TattsBet Brekky Show soccer expert James Clark takes a comprehensive look at the A-League's 'Big Show'.
Brisbane Roar (1st) v Western Sydney Wanderers (2nd)
Suncorp Stadium Sunday 4:05pm (AEST)
It all comes down to Sunday. The two most consistent teams all season have deservedly progressed to the “Big Show”. The Roar will be attempting to do the double by winning the Premier’s Plate and adding the Championship Trophy to the cabinet. This will be the Roar’s third Grand Final appearance in four years and this season has marked a new era under Mike Mulvey. Roar are yet to be beaten in a finals game at Suncorp Stadium, but will be up against a Wanderers team brimming with confidence and aiming to go one better than last year’s Grand Final disappointment.
Tony Popovic’s team looked in great touch last week against a travel weary Mariners and will be lifted knowing they go into the game with last year’s unlucky absentees Youssouf Hersi and Locopo La Rocca. Both teams have loads of attacking potency upfront, but in these tightly fought Grand Final battles it is often defence that determines the victor. Will the experience of Matt McKay, Jade North and captain Matt Smith outweigh the obvious defensive strength of Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Matthew Spiranovic and powerhouse keeper Ante Covic?
Besart Berisha will play his last game for his beloved Roar and has a remarkable strike rate by scoring an amazing 31 goals in 39 appearances on the Suncorp pitch. Understandably he dominates the first goal scorer market, with the Wanderer’s Tomi Juric next best.
Dissecting the stats, in seven head-to-head battles over the past two seasons, the Wanderers dominate the ledger with four wins, two draws and only one loss - that came back in round seven at Suncorp. On that occasion, Berisha opened the scoring with Ivan Franjic and young star Kwame Yeboah putting the game beyond doubt in added time. Franjic is still returning to his best form, and if he delivers, could be a key component to engineering a win on Sunday.
For the Wanderers, Hersi and Brendon Santalab will be teaming with Shinji Ono to throw everything at the Roar’s strong midfield and defensive set-up. An injury cloud over Mark Bridge could prove the difference in attack and combination with Hersi has thwarted the last line of many A-League sides in the past.
A Grand Final always throws up its far share of surprises and drama - this one will be no different. The X-factor will be the large contingent of travelling “Red and Black” Wanderers' fans journeying north to Brisbane. With a “House Full” sign on the cards, the atmosphere will again showcase the great strides the A-League has made to the growth of football/soccer in this country. This is a game not to be missed.
I’m finding hard to come up with a clear-cut winner, as nothing much separates these two champion sides. The big home ground advantage should help carry the Roar to victory but they won't have it all their own way against a very well drilled and coached Wanderers side.
My tip: Draw (with the Brisbane Roar winning in extra-time)
TattsBet Brekky Show
(Monday & Friday mornings during the Hyundai A-League season)
Click here to bet on A-league Grand Final