A-League: Western Sydney v Brisbane Roar

Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar will meet in Round 18 of the 2013-14 A-League season at Pirtek Stadium on Friday, February 7 at 7.30pm AEDT.

Played: 5 - Wins: Wanderers 4, Roar 1, Draws: 0

Previous encounter:
Roar 3-1 Wanderers, Friday, November 11 2013

Past five matches:
Wanderers: DWLLW

The game:
League leaders Brisbane, already seven points clear of the second-placed Wanderers, can tighten their grip at the top of the A-League standings if they claim all three points in Parramatta. But doing so will be no small task. Mike Mulvey's side go into the game on the back of successive 2-1 wins at home to the Central Coast Mariners and Wellington Phoenix. On both occasions they had to come from behind to do so, suggesting the Roar have a few kinks to smooth out before they really hit the business end of the season.

The Wanderers meanwhile were held 2-2 away to the Newcastle Jets last time out and have won only two of their last six matches. Still seeking to rediscover extraordinary consistency they demonstrated in the second half of 2012-13, the reigning premiers will be determined not to fall further behind in the battle for top spot.

The big issue:
Wanderers – What effect will the uncertainty over the make-up of the Wanderers squad next season have on the existing playing group in the second half of the campaign? Shinji Ono has already announced his intention to leave, while key men Youssouf Hersi, Aaron Mooy and Matthew Spiranovic have all been linked with moves away. Club captain Michael Beauchamp is out of contract and not a guaranteed starter, and Golgol Mebrahtu, Daniel Mullen and Antony Golec have joined but are not available to play in the league. Can Western Sydney stay focused and united during the run in, or have some players already mentally checked out?

Roar – The primary focus for the Roar this week is continuing to improve their record against the Wanderers by burying the ghost of their semi-final defeat at Parramatta Stadium last season. A 3-1 win for Mulvey's troops at home in November was Brisbane's first over Western Sydney after four previous defeats. Now they have to repeat the trick at the intimidating home of the premiers. A goal from the departed Dino Kresinger and Ono's beautiful lob in April accounted for a Roar side fortunate to even be in the finals mix after a terrible start to the season under Rado Vidosic. Fast forward eight months and this Brisbane outfit are more than capable of making amends for that defeat.

The game breaker:
Thomas Broich - As is so often the case, Broich looms as a crucial figure in determining the outcome of this match. The German playmaker will need to be at his best to deny the Wanderers possession and to threaten the hosts' backline with his movement, positioning and incisive passing. Matthew Spiranovic has been deployed as a holding midfielder in the Wanderers' last two outings, but the fit-again Mateo Poljak could return to the starting XI if Tony Popovic wants to try and shut down the Roar's attacking fulcrum. 

Prediction: Western Sydney 1-2 Brisbane Roar
This is a mouth-watering fixture between the top two and an intriguing clash of styles. The Wanderers will look to keep it tight, deny their opponents time and space and hope to hit the Roar on the counter. The visitors meanwhile must aim to wrest control of the contest in midfield before playing their way through Western Sydney's dogged backline. We expect a determined Brisbane to prove too good on the day, with the confidence they subsequently receive from winning in Parramatta firing them on to a successful finals campaign.