The Final Two
Although we’ve had some stunning moments in this finals series there have been no surprises in terms of the actual winners – and so the Grand Final will be decided between the regular season Premiers, Adelaide United, and the runners-up, Western Sydney Wanderers.
Adelaide comfortably (for the most part) overcame Melbourne City 4-1 on Friday night to book a home Grand Final at Adelaide Oval, sending fantasy heroes Aaron Mooy & Bruno Fornaroli packing in the process.
The Wanderers’ progression certainly wasn’t comfortable, having to come from 3 goals down to beat the Roar in an extra time thriller. To be fair to the Wanderers though, they were the better side for the vast majority of the contest and even horrendous defensive mistakes were not enough to keep them from making the final.
All three meetings between the two clubs this season have ended in draws (a 1-1 in Adelaide followed by 2 0-0s at Pirtek Stadium), with the Wanderers being the better side in each of those contests. The two matches in Sydney did produce some controversial moments, however, which may have seen either team take the points had the referee’s decisions been different.
Wanderers’ midfielder Andreu is the only player to score in the fixture this season, netting for both sides in the 1-1 draw at Coopers Stadium in Round 2. He also scored an own goal for the Roar on Sunday.
The overall head-to-head record sits deadlocked with both teams recording 4 wins each, and 4 draws, in the 12 matches so far. All of the Reds’ wins have come in Adelaide, where the Wanderers have only triumphed once – a 4-2 victory back in Round 19 of the 2012/13 season.
All of those matches took place at Coopers Stadium – this will be the first meeting between the sides at Adelaide Oval, and the first A-League Finals game contested by the two.
Both clubs have been two-time Grand Finalists previously, with United losing twice to Victory (6-0 in 2006/7 and 1-0 in 2008/9, both at Etihad Stadium) while the Wanderers were defeated by the Mariners 2-0 at Allianz Stadium in 2012/13 and then 2-1 in extra time by Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium the following season. So for one team it will be ‘third time lucky’ – while the other will walk away wondering what it will take to lift the Golden Toilet Seat.
It’s tough to pick a winner here, as even though Adelaide are deserving Premiers the Wanderers were probably the best team across the entire season, and they’ll be wondering how they managed to let the Premier’s Plate slip away. Adelaide do have home state advantage but no doubt they would feel a lot more confident if the game were held at Coopers Stadium rather than Adelaide Oval, particularly given an AFL game will be played there the previous day. The nature of the Wanderers’ semi final win – and that they played extra time – could be a factor, as might Adelaide having an extra two days to prepare; especially if this match also goes the full 120 minutes.
A penalty shootout is irrelevant for fantasy coaches – no points are scored once extra time ends.
Predicted XI: Galekovic, Marrone, McGowan, La Rocca, Goodwin, Isaias, Mauk, Carrusca, Cirio, Djite, Kamau
Expect Adelaide to field the same starting XI as they did against Melbourne City, with the one possible change being Tarek Elrich ($239k) in for Bruce Kamau ($127k), with Craig Goodwin ($259k) moving from left back to the right or left wing.
Eugene Galekovic ($295k) starting in goals will mean those needing or wanting a cheap option will have to go for Wanderers ‘keeper Andrew Redmayne instead. Galekovic could therefore be a point of difference if you can afford him. Perhaps the United legend has one more heroic save left in him this season.
Adelaide’s defence has been surprisingly strong after overcoming their atrocious start, so coaches looking to cement their spot at the top of the table will probably want to opt to lean more on Adelaide’s stoppers than those from Western Sydney. Cheapie Iacopo La Rocca ($122k), Michael Marrone ($164k) and Dylan McGowan ($182k) should all start barring any last minute injury dramas – coaches wanting to consider Elrich will have to wait until the starting XIs are released on Sunday afternoon.
It may also be wise to wait until Sunday to see where Craig Goodwin ($259k) is playing before picking him. Goodwin is far more effective in fantasy football as a wide forward rather than a left back, especially now that Isaias ($218k) is taking a share of the free kick duties. Isaias is not a big point scorer, having to sit deep in Adelaide’s midfield, but his recent heroics from the dead ball suggest he may be worth a punt. Stefan Mauk’s ($191k) price makes him almost essential, while Marcelo Carrusca ($309k) is a riskier selection despite his clear quality. ‘Chelo’ has struggled to make an impact in fantasy this season, and he’s also lost penalty kick duties to Djite. Feel free to add him to your midfield if you can afford him – don’t forget he is one of the best imports the A-League has seen, though these days you select him more in the hope that he produces something, rather than expectation.
