Wanderers, Victory: 3 massive match-ups

Top-class football from the top two sides. Pirtek on Saturday night is the place to be with some massive match-ups across the park set to decide this Hyundai A-League blockbuster.

We look at the three key head-to-head battles that will go some way to deciding this one at Wanderland.

Wanderers midfielder Andreu v Victory playmaker Gui Finkler

Two of the Hyundai A-League’s most impressive imports headline what should be an epic midfield battle. 

Spaniard Andreu has arguably been the Wanderers' most influential player over the first third of the season.

The 32-year-old is the glue that keeps the Wanderers game together. His composure and confidence on the ball has been a real feature during the club’s six-game winning run.

You can see that belief – or arrogance even – filtering through to his team-mates who often benefit from his brilliant passing and decision-making.

He’ll have a huge job trying to control the tempo of the clash on Saturday night, especially against Victory’s fast-passing, quick midfield.

At the head of that is Finkler, who has been one of Victory’s best so far in their title defence.

With the three B’s – Berisha, Barbarouses and Ben Khalfallah – getting a lot of the attention from opposition defences, Finkler can sometimes go unchecked in the front third.

That could spell disaster for the Wanderers if they fall into that trap this weekend. It’s not just Finkler’s creative flair that is crucial for the visitors but he’s also deadly from set-pieces around the box.

This clash will be a beauty. Whoever can exert the most influence on the game will be absolutely key to the final result.

Wanderers attacker Mark Bridge v Victory defender Matthieu Delpierre

What a superb run of form Bridge has been in over the last month.

After an injury disrupted start to the season the two-time Hyundai A-League championship winner has made up for lost time since his return to the starting XI.

In his last three starts, Bridge has scored three goals – including the winner against Wellington in Round 7 – and set up two others.

It’s the type of form which confirms Bridge’s reputation as a big-game player and adds weight to suggestions the 30-year-old is in the form of his career.

Another big performance here and the Wanderers might just increase their winning run and put some breathing space between themselves and the chasing pack at the top of the table.

But this looms as his toughest test of the season to date.

Delpierre is the true leader of Victory’s back-four. Not only strong in the tackle and almost unbeatable in the air, the Frenchman is also an astute passer and reads the game exceptionally well.

While coach Kevin Muscat hasn’t settled on Delpierre’s long-term partner in central defence, as long as he’s there Victory have a steelier look about them.

Disappointed by the manner of the goals they conceded against Phoenix last weekend, expect a fierce response from the fiercely competitive 34-year-old.

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Wanderers skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley v Victory talisman Besart Berisha

After being kept quiet – and coming in for some heavy attention – against Phoenix last weekend, Berisha will be fired up for this one.

The prolific Albanian rarely goes two weeks without making an impact in one way or another.

After all, this is the type of occasion Berisha thrives on. The bigger the match, the better he often performs.

One thing you can be sure of is he won’t give the Wanderers defence a moment of freedom, sure to harass and pressure them for the whole 90 minutes with his passion and energy. How good is Berisha to watch? 

And he’s started the season in brilliant touch with six goals, only one behind the league’s leading scorer Bruno Fornaroli.

While Berisha is all blood and thunder when he crosses the white line, Topor-Stanley is far more reserved.

A leader who likes to keep his emotions very much in check, “Topor” sets the example with his actions and expects those around him to follow suit.

He has again been a rock for Tony Popovic’s outfit, who are regaining their reputation as a hard side to breakdown after a disappointing 2014/15 campaign.

Topor-Stanley will see it as his job to take care of Berisha and for that reason will look to get in his face early and stamp his authority on the contest.

This could be an explosive battle. Can’t wait to see how it plays out.

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