Mike Mulvey takes his league-leading title favourites to tackle the team which ended their title defence in the semi-finals last season, and who are second on the table
The Wanderers meanwhile were held 2-2 away to the Newcastle Jets last time out and have won only two of their last six matches. Still seeking to rediscover extraordinary consistency they demonstrated in the second half of 2012-13, the reigning premiers will be determined not to fall further behind in the battle for top spot.
What effect will the uncertainty over the make-up of the Wanderers squad next season have on the existing playing group in the second half of the campaign? Shinji Ono has already announced his intention to leave, while key men Youssouf Hersi, Aaron Mooy and Matthew Spiranovic have all been linked with moves away. Club captain Michael Beauchamp is out of contract and not a guaranteed starter, and Golgol Mebrahtu, Daniel Mullen and Antony Golec have joined but are not available to play in the league. Can Western Sydney stay focused and united during the run in, or have some players already mentally checked out?
The primary focus for the Roar this week is continuing to improve their record against the Wanderers by burying the ghost of their semi-final defeat at Parramatta Stadium last season. A 3-1 win for Mike Mulvey's troops at home in November was Brisbane's first over Western Sydney after four previous defeats. Now they have to repeat the trick at the intimidating home of the premiers. A goal from the departed Dino Kresinger and Ono's beautiful lob in April accounted for a Roar side fortunate to even be in the finals mix after a terrible start to the season under Rado Vidosic. Fast forward eight months and this Brisbane outfit are more than capable of making amends for that defeat.
Thomas Broich looms as a crucial figure in determining the outcome of this match. The German playmaker will need to be at his best to deny the Wanderers possession and to threaten the hosts' backline with his movement, positioning and incisive passing. Matthew Spiranovic has been deployed as a holding midfielder in the Wanderers' last two outings, but the fit-again Mateo Poljak could return to the starting XI if Tony Popovic wants to try and shut down the Roar's attacking fulcrum.
This is a mouth-watering fixture between the top two and an intriguing clash of styles. The Wanderers will look to keep it tight, deny their opponents time and space and hope to hit the Roar on the counter. The visitors meanwhile must aim to wrest control of the contest in midfield before playing their way through Western Sydney's dogged backline. We expect a determined Brisbane to prove too good on the day, with the confidence they subsequently receive from winning in Parramatta firing them on to a successful finals campaign.
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