Around the grounds: Elimination Finals special
The Hyundai A-League 2019/20 Season Elimination Finals are almost upon us with two mouth-watering match-ups to look forward to over the weekend.
It all kicks off on Saturday as Wellington Phoenix take on Perth Glory before Brisbane Roar and Western United FC do battle on Sunday.
We’ve checked in with all four clubs to find out what’s been said ahead of the start of their finals campaign.
After failing to win any of their opening four game, the Phoenix have done a superb job to finish the regular season in third spot, the club’s highest-ever finish in their history.
Despite picking up just two points from their last four matches heading into the Finals Series, coach Ufuk Talay is confident they can put a string of mixed results behind them.
"We've broken a couple of records this season with the worst start and the best finish," Talay said.
"So this group can achieve anything they put their mind to. We'll prepare the way we need to prepare, and see how we can hurt them and how we can nullify them at the same time.”
“What our players and the coaching staff in Sydney have gone through in this isolation environment has been extremely tough; separated from friends and family for over two months in order to reach the Finals - I can’t speak highly enough of their commitment and professionalism during this time.”
Coach Tony Popovic says his Glory players are fresh and ready for sudden-death football, starting with Saturday’s clash against Wellington.
Perth have had 10 days to prepare since their last fixture and the Glory boss believes it was just what they needed as they head into the business end of the campaign.
"Now is the exciting part," Popovic said.
"It's a real focus on a Semi-Final, it's an elimination game and this is what players play for, to be in this position, to have a chance by being here, of progressing and winning the title.
"We're not thinking that it's almost over, we're thinking about tomorrow's game and the chance we have. We've trained well and you can sense that it's a Finals game."
HOW TO WATCH: Hyundai A-League 2019/20 Finals Series
Experienced defender Jack Hingert says the disappointment of last season – both personally and as a club - has ignited the fire to drive Roar to Hyundai A-League glory.
Roar missed finals for the first time in eight seasons in the 2018/19 campaign, but have cruised into the Finals Series this time by finishing fourth.
Hingert was sidelined for the majority of last season due to a knee injury but has returned in emphatic fashion in 2019/20 and he’ll play a key role against Western United FC on Sunday.
“It was a season to forget last season, but it’s also good to look back and it makes you hungrier to be successful,” Hingert said.
“Over the years I’ve been here, we are a successful club, we do have high standards and to have that season last year served as a reminder of what it could be like if things don’t go your way or if you don’t put in 100% every day.
“It was a bit of a wake up a call. For me personally, it made me really want to strive and gave me back that hunger to be back where we belong – in finals and being successful.
“It’s been a good season so far and there’s no reason why we can’t make it a very successful one and go all the way.”
Western United FC
Mark Rudan believes his side’s crop of experienced players can give them an advantage heading into Sunday’s winner-takes-all battle with Brisbane Roar.
Experienced stars such as skipper Alessandro Diamanti, striker Besart Berisha and defender Andrew Durante have all played in big games before, both domestically and overseas.
Diamanti has played 17 times for the Italian national team, while Berisha and Durante have featured in the Hyundai A-League finals multiple times each.
“We’ve got big game players; we’ve got experienced players who have been there and done that,” Rudan said on Friday.
“You can’t put a price on that as far as I’m concerned.
“Bes [Berisha] has been there, Dura [Durante] has been there.
“To have those players communicating with the players around them… you just can’t buy that.”
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