7.35pm (AEST), Friday, April 15 at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
The third-placed Roar host the sixth-placed Victory in a mouth-watering opening to the 2016 A-League finals series.
Roar: Brown, Corona, MacLaren, North, Donachie, McKay, Hingert, Young, Broich, Petratos, Oar.
Victory: Geria, Galloway, Finkler, Ben Khalfallah, Gallifuoco, Howard, Thomas, Valeri, Makarounas, Deng, Berisha.
The Victory have won 15 and the Roar 12, with seven of their 34 previous clashes drawn. They have met just once before in finals, with Brisbane chalking up a 1-0 win in 2013/14. When Brisbane are the home side, the matches are split 8-7-2 in the Roar’s favour. This season, the Victory won the first clash 4-0, the Roar won the return bout 5-0, and the clubs drew 0-0 in the final regular-season round.
The Roar have won four of their last six, with a 3-1 loss to Melbourne City FC their only negative result since the end of February. Brisbane have accounted for Western Sydney, Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC and Newcastle, before a last-round draw with Victory.
The Victory are unbeaten since their 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the Roar on March 12, notching wins over Western Sydney and Wellington, and tying with Newcastle and Brisbane. Melbourne has also recorded two draws in the AFC Champions League in the past month.
Beshart Berisha will take his place in the Victory line-up after controversially having a suspension for violent conduct reduced on appeal – the veteran Albanian striker, a former Roar stalwart, is a huge in for the underdogs. Jamie Maclaren has virtually filled Berisha’s big boots in the Brisbane line-up, and he has starred immediately with 18 goals in 23 rookie-season appearances.
Stats That Matter
The Roar have won six of their last eight finals matches, and have never lost a playoff at Suncorp Stadium. Victory have won five of the last seven matches between the sides. The Victory have not conceded more than a single goal in their last eight finals matches dating back to 2009/10. The Roar have won their last four home games. The Victory have lost just one of their last four away games – 5-0 to the Roar.
The fortunate inclusion of Berisha certainly puts the Victory in the hunt, particularly after a confidence-boosting goalless draw last week against the Roar. But the Roar were the dominant side last week without getting the result that would have handed them the Premier’s Plate, and the Suncorp Stadium factor tips the scales resoundingly in Brisbane’s favour. The balance of youth and experience – and better man-for-man form – in the Roar line-up makes them the logical tip in this grudge match.
Roar to win ($2.10)
First Goalscorer – Jamie Maclaren ($5.50)
Correct Score – Roar 2-1 ($8.50)