The Wanderers Picture: Mark Evans/news.com.au
The Western Sydney Wanderers began life in the A-League on October 6 2012 against the Central Coast Mariners at Parramatta Stadium and they end their inaugural campaign against the same opposition in the A-League grand final on Sunday afternoon. No one would have predicted that this pair would be the last teams standing more than six months after that draw , but here they are on the brink of a fairytale triumph having got to the decider on the back of 12 wins from their past 13 matches.
Mark Bridge has already been in two grand final winning sides and coach Tony Popovic will rely on him to lead the line with Youssouf Hersi suspended after picking up a red card in his sides 2-0 semi-final victory over defending premier Brisbane Roar last weekend. Fullback Jerome Polenz could line up despite re-aggravating his quad injury against the Roar, while midfield maestro Aaron Mooy is likely to play after being out of action with a knee injury since round 25.
Mariners coach Graham Arnold has no new injury concerns going into the club’s fourth grand final but will be without influential midfielder Nick Montgomery, who was given his marching order for a second bookable offence in his side’s 1-0 win over Melbourne Victory last week. Olivier Bozanic , who was a fixture in the side before Montgomery arrived, is likely to replace him in midfield although 20 year-old Anthony Caceres is another option.
The Wanderers have won 12 of their past 13 matches and drawn the other, but the last team to beat them was the Mariners, who were 2-0 victors when the clubs met at Parramatta Stadium in round 15. Western Sydney triumphed 1-0 in round 23 away from home, while the season opening clash between the pair finished in a 0-0 stalemate. While this is obviously the Wanderers first grand final appearance, the Mariners have reached the decider three times in the past and lost on each occasion.
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