Sydney FC v Brisbane Roar: 3 key match ups

The Hyundai A-League’s top two meet at Allianz on Friday night, with some crucial match ups across the park set to decide this blockbuster.

We take a look at the three big match-ups...

Sydney FC defender Matt Jurman v Roar's Jamie Maclaren

It hasn’t taken long for Jamie Maclaren to make an impact at Roar.

One of John Aloisi’s prized off-season recruits, the ex-Perth Glory attacker is already proving an astute acquisition.

Of the 10 goals Brisbane have scored this season, Maclaren has been directly involved in half of them. He has scored three himself and provided two assists for team-mate Brandon Borrello.

It’s the type of form that hasn’t only ensured his spot in the Olyroos but has many experts putting his name forward for a call-up to Ange Postecoglou’s squad.

Matt Jurman v Jamie Maclaren

Another big performance here against the Sky Blues’ renowned stingy defence and he could be a step closer to that.

Maclaren has always had lightning speed but this season he’s adding consistency and – more important – a clinical streak in front of goal.

Sydney’s Jurman doesn’t attract the headlines of some of his team-mates but has arguably been their most consistent player in their unbeaten start to the campaign.

Going about his business with a minimum of fuss, Jurman is strong in the tackle, an astute passer and reads the game exceptionally well.

Which is why he’s getting a growing reputation as the league’s ‘intercept king’, with 31 already this season, 10 more than any other player.

His combination with Jacques Faty is blossoming into one of the most formidable in the competition and it's why the Sky Blues have given up the least amount of shots on goal than any other side.

Sky Blues Milos Ninkovic v Brisbane midfielder Corona

Ninkovic returns to the Sky Blues squad after missing last week through and will go head-to-head with another of the competition’s new impressive imports.

This individual battle is worth the price of admission alone.

You only have to look at their respective CVs to know whatever these two dish up on Friday night will be dripping with class.

While we haven’t seen Ninkovic’s full array of tricks just yet, he gave a snapshot in his winning goal in the Sydney derby a fortnight ago of just how good he could be for the Sky Blues.

The Serbian has a great knack to find space in between the lines and isn’t afraid to get the ball in traffic, confident of wriggling free and finding a killer pass.

But Roar’s Spanish sensation is also proving a brilliant addition to the Hyundai A-League.

Sydney FC's Milos Ninkovic and Brisbane Roar's Corona.

Composed and classy, he’s been a key fulcrum for Roar over the opening month, marshalling the midfield and allowing the likes of Broich, McKay, Maclaren and Borrello to thrive.

And his set-pieces have been a huge feature of his game. The Sky Blues would be smart not to concede many corners or free-kicks around the box because his pinpoint delivery could cause problems.

It’s anyone’s guess who will win this one-on-one contest but whoever does might just get their side over the line.

Sydney's Brandon O’Neill v Roar's Matt McKay

These two might be at opposite ends of the age spectrum when it comes to their footballing careers but both are crucial cogs to their respective sides' midfield.

Youngster O’Neill has been a revelation so far for Sydney FC. No-one outside of the Sky Blues’ inner-sanctum would have expected him to play as big a role as the 21-year-old has so far.

But O’Neill’s performances have demanded selection, keeping experienced Senegal international Mickael Tavares on the bench.

The beauty of O’Neill’s game is he doesn’t try to overplay his hand. He keeps it simple. He also provides the defensive cover from midfield that coach Graham Arnold craves.

Not bad for someone who has less than 20 Hyundai A-League games to his name.

On the other hand you have McKay, who has proved his pedigree over a number of years now.

Showing no signs of slowing down at 32, the Socceroo stalwart is Roar’s Energiser Bunny. McKay just doesn’t stop for 90 minutes, and he was heavily involved in all three goals of their win over Adelaide last weekend.

It will be riveting to see who comes out on top in this battle of master v apprentice.