Saba revels as Wanderers' villain

Western Sydney’s Vitor Saba says he’ll relish the hostile conditions he’ll face away to Al Hilal more than playing in front of a packed Wanderers home crowd.

The Brazilian midfielder looms as a key part of Wanderers’ bid to become Asian champions, holding a 1-0 lead ahead of Sunday morning (AEST)’s AFC Champions League final second leg in Saudi Arabia.

Saba has split opinions regularly since signing with Wanderers in June, including a Sydney derby red card and for feigning injury in the ACL quarter-finals against Guangzhou Evergrande, leading to a sending off and a melee with opposition coach Marcello Lippi.

The 24-year-old, who hails from Rio de Janeiro, appears to relish being the centre of drama and controversy and welcomes the tag as the pantomime villain.

“For me personally I can say that when the fans are on our side, it spurs me and helps me a lot,” Saba said.

“But when the fans are against us, I like it even better.

“Then I want to see the stadium quiet. If we manage to get the stadium quiet on Saturday then we’re going to be champions.”

Saba’s Italian team-mate Iacopo La Rocca added that the club’s run to the final was the “best experience of his career”.

However, the former Grasshoppers and AC Bellinzona midfielder said it would mean nothing if they didn’t triumph in the decider.

“We’ve done very well until now. We have one more game, but if we don’t win, for me, we have done anything,” La Rocca said.

“We’re in the final, but everyone will remember who finishes first.”

La Rocca said he believed Wanderers could turn their performance up a gear after the first leg where he said they didn’t play at their best.

“I expect more from us,” La Rocca said.

“I think we didn’t play like we have to play, but we won.

“If we play like we can play, we can win the game.”