football department have continued to plan for next season with the arrivals of Tommy Oar and youngster Joe Caletti, in addition to the re-signings of Daniel Bowles, Jamie Young, Brandon Borrello and Jack Hingert.
Round 24 sees Brisbane play their penultimate road game of the regular season as the round begins with Brisbane’s trip to Melbourne City.
With just four rounds remaining in the competition Brisbane sit top of the table but there’s no room for complacency with the entire top four all within three points of one another, and with the top four playing off against one another this weekend it looms as a potentially huge round in deciding who will lift the Premiers plate.
Despite starting the game somewhat slowly in the opening quarter hour, the visiting Victory struggled to create chances and once the Roar got into a flow there was only going to be one winner.
Brisbane’s attacking outlets again shone, particularly striker Jamie Maclaren and right midfielder Dimitri Petratos who had a hand in a lot of the Roars enterprising attacking play. That right hand side combination with Borrello on the wing and Hingert overlapping looms as a dangerous one again for the Roar
In addition to the form of the right side in recent weeks, the full-backs both played arguably their best games of the season. Hingert, whose really excelled at right back this season looked a constant threat on the right while also keeping Fahid Ben Khalfallah quiet, while on the left the normally shaky Corey Brown was solid defensively and made few mistakes.
The tasks don’t get any easier however, with City’s wingers possessing a real danger, with the likes of Harry Novillo, Nick Fitzgerald and Michael Zullo likely to be deployed out wide in attack for the hosts.
Melbourne meanwhile picked up a vital three points against Adelaide last Friday, ending the Reds long unbeaten run in the process. It was a game of few chances but one that City looked the better side in and they will no doubt enter the contest full of confidence and with three of their last four at home will still believe a top two finish is well within reach.
City enter the round in fourth however they’re just the three points behind the Roar, and with a superior goal difference – +17 compared to Brisbane’s +9-, any win will see them go top of the table for a few hours at least.
In the two previous meetings this season Brisbane picked up four points out of six in games that were played at Suncorp Stadium, with City the first side to emerge from the river city with a point in round 7, before the Roar put on one of their better performances of the season to run out 3-1 winners in round 12.
Harry Novillo capitalised on some poor goalkeeping from Jamie Young just after half time in the first meeting between these two this season, before supersub Henrique scored for the second week running after returning from a knee injury to rescue a point for the Roar.
In the second game between the two this season, Brisbane lead 2-0 at the break thanks to an own goal from Patrick Kisnorbo and a second from Brandon Borrello. In the second however City came back into the game, getting a goal back through top scorer Bruno Fornaroli, before Henrique settled the game in favour of the home side in stoppage time after City threw goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen forward in a desperate attempt to rescue a point.
This promises to be a different encounter for a whole host of reasons however with so much on the line, not least of which is down to Brisbane’s poor record in the Victorian capital.
In seven previous encounters between the two sides in Melbourne City have won five compared to Brisbane’s one, with City winning the last five games at AAMI Park dating back to 2012. Add in cross-town rivals Melbourne Victory and the Roar have won just 5 times in 23 trips to the Victorian capital, and just twice in twelve attempts at AAMI Park.
Brisbane Roar squad
1) Michael Theo, 3) Shane Stefanutto, 5) Corey Brown, 7) Corona, 8) Steven Lustica, 9) Jamie Maclaren, 10) Henrique, 13) Jade North, 14) Daniel Bowles, 16) Devante Clut, 17) Matt McKay, 18) Javier Hervas, 19) Jack Hingert, 21) Jamie Young, 22) Thomas Broich, 23) Dimitri Petratos, 24) Tommy Oar 28) Brandon Borrello.
*two to be omitted.
Melbourne City squad
1) Thomas Sorensen, 2) Alex Wilkinson, 4) Connor Chapman, 5) Ivan Franjic, 8) Aaron Mooy, 9) Harry Novillo, 11) Michael Zullo, 16) Jason Trifiro, 18) Paulo Retre, 19) Ben Garuccio, 20) Dean Bouzanis, 23) Bruno Fornaroli, 24) Patrick Kisnorbo, 25) Jacob Melling, 26) Marc Marino, 27) Nick Fitzgerald, 29) Anthony Caceres, 33) Osama Malik.
