Both coaches have full squads available for Sunday’s final
All eyes of the Australian soccer public will turn to the Adelaide Oval on Sunday, where a new A-League champion will finally be crowned at the third attempt.
Both Adelaide United and Western Sydney Wanderers, the competition’s two best sides this year, will be vying for their first-ever championships, after each having suffered the heartache of losing a grand final at two previous attempts. Each team will be just as determined as the other to avoid a demoralising third successive grand final loss.
Wanderers coach Tony Popovic knows all about the pressure of coaching in grand finals as this will be his third in four years with the Wanderers, a phenomenal record for the young coach.
His opposite number, Guillermo Amor, like Popovic, has picked up an A-League coach of the year award in his first year of coaching in the A-League, after leading the Reds to the Premier’s Plate in his inaugural season.
Now both come face to face in the championship decider.
What can we expect from this game? A repeat of last week’s semi-final goal-fest is unlikely. Those two games produced a crowd-pleasing 14 goals, in contrast to the three draws between these two grand-finalists in this season’s home and away games, which have produced a grand total of just two goals.
If the final goes to extra time, the Reds could benefit from the extra two days’ rest and the easier semi-final win, in contrast to the Wanderers’ extra-time epic semi-final win against the Roar. Still, the Wanderers are a powerful outfit and one of the strongest finishers over 90 minutes of the 10 A-League teams.
Wil home-ground advantage be a major factor? Probably, although the Reds have played most of their home matches at Coopers Stadium. Still, most of the 50,000 at Adelaide Oval will be cheering the home team, although the Wanderers can count on a large contingent of their loyal and fanatical supporters making the trip from Sydney.
Both teams have strong defences, although the Reds’ defence conceded less over the whole season, and the Wanderers’ defensive display in last Sunday’s semi against the Roar wasn’t their best.
Both teams boast strong central strikers in Brendon Santalab for the Wanderers and Bruce Djite for the Reds. In addition to Santalab, the Wanderers have goal scoring options in Mark Bridges, Mitch Nichols and of course, the hat-trick hero from last week, Romeo Castelen. Reds coach Amor may assign Craig Goodwin the task of looking after Castelen. Amor has deployed the normally attacking Goodwin as a full back behind Sergio Cirio in recent matches, and the two worked the left flank well in the semi against Melbourne City.
Some are predicting that the outcome may hinge on the midfield battle. How well the Wanderers’ defensive midfield trio of Dimas, Alberto and Andreu can stifle the Reds’ creative midfielders Carrusca and Sirio and how well the Reds Isaia and Mauk can stifle Mitch Nichols and co. could have a large bearing on the game.
Hold on to your seat for what should be a gripping, tense finale to an exciting A-League season.