Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou knows what it takes to win in the A-League finals and feels Tony Popovic has the Wanderers fit and firing at the right time.
Ange Postecoglou believes Western Sydney’s rotation policy might just be what gives the side the edge in the A-League semi-finals.
The Wanderers take on defending champions the Central Coast at Parramatta Stadium on Saturday while Postecoglou’s two former teams Brisbane and Melbourne Victory battle in the other semi at Suncorp Stadium the next day.
For the first time three of the four reaming sides are also currently competing in the Asian Champions League (ACL).
Tony Popovic has been scrutinised in recent months for his constantly changing line-ups as he rotates his players through both competitions in an effort to reduce the risk of injury.
The Wanderers qualified in empathic fashion for the continental competitions’ knockout phase with a 5-0 rout of Chinese club Guizhou Rehne on Tuesday and have all their players fit and firing for Saturday’s crucial clash against the Mariners.
Postecoglou knows the strain contesting both the A-League finals and ACL simultaneously can have on a team, having guided Roar to back-to-back championships in 2011-12 while competing against Asia’s best clubs.
And the Socceroos mentor feels Popovic has found the right balance in his squad.
“I think Tony Popovic has done an outstanding job at Western Sydney and they look like they’re peaking at the right time,” Postecoglou told AAP on Wednesday.
“I think they’ve got the healthiest list going around because of his man-management.
“So I think they’re going to be hard to beat.”
Postecoglou admits he’ll have a close eye on the Roar-Victory semi and says he’s happy one of his former teams will feature in the grand final.
But with Victory having suffered several injuries in their 0-0 draw with Korean side Jeonbuk Motors on Tuesday, with Jesse Makarounas (hip), Scott Galloway (hamstring) and Adrian Leijer (foot) all in doubt for Sunday’s encounter, Postecoglou feels premiers Roar may be in the box seat.
But he felt both semis were ultimately too close to call.
“Maybe Brisbane will have an advantage there in terms of being a bit fresher,” he said.
“You need good form going into the finals and four of those teams have got good form.
“I have a feeling both semi-finals will be pretty tight and I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of them goes to penalties because I think they’re really evenly matched.”