Reds hit the road again, with points at a premium

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Western Sydney Wanderers host Adelaide United at Pirtek Stadium on Saturday evening in what is sure to be hotly contested match. The Wanderers are coming off an emotionally charged derby loss to Sydney FC, going down 3-1. United are also heading into the game on the back of a defeat as they went down 2-1 to Brisbane Roar last Sunday.

The background

The Wanderers lie in second place on the ladder although they face an intense battle to hold onto that position, with four teams within four points. Western Sydney showed a vulnerability against Sydney FC that was previously unseen, as they conceded three times in the second half after taking the lead.

Despite that weakness the Wanderers still have a determination and belief that resonates throughout their squad. This was showcased in their away victory over Guizhou Renhe in the Asian Champions League midweek, where coach Tony Popovic rung the changes but the side maintained their strength and will to come away with the three points.

United’s loss to the Roar leaves them in fifth place, four points behind the Wanderers. The Reds still harbour hopes of finishing in second place and a win here will go a long way towards achieving that goal.

The teams have won one game apiece in their two clashes this season, with the home side prevailing by a single goal on both occasions.

The ins & outs

Popovic welcomes back Matthew Spiranovic, Kwabena Appiah, Tomi Juric and Jason Trifiro to the squad, but loses Gol Gol Mebrahtu to an unfortunate knee injury suffered in the derby. Mark Bridge is excluded after playing 90 minutes in the win over Guizhou. Tahj Minniecon is the other absentee for the Wanderers.

Adelaide coach Josep Gombau can call upon almost a full squad, with only full-back Cassio unavailable, and Ryan Griffiths who left the club midweek to join Sarawak in the Malaysian Super League. United add some firepower and strength up front with Bruce Djite returning to the squad after missing out last week with an adductor injury.

The 90 minutes

There is an argument to be made that both teams’ styles of play suit each other quite well, with the Wanderers looking to hit the Reds on the counter, and United looking to control possession and dictate the tempo. That might explain why the sides won one game each earlier in the season.

Spiranovic is a big addition to the lineup for the Wanderers, with his composure key to their defensive hopes.

At the other end of the pitch, Juric’s inclusion could also be just as important. The big front man has been inconsistent and injury plagued this season, but possesses match winning ability.

Gombau has a difficult choice to make with Fabio Ferreira, Jeronimo Neumann and Sergio Cirio all in form and gelling well. Will he remove one of them to allow Djite to return to the starting lineup? Michael Zullo is likely to return to left-back after playing on the wing last week.

Shinji Ono holds the key to unlocking United’s defence, and the Reds will have to be at their best to subdue the Japanese playmaker. He may not be having a statistically impressive season but Ono is the Wanderer’s main man, and the majority of their attacking play goes through him.

United’s own playmaker is set to feature from the start this week, with Marcelo Carrusca being used as a halftime substitute last week. Carrusca is the Reds major creative force and he will be looking to return to top form in a crucial encounter.

The squads

Saturday, 15 March 2014
Western Sydney Wanderers v Adelaide United
Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta
 5.30pm local
Referee: Strebre Delovski
Assistant Referee 1: Paul Cetrangolo
Assistant Referee 2: Nathan MacDonald
Fourth Official: Adam Gehrig

Western Sydney Wanderers squad: 1.Ante COVIC (gk), 2.Shannon COLE, 3.Adam D’APUZZO, 4.Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 5.Michael BEAUCHAMP (c), 6.Jerome POLENZ, 7.Labinot HALITI 8.Mateo POLJAK, 9.Tomi JURIC, 10.Aaron MOOY, 11.Brendon SANTALAB, 13.Matthew SPIRANOVIC, 14.Kwabena APPIAH, 17.Youssouf HERSI, 19.Iacopo LA ROCCA, 20.Jerrad TYSON (gk), 21.Shinji ONO, 23.Jason TRIFIRO.
**Two to be omitted**

Ins: 9.Tomi JURIC (promoted), 13.Matthew SPIRANOVIC (international duty), 14.Kwabena APPIAH (promoted), 23.Jason TRIFIRO (promoted)

Outs: 19.Mark BRIDGE (omitted), 34.Golgol MEBRAHTU (knee – TBC)

Unavailable: 12.Tahj MINNIECON (ankle – indefinite)

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, 17.Awer MABIL, 18.Michael ZULLO, 19.Jake BARKER-DAISH, 20.Paul IZZO (gk), 21.Tarek ELRICH, 22.Fabio FERREIRA, 23.Jordan ELSEY
**Two to be omitted**

Ins: 11.Bruce DJITE (promoted), 19.Jake BARKER-DAISH (promoted)

Outs: Nil

Unavailable: 6.CASSIO (hamstring tendon – indefinite), 31.Ryan GRIFFITHS (transfer to Sarawak)

Andrew Cussen

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