Up front, in a surprise turn of events, Bruce Djite ($240k) is basically essential now and is a strong candidate for the captaincy. Djite has struggled for goals since his return to Adelaide, however those struggles appear to be over for now. After netting a brace against City on Friday night big bad Bruce has scored 9 goals in his last 10 games, including 6 in the last 4! He’s playing with tremendous confidence now and could well be the hero for United on Sunday. Winger Sergio Cirio ($309k) had an excellent game against City but still only scored 7 points, and two of those were bonus points. He has significantly underperformed this season and, like Carrusca, now represents an expensive outlay for little return. He did net the winner in the 2014 FFA Cup Final for the Reds, though that was while he was at the peak of his powers.
Livewire winger Bruce Kamau ($127k) could be dropped for Elrich though it would be difficult for Amor to justify the move given his strong showing against City. Even if he is benched, he will surely appear at some stage so for just $127k it’s probably worth the risk if you can’t wait until Sunday to set up your team. Pablo Sanchez ($235k) has been an Henrique-like super sub for Adelaide at times this season, and he again scored off the bench against City on Friday night. In what could well be his last appearance for the Reds, Pablo could be the man to win it – just be aware he’ll likely be off the pitch for the majority of the match.
It probably goes without saying but make sure John Hall ($122k) is your reserve ‘keeper. If he isn’t, bring him in, free up some cash and if you have Galekovic – should he be forced to pull out late you’re covered.
Western Sydney Wanderers
Predicted XI: Redmayne, Neville, Topor-Stanley, Aguilar, Jamieson, Andreu, Dimas, Nichols, Castelen, Santalab, Bridge
Like Adelaide, barring any injuries the Wanderers should field the same XI that faced Brisbane Roar on Sunday.
Andrew Redmayne ($215k) has recovered his spot from Liam Reddy ($246k) and will be the ‘keeper to pick for coaches needing to spend money elsewhere, or expecting / hoping for a Wanderers win.
The Wanderers will certainly want to tighten up their defensive lapses, as they’ll find it far more difficult to get back into the game against Adelaide’s back line compared to the Roar’s. So while coaches may be hesitant to select Western Sydney defenders after last week’s display it’s not likely they will be that poor 2 weeks in a row. Alberto Aguilar ($152k) remains the cheapest option, while Nikolai Topor Stanley ($174k) and Scott Neville ($182k) are both affordable – only Scott Jamieson ($253k) is priced at a premium. Of course, it’s worth remembering that his high price could make him a point of difference for your side; currently he has the lowest ownership of the 4 Wanderers starting defenders (9.6% – Topor-Stanley is the most selected with 21.5% ownership).
In midfield, Mitch Nichols ($303k) is probably already in most teams despite his recent indifferent form. He is nonetheless one player who could be the match winner, should he be able to recapture his early season form. Neither Dimas Delgado ($237k) nor Andreu Guerao ($211k) are strong alternatives in terms of fantasy point production, though Andreu has scored 3 times this season – including, as mentioned above, against (and for) Adelaide.
Romeo Castelen ($$246k) is the man in form for Western Sydney and, like Djite, he is both virtually essential and a captaincy option. In his last 3 games Castelen has scored 4 goals (including a hat trick against the Roar) and provided 3 assists – for scores of 14, 13 and 26. Brendon Santalab’s ($170k) cheap price tag will probably see him selected for many teams; regardless, he should be picked for his form, with 5 goals in his last 3 games. Mark Bridge’s ($230k) poor form came to an abrupt halt with the experienced forward providing 2 assists and collecting 16 points against the Roar. Given that he is a lot cheaper than Cirio, a ‘standard’ forward line for the Grand Final could consist of him, Santalab and Djite.
If the hero is to come from the bench for the Wanderers, it could be the same man who scored the winner on Sunday evening – Dario Vidosic ($236k). Vidosic has certainly had his struggles this campaign, performing well below expectations. Nonetheless, he was the difference against one of his former teams last weekend and could again be this Sunday as he returns to Adelaide to face the Reds.
Thank You and Good Luck!
As 2015/16 comes to an end I’d like to sincerely thank you for reading my articles this season – I hope they’ve provided some significant advice and assistance in your own quest for Fantasy A-League glory. It’s been a lot of fun to follow and write about this roller coaster of a campaign, where my Reds came from nowhere to take the Plate and now contest the Grand Final in my home town. May the best team win!