Reds, Wanderers with points to prove and points to claim

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Adelaide heads into Sunday’s clash with Western Sydney on the back of a fantastic late win but with their preparations disrupted by a severe heatwave.  A week long spell of 40+ degree days has forced the reds to rethink their training methods this week. The conditions on Sunday will be somewhat cooler, ensuring the game is unlikely to be affected.

The reds claimed a crucial win last weekend with an injury time winner from the head of Jordan Elsey, who had only just returned from his terminated loan spell in Hong Kong. His goal in the 91st minute gave United the three points against a ten-man Brisbane Roar outfit. The chance came from a fantastic cross from Michael Zullo, who played in an advanced role on the left wing with Tarek Elrich moving to left back.

This week however we could see Zullo return to left back with Ryan Griffiths poised to make his first start for Adelaide. This will mean the probable benching of Daniel Bowles, as Elrich reverts to right back.

It wasn’t just three points that United secured this week, with flying winger Awer Mabil signing a new contract that ties him to the club until 2017. This was good news for red fans as the reigning National Youth League player of the year has the ability to change a game with his pace and directness. The Kenyan-born winger made his first A-League start last round against the Roar after having been used as a substitute on ten occasions.

Winger Sergio Cirio is unavailable with the hamstring injury he suffered against Sydney FC in round 13. Midfielder Jacob Melling and fullback Cassio are also absent, with knee and hamstring injuries respectively.

There is good news for United with the return of striker Bruce Djite and playmaker Marcelo Carrusca from injury, as well as the return of Osama Malik from suspension. Carrusca was not risked against the Roar and his return should help the reds in their quest to dominate possession in midfield, while Malik’s presence should provide United with a more solid look.

John Hall, Ryan Kitto and Jake Barker-Daish are all on international duty in Oman at the AFC U-22 Championships, where the Australians have won group C and will progress to the knockout stages.

The Wanderers come into the game on the back of a poor performance against Melbourne Victory on Tuesday, with some beginning to question Tony Popovic’s rotation policy. The A-League’s very own ‘tinker man’ chose to leave his attacking trio of Tomi Juric, Youssouf Hersi and Shinji Ono out of the starting line-up.

Although the Wanderers should have taken the lead before halftime, their performance dropped off in the second half and the Victory pounced. The return of this attacking trio should provide new impetus for Western Sydney, as well as more incisiveness up front, as Juric is the Wanderers top goal scorer and Ono is their leading assist provider. Hersi also bagged a brace at Coopers Stadium last season.

At the back is where Popovic continually leaves us all guessing, with Matthew Spiranovic, Michael Beauchamp and Nikolai Topor-Stanley being rotated regularly. Popovic has yet to pair Spiranovic with Beauchamp, but after shipping three goals midweek and an upcoming Asian Champions League campaign, he may decide to rest Topor-Stanley for the first time this season.

There has never been a draw between these two sides with each winning two of the four encounters, and it’s also a split in games at Coopers Stadium with one win a piece.

United have climbed steadily towards the top six after their poor start to the season and are now within striking distance. If results go their way this weekend, they could enter Sunday’s match with the knowledge that a win would secure a top six berth.

The Wanderers need the points for entirely different reasons. Following their midweek loss, the Victory are now within three points of Western Sydney. The aim for the Wanderers now is not just catching the table-topping Roar, but ensuring they keep the Victory at bay and maintain second place.

United will head into the match with a renewed sense of confidence and belief with their unbeaten run now stretching to five games, including three at home. This is an opportunity for the reds to play top sides back to back and firmly establish their finals candidacy in front of their home fans.

Adelaide United will also be hosting a celebrity match as a curtain raiser to support the Martyn Crook Foundation. The celebrity game starts at 2.45pm and more information can be found here: http://footballcentral.com.au/adelaide-united-to-host-celebrity-match/#.UtczS9IW2So.

Andrew Cussen

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