A-League preview: Brisbane Roar v Sydney FC

Improving Brisbane meet a stuttering Sydney FC in a season-defining clash to bring an end to 2014. While the Sky Blues’ season has been in free-fall over the last month, Roar has improved under new boss Frans Thijssen and can close the gap on their fifth-placed visitors with a win here.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014
Suncorp Stadium, Sydney

Kick-Off:  7pm (Local) (8pm AEDT)
Referee: Chris Beath

Brisbane Roar  3.Shane STEFANUTTO, 4.Adam SAROTA, 5.Corey BROWN, 7.Mensur KURTISHI, 8.Steven LUSTICA, 10.HENRIQUE, 12.Jean Carlos SOLORZANO, 13.Jade NORTH, 14.Daniel BOWLES, 15.James DONACHIE, 16.Devante CLUT, 18.Luke BRATTAN, 20.Kofi DANNING, 21.Jamie YOUNG (gk), 23.Dimitri PETRATOS, 28.Brandon BORRELLO, 30.Matt ACTON (gk), 34.Shannon BRADY ***two to be omitted***

Ins  18.Luke BRATTAN (promoted), 20, Kofi DANNING (promoted), 34.Shannon BRADY (promoted)
Outs  17.Matt McKAY (International duty – 2 matches)
Unavailable  1.Michael THEO (wrist – 4 weeks), 6.George LAMBADARIDIS (knee – indefinite), 19.Jack HINGERT (knee – 2 weeks), 22.Thomas BROICH (ankle – 4 weeks)

Sydney FC  1.Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 2.Seb RYALL, 4.Pedj BOJIC, 6.Nikola PETKOVIC, 8.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 11.Bernie IBINI, 12 Hagi GLIGOR, 13.Christopher NAUMOFF, 14.Alex BROSQUE (c), 16.Alex GERSBACH, 18.Peter TRIANTIS, 20.Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk), 21.Mark JANKO, 23. Rhyan GRANT, 24. George TIMOTHEOU, 25. Aaron CALVER, 28. Max BURGESS **two to be omitted**

Ins  13. Christopher NAUMOFF(promoted), 24. George TIMOTHEOU (promoted), 28. Max BURGESS (promoted).
Outs  17. Terry ANTONIS (International Duty – 2 matches).
Unavailable  7.Corey GAMEIRO (knee – indefinite), 22.Ali ABBAS (knee – indefinite), 5. Matt JURMAN (illness – 1 weeks), 19. Nick CARLE (knee – indefinite), 3.Sasa OGNENOVSKI (hip - indefinite).

Broadcast coverage
TV –  Live and exclusive coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 8.00pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport 1 (New Zealand)
Radio -  612 ABC Brisbane, ABC Local Radio  QLD, 702 ABC Sydney, ABC Local Radio NSW, Grandstand Digital, Online/ABC Radio Mobile phone app

Looking certainties for a top-four finish just a  few weeks ago, Sydney FC are all of a sudden looking over their shoulder at side’s chasing them in and around the top six. Brisbane (currently seventh) are one of those outfits breathing down the Sky Blues’ necks and a win for the home side here would create a real logjam from those spots from fifth to seventh on the table. The Asian Cup break can’t come soon enough for Fran Thijssen and Graham Arnold, with both confident their best form will come in the second half of the season once they can settle and bring in a few reinforcements. 

Matt McKay is out of Brisbane’s squad on Socceroo duty, with Luke Brattan the obvious replacement for the skipper in midfield. The Sky Blues have also lost a key midfielder in Terry Antonis who is also away for the national team, with either Peter Triantis or Rhyan Grant likely to slip into his position.

With the exception of their thrilling draw with Melbourne Victory a few weeks ago, Sydney has struggled to create much going forward. They are seriously missing the pace and energy of Corey Gameiro and Ali Abbas, with Bernie Ibini the only player looking capable of getting in behind and hurting teams. The Sky Blues need to be less reliant on the tactic of swinging in crosses from bad areas hoping for Janko or Smeltz to make things happen. Henrique has been the standout for Roar so far this season but Solorzano’s confidence should be high after a brace on the weekend and now gives the defending champions another outlet in attack.

Adam Sarota. The on-loan Socceroo midfielder looks to have his horror injury run behind him and will be hoping for a consistent spell of first-team football after starting his first match against Central Coast on Saturday. With Matt McKay now absent on Asian Cup duty and Thomas Broich out injured, Roar will need all of Sarota’s class and top-level experience if they are to continue their recent improvement and rise up the ladder.

Brisbane were forced to come from behind twice to escape with a 3-3 draw against Central Coast on Saturday. They have now won two, drawn two and lost just once under interim boss Frans Thijssen. The Sky Blues slumped to a third straight home defeat in going down to Adelaide on Boxing Day. One win from their last eight games tells the story for Arnold’s wounded side.

Earlier this season Sydney FC's scored one of the goals of the season, thanks to an audacious long-range volley from striker Marc Janko.  

Brisbane Roar FC 1-1 Sydney FC

After struggling at home over the last few weeks, Sydney will probably feel relieved to hit the road and arguably their best performance of the season came at Suncorp when they beat Brisbane 2-0 back in round three. With both side’s losing key midfielders to international duty there shouldn’t be much between these two desperate outfits, which might see them cancel each other out in this one.