Match Preview v Brisbane Roar: Sudden Death Semi Final
Tony Popovic's troops won all three clashes between the sides this campaign which should give them plenty of confidence heading into sudden-death football.
Date: Friday, April 12, 2013 Kick-off: 7.30pm AEDT Venue: Parramatta Stadium, Sydney
Head-to-head: Played: 3 - Wins: Wanderers 3, Roar 0
Previous encounter: Roar 1-2 Wanderers, January 20, 2013
Form: Past five matches: Wanderers: WWWDW Roar: DLWWW
The Game: Despite being up-and-down for most of the season, Brisbane aren't about to give their title up without a fight and are just one game away from a third straight decider. Mike Mulvey has got his side firing at the right time, with last Sunday's 2-1 win over Adelaide their third in a row. But if the Roar are to play for another championship they will need to knock off the in-form premiers.
Western Sydney are on a remarkable 12-game unbeaten run, have had the benefit of a week's break and will play in front of their hostile and parochial home fans.
The busiest men at both clubs this week have been the medical staff with a host of key players from the respective sides racing the clock to be fit. Shinji Ono (groin), Aaron Mooy (knee) and Jerome Polenz (calf) all missed the title-winning clash with Newcastle a fortnight ago but are expected to line-up on Friday night.
Brisbane defender Jack Hingert is out for the season with an ankle injury picked up against Adelaide but skipper Thomas Broich (Achilles) and midfielder Luke Brattan (calf) are likely to play despite failing to finish the match against the Reds.
The big issue: Wanderers - They took out the Premiers' Plate in their debut season but there will be no second chances for Tony Popovic's side from now on. This is sudden death football. While Brisbane have been there and done it over the last couple of years, for many of the Wanderers squad this will be a new experience. Just how they handle the pressure could determine if they move through to the decider.
Roar - Brisbane may have some momentum heading into this clash but the short turnaround and injury clouds over a couple of key players could prove pivotal. While the Wanderers will be fresh from a week off and had the opportunity to get a few of their stars over niggling injuries, the Roar head into this one just five days after a bruising win over Adelaide and that could take its toll late in this encounter.
The game breaker: Mark Bridge - There's a saying that big matches are decided by a big play and not many on the Parramatta Stadium turf on Friday night have delivered when it counts like Mark Bridge. The 27 year-old is the man for the big occasions. He has already scored in two A-League grand finals in helping Newcastle (2008) and Sydney FC (2010) to the title. You wouldn't bet against Bridge popping up with another crucial goal on Friday night and the Roar defence will have to be wary of his threat up front.
Prediction: Wanderers 2-1 Roar If the previous meetings this season count for anything then the Wanderers will progress through to the grand final in their debut season. Popovic's troops won all three clashes between the sides this campaign which should give them plenty of confidence heading into sudden-death football. There's always the great unknown of how much benefit is gained from a week off at this stage of the year. But given the Wanderers have had the opportunity to get some key players fit and the fact Brisbane have some injury concerns, the pendulum has swung into Western Sydney's favour.