Perth Glory season preview: Santalab tips emerging 'mountain' to star

Perth Glory were one penalty shootout away from winning it all last season. Can they go one step further in the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 Season?

We caught up with former striker Brendon Santalab to preview the road ahead. Read on as Santalab gives his verdict on the players to watch, earmarks the battles Tony Popovic's side must win, and casts his overall ladder prediction.

Last season: Premiers
Brendon Santalab's predicted position: Top four

A-League.com.au's three things to watch

1. New personnel in defence 

As is becoming the Popovic trademark, Perth's success was built up from the back last season. But the departure of a number of stars in the off-season will test the qualities of new reinforcements like Gregory Wüthrich and Osama Malik, and will give more chances to the likes of Tomislav Mrcela. Whoever steps into the left wing-back role departed by Jason Davidson will also be an area to watch.


2. An all-star attacking cast 

Diego Castro, Chris Ikonomidis and Bruno Fornaroli. They're all names capable of striking terror into the heart of any Hyundai A-League defender, and they'll all be wearing Glory purple next season.

3. A venture into Asia

For the first time in the club's history, Perth have AFC Champions League football on the radar. Juggling domestic and continental ambitions will add another layer of challenge to the club's Premiership defence, but in Popovic - who won the tournament i 2014 with Western Sydney Wanderers, they have a man more the capable of leading the charge.

STORYLINES: Everything you need to know before 2019/20 Season kick off

Perth Glory 2018/19 Season kit
Perth Glory are in Asia for the first time after their Premiers Plate success

The first five fixtures

Brisbane Roar (H)
Western United (a)
Wellington Phoenix (a)
Central Coast Mariners (H)
Newcastle Jets (a)

Click here to see the full 2019/20 fixture list

Santalab's key match-up: Melbourne Victory

“Every game is a big game but you can always feel an extra bit of hype when you play against some teams.

“Melbourne Victory seem to bring that to every game they play and especially against us last season.

“The boys were super excited, or more excited than normal to play the Victory being such a big club that they are.

“I think our performances against Victory away from home last season were phenomenal and it really brought the best out of a lot of the boys.

“I’m expecting those games this season to be crackers.”

Highlights: Victory v Glory in Round 1 of 2018/19 Season

Santalab's players to watch

1. Tomislav Mrcela

“I think he’s a mountain.

“He’s so good on the ball and I don’t think he’s reached anywhere near his potential, and this season I’m excited. He missed out on a Grand Final and unfortunately didn’t have the game time he wanted to have last season.

“He’s been outstanding in pre-season so far, he’s looking strong and fit as well so big things are to come from Tomi in my eyes this season.”

Tomi Mrcela
Mrcela will be a "mountain" for Glory this season, says Santalab

2. Chris Ikonomidis

“Chris Ikonomidis I feel can take his game to a whole new level this year.

“And with Diego Castro and Bruno Fornaroli up front they’ve got a lethal strike force... I’m expecting a lot of goals from them this season.”

IKONOMIDIS: Why 2018/19 was a 'warm up' for Glory and I

Something special could be brewing in Perth, says Ikonomidis
Chris Ikonomidis can take his game to a new level this season, says Santalab

The squad

In

Nicholas D'Agostino (Brisbane Roar) Story
Dane Ingham (Brisbane Roar) Story
Jacob Tratt (Sydney FC) Story
Soo-beom Kim (Jeju United) Story
Osama Malik (Al-Batin) Story
Gregory Wüthrich (Young Boys) Story 

Out

Jason Davidson (Ulsan Hyundai) Story
Brendon Santalab (retired) Story
Fabio Ferreira, Walter Scott (released) Story
Jacob Italiano (Borussia Monchengladbach, Germany) Story
Scott Neville (unconfirmed) Story
Andy Keogh (unconfirmed) Story
Shane Lowry (Al Ahli SC Doha) Story 

Santalab's squad verdict

“With the players that left the club there’s obviously some holes from last season’s squad.

“There were some big players that left the club: players that have been there for a long time.

“But the recent signings have been fantastic... every team Popa (Popovic) coaches has a really tight defence and they’re going to be hard to beat.

“It’s going to be a challenge after the players left the club, but I’m definitively excited to watch the players who have come in replicate what we achieved last season.”


GOALKEEPERS: 1. Tando VELAPHI, 30. Liam REDDY.

DEFENDERS: 2. Alex GRANT, 3. Jacob TRATT, 4. Gregory WÜTRICH, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 12. Kim SOO-BEOM, 16. Tomislav MRCELA, 23. Dane INGHAM, 31. Daniel WALSH.

MIDFIELDERS: 13. Osama MALIK, 15. Brandon WILSON, 17. Diego CASTRO, 19. Chris IKONOMIDIS, 20. Jake BRIMMER, 21. Trent OSTLER, 25. Ethan BROOKS, 26. Joshua RAWLINS, 27. JUANDE, 29. Kristian POPOVIC, 88. Neil KILKENNY.

FORWARDS: 7. Joel CHIANESE, 10. Bruno FORNAROLI, 14. Chris HAROLD, 18. Nick D’AGOSTINO, 28. Gabriel POPOVIC.

The boss: Tony Popovic

“The sky is the limit for Popa and what he can achieve in his coaching career.

“I wish I had Popa earlier on in my career, the younger players these days are very blessed to have a top coach who has experienced everything on the pitch and achieved so much off the pitch as a coach now.

“What I learned in my five years under Popa was incredible, how he was able to get the best out of my body and mind was simply phenomenal and it just shows how good a manager he is.

“His will to win and drive to be successful is second to none; hence why I loved working under Popa for so long.

“I’m excited for what the future holds for him.”

POPOVIC: The Perth Glory landmark that suits Popa perfectly

Tony Popovic
'His will to win and drive to be successful is second to none'

Santalab's prediction

“Top four, I’ll lock that in.”

I see them as top four in the A-League, I think there have been a lot of players leave from last season and it’s always tough when you lose so many but like always Popa fills the gaps every single year.

“They’re definitely a side that will be competitive week in, week out, and there’s no doubt that come the end of the season that with top four position, I see it as guaranteed for Glory.

“In the Champions League the groups haven’t been drawn yet so it’s all going to depend on the groups.

“If you get through the group stage anything can happen... once the groups are drawn I think we’ll clearly get a picture of the chances Perth Glory have of going through.”

The kits

Glory will make their Premiership defence draped in a new-look, predominantly purple kit produced by Macron.

The classic combination of purple and orange has returned this season in favour of the purple and white utilised in recent years.

The predominantly white away kit with purple detail is a staple of Glory’s kit collection throughout the years, but a new look black and gold third kit which represents the state colours of WA stands out as Glory’s eye-catching new kit for this season.

NEW STRIPS: Every club's kit for the new season

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Buy tickets

Don't miss the reigning Premiers in action this season. Get out to a Perth Glory game near you.

Bruno Fornaroli in Perth Glory's new home strip
Bruno Fornaroli models Perth's new strip, made by Macron