Key Battles: The matchups which could tell the story of Semi Finals
The four sides remaining in the hunt for a place in the 2020/21 A-League Grand Final will leave no stone unturned in pursuit of that particular goal when the Semi Finals unfold this weekend.
Sydney FC host Adelaide United at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Saturday night ( 7.05pm AEST) before Macarthur FC travel to face Melbourne City at AAMI Park the following afternoon (4.05pm AEST). It's the first Finals Series fixture for both City and the Sky Blues who finished first and second respectively, whilst Adelaide and the Bulls progress to the final four off the back of shock Elimination Final wins.
As all four teams prepare to go to battle in the Semi Finals, a-league.com.au has picked out some key battles in each fixture to keep your eye on as individual players look to make their mark as the unmissable action unfolds.
Sydney FC v Adelaide United - Saturday, June 19
Bobô v Tomi Juric - Two spearheads take aim in all-or-nothing showdown
Fresh from bagging a brace in his side's Elimination Final victory over Brisbane, Tomi Juric approaches the Semi Finals in flying form.
Making his A-League comeback this season, Juric has scored nine goals from 17 games, netting once every 134.4 minutes on average.
Spearheading Sydney's strike force, meanwhile, is the Brazilian Bobô, who will operate alongside Adam Le Fondre against the Reds. Bobô's goal-per-minute ratio of 126.4 comes from 21 games this season, in which he's scored 11 times.
These two sides drew 2-2 in Matchweek 17, when Bobô scored a brace to give the Sky Blues a 2-0 lead, and Tomi Juric tied things up with a late equaliser after Jordan Elsey pegged one back for the Reds.
Bobô went on to score his third goal against Adelaide for the season in Matchweek 23 as his side won 4-1 on the road.
Luke Brattan v Juande - Can the Adelaide midfielder get on top in the midfield battle?
The Reds face a tough task in keeping Sydney's midfield ace Luke Brattan subdued throughout the Semi Final clash.
Brattan's 1,405 passes from 24 games this season puts the Sydney midfielder in the top ten players for total passes throughout the season - and he's done so with an 87.3% passing accuracy. Brattan notched a goal and three assists in the regular season, but created 46 chances in total.
Juande, meanwhile, has played just 12 games since arriving in Adelaide mid-season. But the Spaniard offers similar control in midfield; his 686 passes for the season takes his average to 57.17 passes per game, similar to Brattan's 58.54, whilst his average successful passing percentage (88.2%) eclipses Brattan's 87.3%.
These two players will be key to which side manages to take better control of the ball as they battle to reach the Grand Final.
Melbourne City v Macarthur FC - Sunday, June 20
Scott Jamieson v Mark Milligan - Two captains with so much to offer their respective sides
These two leaders could prove pivotal to the chances of their respective sides as Melbourne City host Macarthur FC on Sunday afternoon.
They won't match up directly in the Semi Final bout, but the way the two experienced leaders take charge on the day will have huge implications on the Semi Final outcome.
Jamieson led City to the club's first piece of silverware this season, clinching the Premiers Plate at an amble. It took the monkey off the back of not only the club, but Jamieson himself who had yet to win a title of his own in Australia.
The City full-back missed his side's run to the 2019/20 Grand Final after departing the league's Sydney hub, putting family first as he and his partner expected the arrival of their first child. Now the club captain can lead his team back to the big stage just one season later - but standing in his way are Milligan and the Bulls.
Buoyed by a shock Elimination Final win over Central Coast Mariners, Macarthur come steaming into the Semi Finals led by a captain just one loss away from retiring from professional football. Could the former Socceroos skipper help orchestrate another upset win to cap his stellar career off with a berth in the 2020/21 Grand Final?
Matt Derbyshire v Nuno Reis - A fearsome striker faces a steely centre-half
In the absence of prolific City striker Jamie Maclaren, Matt Derbyshire is now the most lethal forward remaining in the 2020/21 A-League Finals Series
Derbyshire netted 14 goals and assisted five more in 26 games leading into the Semi Finals. He's often been the barometer for an inconsistent Bulls outfit crying out for a wider spread of goal scorers, but more often than not the Englishman has managed to pave over the cracks by coming up with the goods time and again.
City's Portuguese defender Nuno Reis will lead a backline lacking Socceroo Curtis Good into the post-season. Good's departure has left a gaping hole in defence for City boss Patrick Kisnorbo to cope with, and in recent games it's proved a difficult task to replace the dominant centre-back.
In the two games since his departure, City drew to eventual wooden spooners Melbourne Victory 1-1 before losing 2-1 at home to 11th-place finishers Newcastle Jets. Reis played 90 minutes in both of those defeats after featuring for 45 minutes in his side's previous 3-0 loss to Brisbane Roar.
A three-game winless run is less than ideal preparation for a side heading into the Finals Series, but that's the situation the Premiers face ahead of their charge to the A-League Championship. Keeping Derbyshire quiet is the number one task presented to Reis and a City defensive line looking to settle in the absence of Good.
Tom Glover v Adam Federici - Two 'keepers offering assurance from the back
City goalkeeper Tom Glover will look to secure his eighth clean sheet of the season when facing Derbyshire and the Bulls on Sunday afternoon.
The 23-year-old has made just 47 saves throughout the season, putting him 11th on the list of goalkeepers in that category. Adam Federici, meanwhile, sits second with 91 saves for the season. The veteran shot-stopper kept his first clean sheet in seven games in a 2-0 Elimination Final win over Central Coast Mariners, taking his tally to eight for the campaign.
Federici, like captain Milligan, brings experience and know-how to the Finals Series for the Bulls. It's an asset of his game which could work in Macarthur's favour, however the up-and-coming Glover has one tool in his belt which Federici does not possess going into the Semi Final clash.
The memories of a slender 1-0 Grand Final defeat last season will act as motivation for Glover in the current Finals Series, after the young 'keeper starred in goal only to concede in extra time as City fell to the Sky Blues in the 2019/20 decider.
Match details and ticketing information - Finals Series
Melbourne City v Macarthur FC
Sunday, June 20 2021
Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
Kick-off: 4.05pm AEST
GRAND FINAL: Winner SF 1 v Winner SF2
Saturday, June 26 2021
Note: Fixtures are subject to change. Please check www.a-league.com.au/fixtures for latest updates
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