A-League: Brisbane Roar v Adelaide United
Played: 29 – Roar 10, Adelaide 11, Drawn 8
Roar 1-2 Adelaide, January 11, 2014
Past five matches:
What a game this is shaping up to be. The Roar returned to winning ways in convincing fashion against the Glory last weekend, while Adelaide's form keeps getting better, and at just the right time. The Reds demolished Wellington in thrilling fashion last Thursday night. But can they do it again at the home of the league leaders? Flying winger Fabio Ferreira could be set to give Roar fullback Shane Stefanutto a tough time with his pace and ability to cut inside, while the battle for control of midfield should be intriguing and may well decide the outcome.
Jon McKain is available again for Adelaide after serving a suspension, although he may have a job displacing Osama Malik and Nigel Boogard at the back after those two kept Wellington's dangerous forwards quiet at Coopers Stadium last week. Marcelo Carrusca is expected to be available again after missing last week due to an adductor strain, and will add yet more attacking threat to the dangerous Reds forward line. Bruce Djite (groin) and Cirio (concussion) were subbed off in the win over Phoenix and it remains to be seen if they be will risked in the Queensland capital.
The big issue:
Brisbane - This game can serve as a test case for dealing with the type of in-form, free-flowing opposition the Roar could come up against in the finals. Western Sydney don't hold as much fear as they once did, while other top-six hopefuls Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC and Central Coast all look eminently beatable. That leaves the likes of late chargers Wellington, Heart and above all Adelaide as the playoff dark horses. The Roar boast a winning combination of sturdy defence, technical midfield and dangerous attack. Is it enough to blunt the lively Reds?
Adelaide - Similarly, Adelaide can use this game as an audition for the finals campaign. There have been times when the Reds' risky high defensive line sees them caught out, as when they lost 4-3 away to Victory two weeks ago. Will a shrewd outfit like the Roar, staffed by clinical pair Thomas Broich and Besart Berisha, succeed in exploiting the same weakness? Adelaide coach Josep Gombau has insisted he will not temper his team's high-pressing, all-or-nothing approach, which could make for some wildly entertaining contests in the weeks ahead. But will it also spell finals heartbreak for the Hindmarsh faithful?
The game breaker:
Fabio Ferreira - In strong form all season, the former Chelsea academy player dominated the Phoenix throughout last Thursday, scoring once and setting up two other goals. He will be up against an experienced left-back in Stefanutto this weekend, but does the Roar defender have the pace to cope against the flying Portuguese winger? Another dominant performance will not only result in chances for the visitors coming in from the flank, but will also create space for the likes of Carrusca and Jeronimo Neumann to threaten elsewhere. It may take one of Roar's deeper midfielders to come across and double up at times, as Mike Mulvey won't want to lose the threat of Broich further forward by instructing the German to drop back and help Stefanutto.
Prediction: Brisbane Roar 2-3 Adelaide
We're tipping goals in this one and an away win which could throw finals betting wide open. The Roar have the ability to take advantage of Adelaide's systematic deficiencies, but could find themselves with plenty of problems of their own if they can't get the ball off the Reds' midfield metronome Isaias. Brisbane are used to having possession and we saw in their 1-0 defeat away to Melbourne Heart what happens when you deprive them of the ability to probe and build attacks. It could just as easily go the home side's way, but for enjoyment's sake let's back an Adelaide win and an added level of interest in the run-in to finals.