Adelaide United host Sydney FC at Coopers’ Stadium on Friday night in a match that will play a huge part in both sides’ pursuit of finals football. United go into the match on the back of a goalless draw at a rain-soaked Pirtek Stadium with Western Sydney Wanderers. Sydney FC will be disappointed with their 1-1 draw with competition leaders Brisbane Roar, as Sydney enjoyed a man advantage for over a half.
The three points on offer are crucial for both sides as sixth hosts fifth on the ladder, with 31 and 32 competition points respectively. Both sides are still aiming to finish in the top four and secure a home final, and there is a real possibility that the two could meet again in the finals.
The Reds’ draw with the Wanderers ended an 11 game scoring streak and they will be keen to find their shooting boots against a Sydney side that has kept just one clean sheet in their last seven matches.
The Sky Blues have come under heavy criticism for their lack of creativity and perceived negative football this season, but they are a dangerous team who have quality across the pitch.
The two have clashed twice already this season, with Adelaide cruising to a 3-0 win in round 18, and an entertaining 2-2 being played out at Coopers in early January.
The ins & outs
Adelaide are unlikely to make major changes, with only long-term absentee Cassio unavailable. Other than the injured fullback, coach Josep Gombau has a full squad to choose from. Defenders Daniel Bowles and Jordan Elsey have been promoted to add cover, although both are likely to drop out of the match day squad.
Sydney FC coach Frank Farina received a big boost this week with Alessandro Del Piero returning to the squad. It remains to be seen if the Italian legend will start, but his inclusion should give the Sky Blues a lift.
Farina will have to do without striker Ranko Despotovic, who scored in the 2-2 draw between these sides in January, as well as Pedj Bojic and Rhyan Grant, who have season ending injuries.
The 90 minutes
United’s ability to retain possession and be patient in midfield is likely to be exacerbated by Sydney’s tendency to drop deep without the ball. The Sky Blues are likely to allow the Reds to play in the middle third of the pitch and back themselves to stay solid defensively, rather than be drawn out and allow gaps to open up.
Gombau has a slight dilemma with his fullbacks, with Michael Marrone starting his first game of the season last weekend, and Tarek Elrich shifting to left back. Will Gombau restore attacking fullback Michael Zullo to the starting lineup?
Farina’s selection policy is likely to be dictated by Del Piero’s availability. Sydney FC don’t possess another natural playmaker aside from Nicky Carle, who is excluded from the squad. This means Farina could persist with a version of a 4-3-3 which he employed last week against the Roar. A three man midfield would also give Sydney a greater foothold on the game, as playing two in midfield against the Reds has had disastrous results for a few teams this season.
If the game goes down to the wire United could have the advantage, having scored a league high six goals in the 90th minute or later so far this season.
The mind games
Farina believed playing the Roar last week could help Sydney FC, as Brisbane play with a similar style to the Reds.
“It’s probably an advantage, having played arguably the best side in the comp and now coming up against a team who tries to play similar,” Farina said.
“They’re similar to Brisbane. They’re very mobile in the midfield and up front they’ve got pace with some genuine goal scorers, so it’s a similar threat.”
Sky Blues defender Sasa Ognenovski was also wary of United’s ability to create chances and hurt teams and emphasised Sydney’s intent to maintain their defensive shape.
“Containing their front four is the biggest challenge,” Ognenovski said.
“Their mobility can drag you out of position but we’ve just got to maintain our shape…That’s the main thing with Adelaide. Once you start getting pulled out of position, they’ll start to try and find the gaps.”
Adelaide goalkeeper and captain Eugene Galekovic thought his side would be in for a tough game, especially with regards to breaking down Sydney’s defence.
“They have obviously changed a little bit of personnel,” Galekovic said.
“Sasa (Ognenovski), I think, is a big in for them. He stabilises the defence a lot. They haven’t conceded as many goals…And that is where it’s going to be tough to probably break down.
“It’s four games to go and a lot of teams can make the six, the top four or the top two, so it’s going to be a good end to the season,” Galekovic said.
“Every game is important … everyone has got to stay focused…If you lose a couple, you’re out of the six.”
Friday, 14 March 2014
Adelaide United v Sydney FC
Coopers Stadium, Adelaide
Kick-off: 7.00pm local (7:30pm AEDT)
Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones
Assistant Referee 1: Paul Cetrangolo
Assistant Referee 2: Daniel Goodwin
Fourth Official: Rick Schneider
Adelaide United squad: 1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk) (c), 2.Michael MARRONE, 3.Nigel BOOGAARD, 4.Jon McKAIN, 5.Osama MALIK, 7.JERONIMO, 8.ISAIAS, 9.Sergio CIRIO, 10.Marcelo CARRUSCA, 11.Bruce DJITE, 14.Cameron WATSON, 16.Daniel BOWLES, 17.Awer MABIL, 18.Michael ZULLO, 20.Paul IZZO (gk), 21.Tarek ELRICH, 22.Fabio FERREIRA, 23.Jordan ELSEY.
**Two to be omitted**
Ins: 16.Daniel BOWLES (promoted), 23.Jordan ELSEY (promoted)
Unavailable: 6.CASSIO (hamstring tendon – indefinite)
Sydney FC squad: 1.Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 2.Seb RYALL, 5.Matt JURMAN, 6.Nikola PETKOVIC, 9.Corey GAMEIRO, 10.Alessandro DEL PIERO (c), 11.Richard GARCIA, 13.Sasa OGNENOVSKI,16.Joel CHIANESE, 17.Terry ANTONIS, 20.Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk), 22.Ali ABBAS, 24.Hagi GLIGOR, 27.Chris NAUMOFF, 28.Matt THOMPSON, 29.Alec UROSEVSKI, 34.Aaron CALVER.
**One to be omitted**
Ins: 10.Alessandro DEL PIERO (return from injury)
Unavailable: Rhyan GRANT (knee – season), Pedj BOJIC (back – season), Ranko DESPOTOVIC (knee – 3 weeks)