*two to be omitted.
Brisbane XI- Young, Hingert, North, Bowles, Brown, Petratos, Corona, McKay, Borrello, Broich, Maclaren.
Substitutes- Theo, Stefanutto, Lustica, Oar, Henrique.
Omitted- Clut, Hervas.
John Aloisi made two changes to his side last week, dropping the out of form Michael Theo and Shane Stefanutto to the bench in place of Jamie Young and Corey Brown, and it’s likely that the starting line-up will remain the same as it was against the Victory.
Tommy Oar is likely to be the only change to the matchday squad, with the attacking midfielder likely to take the place of Spaniard Javier Hervas on the bench.
Melbourne XI- Sorensen, Franjic, Wilkinson, Kisnorbo, Garuccio, Malik, Mooy, Caceres, Novillo, Fitzgerald, Fornaroli.
Substitutes- Bouzanis, Chapman, Zullo, Trifiro, Melling.
Omitted- Retre, Marino.
City picked up a crucial three points on the road last week and as such it’s unlikely that John van’t Schip will make any changes to his side. If he were to however, the fit again Anthony Caceres would be the most likely to enter the starting side, possibly in place of former Roar flyer Michael Zullo.
Brisbane- Jamie Maclaren (17)
Melbourne- Bruno Fornaroli (20)
All-Time Record against Melbourne City
Going into the last month of the regular season, four sides remain in the race for the Premiers Plate with Brisbane Roar, Western Sydney Wanderers, Adelaide United and Melbourne City all within three points of one another. Here’s some thoughts.
1) The Premiership run in will be an interesting one given the variables involved, with all four teams in contention having some tough games along the way. Im not going to make any predictions on any of the teams in the race, but this weekend with the top four sides playing off against one another it looks to be a pivotal round in shaping the race. As things stand however, it’s important not to get carried away, with it still being equally possible to finish 4th as it is to finish first given how close things are at the top.
2) At the start of the season, it’s fair to say that expectations were as low as they’ve been since the start of the Ange Postecoglou era in Brisbane due to the clubs off-season financial dramas and the late recruitment. With most peoples expectations set on just making the top six this season, John Aloisi has absolutely exceeded expectations so far given the amount of time Brisbane has spent in the top two this season and remain in contention for silverware and ACL qualification.
3) One of the big reasons for Brisbane’s return to winning was in the past two weeks is the right hand side, where the trio of Hingert, Petratos and Borrello have been combining fluidly going forward. With the return to form of Dimitri Petratos, whose ability to link play and create chances adds an extra dimension to the Roars play. Add in the overlapping Jack Hingert and the work rate and hard running of Brandon Borrello, Brisbane’s right hand side is getting close to being as strong as the left was in the past with Stefanutto, McKay and Broich.
4) Since returning from Olyroos duty in round 17 away to Sydney FC, Jamie Maclaren has been on a tare in front of goal with 10 in his last seven games to take his tally to 17 for the season. That puts him just three behind Bruno Fornaroli in the golden boot standings and two behind Besart Berisha’s regular season Brisbane record of 19. It’s clear that Jamie has been working on his movement, and right now he’s in a fantastic form.
5)This season we’ve seen two positional battles emerge, both in goals and at left back. Both Jamie Young and Michael Theo have been given their chance in goals this season, and at this point it seems clear that Young is the in form shot-stopper and should be the #1 from here on out. It’s perhaps harsh on a long term servant like Theo, but after getting his chance in round 16, Brisbane won 3 games out of 7 conceding 15 goals along the way with the run culminating in a penalty concession against the Wanderers. There’s also the fact that in terms of clean sheets this season, Young leads the way with 6 in 15 games compared to Theo’s 1 in 9. From here on out for this season, Young should be in goals.
