Win your individual battles on the park. That’ll be the message from both coaches when Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC square off in the big one: Sunday's Hyundai A-League Grand Final.
But who’ll battle who? Here are some of the telling match-ups set for the big day on Sunday at AAMI Park.
Victory midfielder Carl Valeri v Sydney skipper Alex Brosque
Is there a hotter player in the Hyundai A-League right now than Brosque?
The 31-year-old has timed his rich vein of form to perfection. He has scored six goals in his last four games, including two in the demolition of Adelaide United.
And his first against the Reds showed just why Brosque looms as a key to Sydney FC’s hopes on Sunday afternoon.
It wasn’t just that the ex-Socceroo was able to execute his cheeky back-heeled flick but the fact he even attempted it shows just how confident Brosque is right now. And that confidence and calmness flows through to the rest of the squad.
If there’s one player who has the know-how to blunt the Sky Blues skipper’s influence it’s Valeri.
Of all the sensational signings Kevin Muscat made for this season, it’s the acquisition of Valeri that’s probably been the most underestimated.
Fahid Ben Khalfallah’s quality has generated all the headlines, Berisha has scored the goals while Matthieu Delpierre has shored up the defence.
But Valeri has gone about his business with little fuss, doing the crucial jobs that go largely unnoticed but are required in every successful side.
He may not be the quickest player on the park on Sunday, but to what extent he can shutdown “Brosky” will go a long way to deciding the decider.
Victory striker Besart Berisha v Sydney defender Jacques Faty
You can’t talk about a Hyundai A-League grand final without mentioning Besart Berisha.
The Albanian has already written his name into the competition’s folklore with three goals in his two previous grand finals wins with Brisbane Roar.
This will be the fiery striker’s third decider in four years and he will become the first player to win back-to-back titles with two different clubs.
That record says it all.
Berisha might play on the edge but it’s what makes him the player – and prolific goal scorer – that he is.
He enjoys a great record against the Sky Blues too.
While Berisha’s passion and winning mentality is infectious amongst his team-mates, Sky Blues defender Faty has the same attributes in abundance as well.
It’s no surprise Sydney’s consistency over the second half of the season coincided with the addition of Faty and his cousin Mickael Tavares to their squad.
The Senegalese international has experience in big leagues and playing against some big players around the world.
He has formed a great partnership with Matt Jurman in the heart of Sydney’s defence and they will be tested to the fullest against Berisha.
The Sky Blues will need Faty to produce his trademark fearless tackling, hunger and distribution from the back to give them the edge.
Strap yourself in because this will be a battle where neither player will hold anything back.
Victory playmaker Gui Finkler v Sky Blues midfielder Mickael Tavares
While both sides are blessed with exceptional attacking talent, the midfield battle will be equally as engrossing.
None more so than the match-up between Finkler and Tavares.
Victory’s Brazilian maestro has enjoyed another remarkable campaign as the architect of many of his side’s attacks.
His influence on the side is impressive and the stats back it up. When Finkler scores, Victory simply don’t lose.
He has a wonderful knack of being able to find pockets of space in between the lines of opposition midfield and defence.
If he gets the ball in those areas and facing forward, it will spell danger for the Sky Blues.
Finkler’s dead-ball skills are also a weapon for Victory, making it imperative for Sydney they don’t concede any free-kicks in range of goal.
The job of stopping Finkler will fall on the shoulders of Tavares.
He has been a wonderful mid-year pick-up for Graham Arnold. A brilliant athlete, Tavares is also a clever technician and is so strong on the ball.
His team-mates know they can give him the ball in traffic and under pressure and he’ll use his impressive frame and control to squeeze out of trouble and keep possession.
That will come as a huge plus in the nerve-jangling atmosphere of a grand final.
Tavares will face a huge defensive challenge this weekend to shackle Finkler and he’ll need to be at his best to stop Victory’s swift and devastating attacks on transition.
No doubt Arnold will be stressing the point, ‘don’t leave the back door open if the attack falls down and Victory counter’.
Tavares will be vital to this part of the game-plan.
Victory defender Daniel Georgievski v Sky Blues winger Bernie Ibini
Ibini might have had a slow start to the campaign but he is finishing with a massive bang.
Goals in four consecutive games means he is a major threat for Victory on Sunday afternoon. And more often than not they are howitzers, too.
It’s not just his goals which make him crucial to Sydney FC’s hopes.
Ibini gets through a huge amount of work for Graham Arnold’s side and has proved equally as effective on the left as well as the right, often interchanging with Chris Naumoff.
A natural athlete, Ibini the Socceroos flyer is blessed with lightning speed.
But he won’t be able to only rely on that pace against the equally fast Georgievski.
The Australian-born Macedonian international has been one of Victory’s most consistent defenders and won’t allow Ibini the space to breath on Sunday.
Tenacious, physical and full of energy, Georgievski is your archetypal defender.
His first job will be to neutralize Ibini but he loves to get forward as well and has his own impressive goals highlights reel this season.
Expect this duo to go at it all match and at both ends of the pitch as they aim to pin each other back and dominate this contest.