A near full-strength Western Sydney Wanderers are confident heading into Friday’s home clash with A-League leaders Brisbane.
Western Sydney Wanderers are brimming with renewed confidence as they plot to deny A-League leaders Brisbane a win that could virtually clinch the Premier’s Plate with a third of the season left.
A win at Parramatta Stadium on Friday night would lift the Roar 10 points clear of the second-placed Wanderers with a game in hand.
Wanderers coach Tony Popovich has a near full-strength side to call on, with midfielder Mateo Poljak and defender Jerome Polenz fit again and midfielder Iacopo La Rocca the only key player still on the injury list.
While Wanderers have lost three of their six matches in 2014, Popovic is greatly encouraged by their form in their last two games – the 3-1 home win over Perth Glory and last week’s 2-2 draw in Newcastle where only a late Jets equaliser denied them.
“We go in with a lot of confidence, we’ve performed very well in the last two games and we look forward to a big game against Brisbane,” Popovic said.
“A win certainly would close the gap and it would put some more pressure on Brisbane.
“But I think for us the focus is just the game, not so much whether we are catching them or closing the gap.”
Wanderers striker Mark Bridge conceded a loss on Friday would make it extremely difficult for the Wanderers to retain the Premiers Plate.
“Ten points (behind) with them having a game in hand with eight or nine games to go is going to be extremely hard (to make up) with an Asian Champions League campaign on top of that,” Bridge said.
Roar captain Matt Smith made it clear Brisbane would go for the win on a ground where they have lost their two previous games to Western Sydney.
Brisbane coach Mike Mulvey expected a far more feisty performance from his side before the big and passionate Wanderers home crowd than in the 2-0 away loss to the Wanderers in last season’s finals, which ended the Roar’s campaign.
“Last year we were a little bit intimidated in that semi-final but we won’t be intimidated this time,” Mulvey said.
“We go there this year with more experience, more settled and more organisation.
“We’ve evolved a lot since then, and this will be a great test for us.”
Steven Lustica, released by Adelaide United to return to the Roar this week, looks set to get his chance off the bench after being added to a 17-man squad.
Socceroo Ivan Franjic appears likely to start in his return from a stomach problem, which could see German maestro Thomas Broich move from left wing back into the midfield.
Mulvey confirmed Matt McKay (ankle) would remain sidelined.