At left back it’s a more interesting situation, with the ageing Shane Stefanutto and the inconsistent Corey Brown fighting for the spot. Stefanutto has been the preferred option for the majority of the season with 16 starts to Browns 7. Like Theo, Stefanutto has been below his best in recent weeks while Brown was thrown in against the Victory and played what was probably his best game in an orange shirt. The question now is if he can add consistency to his game in the same way Jack Hingert has over this season. It’s highly likely that Brown will retain his spot on Friday away to Melbourne City, and another composed, assured showing could ensure he remains the preferred option from here on.
6) The other interesting decision for Aloisi will be how he integrates Tommy Oar into the side over the next month ahead of the finals series. It’s highly likely that Oar has been brought in to be an option on the left, for this season however he’s more than likely going to be limited to an x-factor type sub off the bench. In that role, he could spell for either Borrello or Broich in the front third, or McKay on the left side of the midfield three. Come finals time, having the likes of Lustica, Oar and Henrique available on the bench to change the game would be a handy luxury.
Round 23 sees Brisbane play the second in a tough run of four games through the month of March with a home clash against Melbourne Victory on Saturday.
The two enter the clash on the back of much needed wins with Brisbane getting a first win in a month after a later comeback against Western Sydney last week, while the Victory won in the league for the first time since January on the Central Coast.
Despite having to claw the result back in the final 10 minutes last week, Brisbane started extremely quickly with a high pressure, up tempo style of game which saw them gain the upper hand over the Wanderers.
Brisbane were in control of the game, but a couple of defensive blunders from Shane Stefanutto and Michael Theo let the visitors back into the game, forcing the Roar to dig deep. Eliminating those types of mistakes will be crucial for the Roar to finish in the top two and progress through the finals.
Melbourne meanwhile arrive in the midst of a hectic travel schedule due to their participation in the Champions League, and while they’ve been afforded the rare luxury of a six day break between games this week, it’s set to ramp up again this week with 3 games in 8 days.
In the league, Victory have been solid if unspectacular of late, with the win over the Mariners last Sunday their first since beating Sydney on Australia Day. Despite that Victory are still destined to be in the finals and loom as a dangerous side in the bottom half of the draw.
When these two sides met for the first time this season in round 15, Victory pounced on a sloppy Roar start to score twice in the opening 10 minutes, essentially wrapping up the game against a sloppy and shocked Roar side.
Since that 4-0 result, both sides have struggled in terms of results, however it’s the Victory who’ve looked the better side since then for the most part. Brisbane, who went to Melbourne top of the league at the time, looked to be spooked by the fast starting Victory and went on a run which saw them win just twice in 7 rounds since then, conceding 20 goals in that time before last weeks win over the Wanderers.
Rebounding from that and getting a result tomorrow will go a long way to finishing in the top two, with Brisbane entering the weekend equal on points with the Wanderers and just a point behind Adelaide. V
ictory meanwhile sit 5th, 5 points behind the Roar and a win could put them position for a late run at the top two. A loss however could see 7th placed Sydney draw level with them, so Victory could yet go either way this year.
Brisbane Roar squad
1) Michael Theo, 3) Shane Stefanutto, 5) Corey Brown, 7) Corona, 8) Steven Lustica, 9) Jamie Maclaren, 10) Henrique, 13) Jade North, 14) Daniel Bowles, 16) Devante Clut, 17) Matt McKay, 18) Javier Hervas, 19) Jack Hingert, 20) Shannon Brady, 21) Jamie Young, 22) Thomas Broich, 23) Dimitri Petratos, 28) Brandon Borrello.
*two to be omitted.
Melbourne Victory XI 1) Danny Vukovic, 2) Jason Geria, 3) Scott Galloway, 5) Daniel Georgievski, 6) Leigh Broxham, 7, Gui Finkler, 8) Besart Berisha, 10) Archie Thompson, 11) Connor Pain, 13) Oliver Bozanic, 14) Fahid Ben Khalfallah, 15) Giancarlo Gallifuoco, 16) Rashid Mahazi, 17) Mathieu Delpierre, 20) Lawrence Thomas, 22) Jesse Makarounas, 23) Jai Ingham, 24) Thomas Deng.
*two to be omitted.
