2016-17 Elimination Final Preview- BRI v WSW

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After surviving a scare last week from a gallant Wellington Phoenix side to secure a home Elimination Final, Brisbane Roar begin their quest for a fourth A-League Championship with a game against sixth placed Western Sydney Wanderers.

Last seasons home Elimination Final against Melbourne Victory was a close affair between two sides who were evenly matched over the course of the regular season, and tonight’s clash against the Wanderers figures to be a similarly close affair.

While Brisbane will start the game favourites in the eyes of most, John Aloisi will no doubt be hoping to stem the tide of goals conceded in recent weeks, with his side letting in six goals in the past two weeks.

At the other end of the park the focus will be on striker Jamie Maclaren, who capped off a strong conclusion to the regular season with 19 goals in the league, a nomination for the young player of the year and a share of the Golden Boot with Melbourne’s Besart Berisha.

This weeks game however has fallen from the headlines in recent days with the news of Thomas Broich’s departure at seasons end dominating both column inches and fans thoughts ahead of what in all probability will be his final home A-League game at Suncorp Stadium.

That announcement could prove to be a positive one for the Roar if the playing group use it as motivation to send out one of the clubs greatest players on a winning note, but it could also become an additional pressure and which way that goes will play a part in the outcome of this game.

What have they done lately?
After spending most of the season struggling to pick up wins Tony Popovic’s side have won three of their past five games, a run which both underpinned the Wanderers securing a spot in the finals and help them to a six game unbeaten run.

Like the Roar, Western Sydney have been fighting on the continent in the AFC Champions League –a fact which makes their current 6 game unbeaten run in the league all the more impressive-, however unlike Brisbane who kept their hopes alive on Matchday four, the Wanderers hopes of advancing essentially ended with a 3-2 loss at home to FC Seoul.

In their most recent game at the weekend the Wanderers fought back from two goals down in order to pick up a point against outgoing Champions Adelaide United, with former Brisbane midfielder Steven Lustica making the most of a rare appearance to score the equaliser.

The late season renaissance for Western Sydney started back in round 20, when they defeated the previously unbeaten Sydney FC, with the Wanderers losing just one further game in the league through the rest of the season.

That uptake in form has been lead by the form of Argentine import Nico Marinez whose creativity on the left hand side looms as a threat, as does long-time striker Brendon Santalab who has scored 14 goals this season. An underrated part of their return to form however is the central midfield pairing of Kearyn Baccus and Terry Antonis forming a strong pairing and their direct battle with Thomas Kristensen and Joe Caletti could be decisive in determining the outcome.

Recent form
Brisbane- WLWWL
Western Sydney- DDWWW

Top Scorer
Brisbane- Jamie Maclaren (19)
Western Sydney- Brendon Santalab (14)

This season against Western Sydney Wanderers
Round 8- Western Sydney 1-1 Brisbane
Round 12- Brisbane 1-0 Western Sydney
Round 17- Brisbane 2-1 Western Sydney

The three games this season between the two sides have been incredibly even encounters, with the Wanderers fighting back from a goal down to earn a point in the first two games. The most recent game back in round 17 was heading for a similar outcome to the first two of the season before Brett Holman won the game in injury time for Brisbane.

An underrated threat in this fixture this season for the Wanderers is Jumpei Kusukami, who scored two goals in three games this season against the Roar, while Jamie Maclaren has an excellent record against the Wanderers with eight goals in nine games since joining the Roar.

Expected Line-ups
Brisbane Roar might have an upcoming midweek trip to Thailand to take on Muanthong United in Matchday 5 of the AFC Champions League next Wednesday, however this game is absolutely the focus and as such John Aloisi will field his strongest possible side for this must win game.

That means Corey Brown will return to the backline at left back in place of Tommy Oar after being rested last week, while Jack Hingert’s face injury likely means another start for Cameron Crestani at right back. The only selection headache will be which two central defenders Aloisi chooses, with Luke DeVere, Jade North and Avram Papadopoulos each having strong cases for inclusion.

Brisbane XI- Theo, Crestani, Papadopoulos, DeVere, Brown, Kristensen, Caletti, Holman, Borrello, Broich, Maclaren.
Substitutes- Young, North, Pepper, Oar, D’Agostino.
Omitted- Rowles, Brady.

Tony Popovic had seemingly settled on a winning formula in recent weeks, however ACL fixtures and niggling injuries have curtailed that and now the Wanderers manager will have some decisions to make. The most notable of those surrounds young winger Jaushua Sotirio whose overcome a niggling injury and now could regain his place ahead of Mitch Nichols who has recently found himself on the outside looking in of the preferred starting XI.

Western Sydney XI- Janjetovic, Neville, Cornthwaite, Aspropotamitis, Baccus, Antonis, Kusukami, Nichols, Martinez, Santalab.
Substitutes- Tyson, Hamill, Dimas, Sotirio, Scott.
Omitted- Cole, Lustica.

Previous Finals against Western Sydney Wanderers
2013 Semi-Final-
Western Sydney Wanderers 3-2 Brisbane Roar
2014 Grand Final- Brisbane Roar 2-1 (a.e.t) Western Sydney Wanderers
2016 Semi-Final- Western Sydney Wanderers 5-4 Brisbane Roar

Since joining the A-League back in 2012, Brisbane and Western Sydney have played a number of dramatic finals games, with the most memorable from a Brisbane perspective being the 2014 Grand Final which Brisbane won in extra time.

The overall finals record however belongs to the Wanderers, with Tony Popovic’s side leading the overall tally 2-1, with Shinji Ono inspiring the Wanderers to a 2-0 Semi-Final win back in 2013 ending Brisbane’s quest for a third straight Championship.

The most recent clash between the two was in the Semi-Finals last season with the Wanderers coming back from 3-0 down early in the game to win 5-4 after extra time in what was one of the most dramatic games in the A-League’s history.

Stats and Facts
– One that slipped through last week, Thomas Broich played his 200th game for Brisbane Roar last weekend in the 4-3 win over Wellington Phoenix.

– Brisbane Roar have either won or drawn their previous nine games with eight wins and a draw, including a dramatic win at the same stage of the finals series last year.

– Western Sydney Wanderers have played Brisbane Roar in each of their three previous finals appearances, and have never failed to make the Grand Final when they’ve made the finals.

All-Time Record against Western Sydney Wanderers

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