The Wanderers will attempt to bounce back from their Grand Final loss. Source: Getty Images/news.com.au
A Western Sydney Wanderers side that will be pondering what could have been must somehow rev themselves up when they make the long trip to Japan to face Hiroshima Sanfrecce in the ACL.
Tony Popovic has admitted it will be hard to find a way to get his deflated side ready for Wednesday night’s game after the Grand Final heartbreak. Not only was Sunday’s extra-time loss to the Roar physically draining, the players took a hefty psychological hit too. Star defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley will miss the match after a knee injury in the second half saw him taken off. That leaves the door open for experienced former Socceroo Michael Beauchamp in the centre of defence. 21-year-old sensation Tomi Juric is expected to spearhead the Wanderer’s attack, as Mark Bridge looks to rest up. Expect Popovic to make a string of further changes to his squad.
Hiroshima didn’t look at all convincing in their 1-0 win over a depleted Central Coast Mariners side two weeks ago. The defending J-league champions look like a totally different outfit this campaign, and the Wanderers will be keen to take advantage of their current poor form. Hiroshima has only managed two wins of their past six matches in all competitions, not ideal for a knock-out tie against the A-league runners-up. The Japanese side must be cautious of the Wanderer’s quick counter attacking style, an element that has seen them snatch many victories this season.
There are so many arguments you could make that point to a Hiroshima win in this match. The Wanderers come off a heartbreaking Grand Final loss, played 120 minutes of intense football and have to make the long trip to Japan nursing aching muscles and broken hearts. Popovic’s men have it all to do on Wednesday, and his tactics will surely be to defensively dominate Hiroshima and hope to come home with a result they can overturn in the second leg in Sydney.
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