There’ll be tactical sub-plots and key battles across the park when the second Hyundai A-League semi final kicks off between Wanderers and Roar this Sunday. Here are our top 7 key influencers for Sunday's blockbuster at Wanderland.
7: Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Wanderers) “Topor” has been a rock. The only thing missing from his CV is a championship medal. And he’s had another big season, making 76 clearances and 72 interceptions. Watch for him at set-pieces as well. But if he’s to influence this game, he'll have to be absolutely at the top of game to fend off Roar's clever lead up play and cut backs.
6: Corona (Roar) The former La Liga man was below his usual efficient best in the last-gasp win over Victory last Friday. But he rarely plays two quiet games in a row. Roar needs him on the ball as often as possible to get a foothold in the contest. And his set pieces are crucial, crucial setting up Broich’s winner in the Elimination Final. If Wanderers let him influence the flow of this semi final with his vision and through balls to Maclaren and Co. he'll hurt them.
5: Scott Neville (Wanderers) The right-back is one of the underrated stars of the Wanderers. He’s played in all but one game and been a model of consistency on that flank. The ex-Jet is not only a strong defender but loves getting forward, providing three assists this season on top of 1235 completed passes and 71 tackle wins. But it’ll be a huge challenge against…
4: Thomas Broich (Roar) The ageless German should be nicknamed ‘The Postman’. He just keeps on delivering for Roar. Up until a fortnight ago he hadn’t scored a goal this season. He has now contributed match-turning goals in both of Brisbane’s last two games, while also has six assists for the season. Broich has saved his most influential performances for the business end of the season. Which should worry Wanderers.
3: Mitch Nichols (Wanderers) One of just three players in the Wanderers squad that knows what it takes to win title…ironically with Brisbane Roar. Nichols has been re-born under Popa this season, scoring a personal best 10 goals while also chipping in with four assists in starting every game this season. How he'd love to run over Roar's midfield and contribute to the win.
2: Brendon Santalab (Wanderers) So much for being the Wanderers super sub. “Santa” has started the last two games and has a return of four goals. In fact, from three starts for the season, he’s scored five times. No one epitomises the Wanderers ethos as much as the energetic and whole-hearted Santalab. He's influenced a number of games this season and like Broich, is peaking at absolutely the right time. Expect Santa to have a major influence on proceedings this Sunday.
1: Jamie Maclaren (Roar)
Wanderers must be sick of the sight of the pacy Olyroo striker. Maclaren has punished the Red and Blacks in their three previous meetings this season, scoring five goals. He always looks to play off the shoulder of defenders and use his pace to spring the offside trap. This could well be his ultimate showcase to show Ange Postecoglou he's ready to step up onto the senior international stage. If he fires, he’ll be the key influencer on this game.