Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic will give Aaron Mooy, Mark Bridge and Jerome Polenz until Saturday's training session to prove their fitness for Sunday's A-League grand final
|By JOHN GRECO
A final training session behind closed doors on Saturday will determine whether Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic will take a punt on his injured stars for their A-League grand final with Central Coast.
The Wanderers head into Sunday's decider with injury clouds over midfielder Aaron Mooy [knee], right-back Jerome Polenz [quad] and leading scorer Mark Bridge [ankle].
While Bridge trained strongly on Friday and is rated a near-certainty to play, Mooy and Polenz still need to convince the Wanderers boss they will be right to get through the 90 minutes.
Mooy has not played since he picked up a knee injury against Melbourne Heart in March, while Polenz was forced off in the first half of last weekend's semi-final win over Brisbane.
The pair took part in Friday's session but will need to show no signs of discomfort in the side's final hit-out on Saturday to be passed fit.
Asked how his injured trio were progressing on Friday, a coy Popovic said: "I don't know yet if these players will be available.
"I'll make that call tomorrow after training.
"In their minds they all want to play... as Aaron wanted to last week but he wasn't quite right.
"But it's a grand final so we've got to make sure that the players tick all the boxes physically and if they do that they'll certainly be available.
"If they don't, we'll play someone [else] as we have done before.
"It's the same with Bridge, he'll train today, but even without seeing him train today, I'm pretty sure he'll be fine."
One player the Wanderers must do without is influential winger Youssouf Hersi, who will miss the match through suspension.
While youngster Kwabena Appiah-Kubi is Hersi's most likely replacement, Popovic said he had yet to decide who will fill-in on the right, with Labinot Haliti and Tarek Elrich also possibilities.
"We have two or three different options we've been thinking about which we'll decide in the next couple of days," the Wanderers boss said.
"Whoever's come in, they've all done well when given an opportunity and they've all done well under pressure.
"Every player that's come in under pressure and in front of a big crowd, they've all delivered. That's pleasing for the coaching staff and a good headache to have."
Being grand final week, both sides have been quick to try and claim the underdog tag, with Central Coast players insisting all the pressure is on the Wanderers after they took out the Premiers' Plate.
When told the Mariners players had declared all the pressure was on Western Sydney, captin Michael Beauchamp said: "Of course they're going to say that... why wouldn't they?
"We're not feeling anything. We've got everything to gain.
"It's their fourth grand final so I think the pressures a bit more on them.
"At the end of the day they're only words and come the game it's going to be a big battle."
While the Wanderers beat the Mariners in their most recent clash, Graham Arnold's side boast the greater grand final experience of the two sides.
While Bridge, Beauchamp, Shannon Cole, Ante Covic and Elrich have all played in deciders for other clubs, the Mariners have nine members of their starting side who have played in the biggest match of the season.