It will ultimately be the players of Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC which determine this year’s Hyundai A-League champion but the battle of the coaches is just as intriguing.
Kevin Muscat, the fiery character doing a sterling job in his first full season in charge, up against the Master of the Mind Games in Graham Arnold.
Arnie looked relaxed on Saturday at the official pre-match pressa; Musky less so.
The pair are meticulous planners, enjoy the tactical battle which comes with winning big matches and are the driving forces to their teams’ success.
How will Arnold shutdown Victory’s fabulous front four, what will Muscat do to halt Sydney FC’s astonishing away record?
Clubs: Melbourne Victory 2013-
A-League games coached: 55
It can’t be underestimated the job Muscat has done in getting Victory to where they are this season.
Muscat had the unenviable job of following on from Ange Postecoglou when he took the reins early in last year’s campaign.
But he has taken all the good things the now-Socceroos boss implemented and put his own stamp on this Victory side.
The Victory 2014-’15 edition is a side very much in the mold of their manager.
Muscat has made them ruthless, direct and with a never-say-die winning mentality.
He is a born winner. It’s how Muscat was as a player throughout his illustrious career both at home and abroad.
That has filtered through to his team which is why they stayed the course in the run-in for the Premiers Plate, while others fell by the wayside.
Having led the club to two titles as a player, Muscat’s legend at the club would grow even more if he can deliver them first title in six years.
He would become the first person to win a championship both as a player and coach in the Hyundai A-League.
A truly remarkable effort for one of the fiercest competitors the competition has ever seen.
Clubs: Central Coast Mariners 2010-2013, Sydney FC 2014-
A-League games coached: 126
What an incredible first season in charge of the Sky Blues it has been for “Arnie”.
In his own words there was a “toxic” environment at the club when he arrived and he had to build a new culture from the ground up.
He’s done that and even more in the space of an incredible 12 months.
A superb man-manager, Arnold got his squad to immediately buy into his new professional way of doing things, on and off the pitch.
The show of unity out in the middle of Allianz Stadium 90 minutes after last week’s semi-final shows the club has embraced his “family” mantra he loves within his squads.
Surrounding himself with good staff, the ex-Socceroos boss made the Sky Blues hard to beat and evolving their attacking game as the season went on.
They seem to be timing their run to absolute perfection.
Unbeaten away from home and 41 goals in their last 14 games shows Arnold’s rebuild of the Sky Blues is well-and-truly on the right track.
He has thrived in the often cut-throat and fickle world of coaching Sydney FC.
With mentors like NRL supercoach Wayne Bennett in his corner, it should probably come as no surprise Arnie has brought immediate success to Sydney FC.
But it’s championships that coaches get judged on and there is still one hurdle to leap before they can say the job is complete.
No man has ever taken two different clubs to a championship but you wouldn’t bet against Arnold doing that on Sunday, following on from his success with the Mariners in 2013.