Tonight the wait is over - the kick off Hyundai A-League Season 2014/15 is here. Over the last two weeks we’ve previewed every club in the league, but we’ve left the reigning champions till last.
Brisbane Roar have proved before they are capable of going back-to-back but Mike Mulvey’s side will face a huge challenge to retain their Hyundai A-League crown this time around.
Not only have they lost star striker Besart Berisha but they will also have to contend with an ACL campaign at the back end of the season while most of their rivals have seriously strengthened their squads.
But they have a solid base to work with, with very little change throughout the spine of their side and an experienced new assistant coach in Ron Smith
If new recruits Adam Sarota and Mensur Kurtishi can settle quickly and the fans continue their excellent support of the side, there’s no reason why the men in Orange won’t be serious contenders again.
THE BURNING QUESTIONS
Who will fill Besart Berisha’s boots?
While the Albanian was a little hot-headed at times and was no stranger to a red card or two, there’s no denying the impact he had in three seasons at the club. He scored 48 times in just 76 appearances, underlining his importance to the Roar juggernaut. Mulvey has gone to another Albanian to fill the breach in Kurtishi, while Thomas Broich, Jean Carlos Solorzano, Henrique and Young Socceroo Brendon Borrello are also likely to be called on to shoulder the scoring load.
How much of a blow is losing Michael Theo?
The Hyundai A-League’s most successful custodian picked up a wrist injury in training in recent weeks and will be missing for some time. There’s no doubt Theo provides a calming influence behind central-defenders Matt Smith and Jade North. Former England Youth international Jamie Young has experience playing abroad. Can he handle the rigours and pressure of week-to-week first-team football?
LESSONS LEARNT FROM LAST SEASON
Motivation was a big key last season. It’s what powers this group to keep achieving. They must never lose that if they want to continue succeeding.
Brisbane have a tricky start to the season with a clash against Adelaide United – their conquerors in the Westfield FFA Cup – followed by a trip to Perth then games against Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers FC.
They will want to start the campaign as strong as possible and get as many points on the board as they can because their fixture list will build up towards the end of the campaign as they begin the Asian Champions’ League group stage.
Midfield depth. One of the highlights of the Roar’s side last year was just how well their midfield of Matt McKay, Liam Miller and Luke Brattan combined.
With Adam Sarota returning to the club on loan and Steven Lustica and youngster Devante Clut also in the squad, the Roar are blessed with a plethora of options in the middle of the park.
Replacing Besart Berisha’s goals. The Albanian striker became a fan favourite in his three years at the club, helping the Roar to two championships in his three seasons. Berisha, who scored in both of those grand final wins, contributed 48 goals in just 76 appearances for the club but has now moved on to rivals Melbourne Victory. The Roar have quality right through their side but will need to find those goals from somewhere else now.
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. After storming to the title last season don’t expect to see much change from the Roar. Mulvey favours a 4-3-3 formation and it certainly fits with the players he has at his disposal. Slick passing and movement will again be a feature of their play while more moments of magic from German playmaker Thomas Broich cutting in from the left are almost assured.
Brandon Borrello. The Australian under-20 attacker was on the fringe of the first-team last season but may get more of a shot now Berisha is gone. With loads of pace and strong on both feet, the 19-year-old is the type of player that Mulvey likes and will fit nicely into the Roar’s system. If Borrello can start the season strong, he might just beat out the likes of Kurtishi and Solorzano for that starting striker berth.
“Broich decides to join Berisha at Victory”
DID YOU KNOW?
New signing Mensur Kurtishi classes himself as an Albanian but has actually played two international matches for Macedonia, the country of his berth. The well-travelled striker has played for clubs all over the world, including Macedonia, Kazakhstan, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Austria.
John Kosmina (former Socceroo): 4th
Adam Peacock (Fox Sports): 4th
Aidan Ormond (FFA Network): 4th
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