Brisbane Starting XI– Theo, Hingert, North, Bowles, Stefanutto, Petratos, Corona, McKay, Borrello, Broich, Maclaren.
Substitutes- Young, Brown, Lustica, Hervas, Henrique.
Omitted- Clut, Brady.
John Aloisi reverted back to his usual starting line-up last week after the failed experiment in Adelaide, with Broich and Petratos inserted into the starting side, with the same XI expected for the most part this time around.
Despite the win last week, both Theo and Stefanutto made another couple of mistakes that let the Wanderers back into the game, however despite the calls for change it’s likely that the duo will get another chance against the Victory.
Melbourne XI- Vukovic, Geria, Delpierre, Broxham, Galloway, Bozanic, Mahazi, Finkler, Ben Khalfallah, Ingham, Berisha.
Substitutes- Thomas, Gallifuoco, Georgievski, Pain, Thompson.
Omitted- Deng, Makarounas.
With Victory having a big ACL clash coming up next week, it’s tough to know what team Kevin Muscat will opt for in this clash. They’re still fighting on two fronts however, with last weeks win over Central Coast keeping them in with an outside shot of pushing for a top 4 finish.
Brisbane- Jamie Maclaren (14)
Melbourne- Besart Berisha (15)
All-Time Record against Melbourne Victory
Brisbane Roar have added another piece to their roster for next season with conformation that defender Daniel Bowles has committed himself to the Roar, signing a two year contract extension which will keep him in Brisbane through the 2017-18 season.
“I love playing under John and I especially love the environment the club has. It is great that I have secured my future for the next two years and can’t wait to see what those two years hold.” Bowles told the clubs official website.
Bowles, 24, has been an important part of the side this season, chipping in with five goals from 14 appearances this season while providing solidity and continuity down the right side.
It’s been a breakthrough season of sorts for Bowles, as he’s established himself as a first team regular in his preferred central defensive role with 19 appearances in all competitions this season.
Bowles, who originally started out in the Roar youth side back in 2009, failed to get into Ange Postecoglou’s all conquering Roar side of 2010-11, when he decided to head down the M1 and join Gold Coast United before heading to Adelaide after the Coast’s demise the following year.
Last year however Bowles returned to the Roar as Mike Mulvey sought more Queensland players in the clubs ranks, and though he made 20 appearances last season, it wasn’t until he switched from right back to the centre of defence that he began to deliver consistency.
All up, Bowles has made 38 appearances for Brisbane since his debut in the FFA Cup Round of 32 away to Stirling Lions last season, with one goal so far.
Brisbane’s roster has undergone a bit of change recently with Bowles becoming the 4th player to re-sign in the last few weeks, joining Brandon Borrello, Jack Hingert and Jamie Young recommitting themselves to the Roar. Add in the return of Tommy Oar and the acquisition of youngster Joe Caletti and that’s six players added to next seasons squad.
Today’s re-signing see’s the future of Brisbane’s backline begin to look a bit clearer, with Bowles joining Luke DeVere, Jack Hingert, Jerome Polenz and Corey Brown under contract for next season.
There’s still uncertainty however over the central defensive position with both Jade North and James Donachie yet to secure their futures with the Roar. It’s likely that North will sign in the coming weeks, while news surrounding Donachie has been quiet since it emerged a mistake in his contract sees it expire this year instead of next.
The list of players out of contract is still extensive with Jade North, James Donachie, Shane Stefanutto, Steven Lustica, Javier Hervas, Devante Clut, Henrique and Jean Carlos Solórzano all out of contract come the end of the season.
Brisbane Roar squad for 2016-17 as at 7/03/2016
Goalkeepers: Michael Theo, Jamie Young.
Defenders: Daniel Bowles, Corey Brown, Luke DeVere, Jack Hingert, Jerome Polenz (fgn).
Midfielders: Thomas Broich (fgn) (marquee), Joe Caletti (FT NYL), Corona (fgn), Matt McKay (marquee), Tommy Oar, Dimitri Petratos.
Forwards: Shannon Brady, Brandon Borrello, Jamie Maclaren.