While Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic insists Shinji Ono and Jerome Polenz will be fit for Friday night’s history-making final against Brisbane Roar at Parramatta Stadium, young star Aaron Mooy seems unlikely to start.
Mooy, 22, trained on Thursday with a heavily strapped left knee, and appeared ginger whenever he put any pressure on the joint.
However, if Mooy doesn’t play, the Wanderers are left with a big selection problem in one of the pivotal roles of Tony Popovic’s favoured 4-2-3-1 formation.
Popovic is already without Iacopo La Rocca after his four-game suspension for elbowing Terry Antonis in the Sydney derby, meaning Mateo Poljak is the only sure selection for one of the two defensive midfield spots.
In the final match of the regular season, which Mooy’s medial ligament strain also forced him to miss, youngster Yianni Perkatis filled in admirably and could well be in line to start again alongside Poljak. It’s possible the more experienced Jason Trifiro, who has been used sparingly this season, might also be in contention. A decision on Mooy isn’t likely until closer to kick-off, even if Popovic is adamant he has a full complement of players to choose from.
”Everyone at the moment seems as though they will be available, which is great news for us. It would be nice to get another training session in just to confirm that, but at the moment we’re quite confident that everyone will be available,” he said on Thursday. ”They’ve trained the last two days, all of them, and they’re all confident they’ll be available. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, we want them to complete training. If they get through that, we’ll have a big selection of players available for tomorrow.”
Brisbane have their own injury worries in Luke Brattan and Thomas Broich. Both have been passed fit to play, and while Brattan appears fine, it is Broich’s inclusion – or possible exclusion – that could define the outcome.
”We’re expecting him to play, and if he does, I’m sure he’s a very good player and they’ll want to have him out there,” Popovic said. ”They’ve got a squad of players that are coming off two championships. They’re also one game away from a final, and you don’t get to do that with one player, you’ll do that with a squad. Whoever is out there, we’ll respect them and be we’ll be prepared for it.”
While Brisbane are gunning for their third straight championship, Popovic’s side isn’t short of title-winning experience, despite this being the Wanderers’ first season. Between them, Ante Covic, Mark Bridge, Tarek Elrich, Ono and Michael Beauchamp have all played in various cup-winning teams across three continents.
”It might help. We just see that the players are quite relaxed in the changeroom. They’re comfortable with where they’re at and how their preparation has gone, and now it’s just final touches before the game,” Popovic said. ”It comes down to a lot of things in a one-off match but we’ve maintained all year – and I don’t think we should be different now – that we’ve got to believe in our performance. We know that if we perform well, we know, at home, we give ourselves a very good chance of getting to a grand final.”
Beauchamp said the Wanderers’ record against Brisbane – three wins from three games – would count for nothing heading into this game, with the Roar much improved in recent weeks.
”Obviously they’ve changed their coach and have come into a run of form. They’ve shown in the past they’re a quality side,” he said. ”It’s not going to be an easy game for us, and we’re not taking it lightly at all.”
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