Western United is preparing for the arduous task of joining their fellow Victorian clubs in the semi-finals, with their A-League finals campaign kicking off in a huge do-or-die match against Wellington Phoenix.
The Green and Black club hosts a tough Wellington side and they will be feeling the pressure to perform after a collapse in their final three outings cost them both the premiership and automatic qualification to the semi-finals.
Adelaide United faces Central Coast in the other elimination-final in a true battle of each team’s strength, especially as both clubs come in with magnificent form (five straight wins respectively).
Western United takes on Wellington at home on Saturday evening as they look to build on their most successful season as a club to date.
The Victorian outfit finished the regular season with a record-high third-place finish, though they will feel they are capable of more given they remained in the title picture for nearly the whole season.
The Phoenix will be unfazed by the challenge, having proven their grit and determination after finishing in the top six despite playing the majority of the season outside of New Zealand.
Wellington coach Ufuk Talay stressed that previous encounters do not mean anything once you enter the pressure of the knockout format.
“They’re still a good team. They finished in a good position at the back end of the season…We’ve had some good results against them but that was in the regular season. Finals football is a lot different. It’s a one-off game,” Mr Talay said in the lead-up to their clash with Western United.
Adelaide plays Central Coast at home on Sunday afternoon in what looms as a truly balanced contest.
The Reds come in with confidence after defeating Western United in their final regular season contest and they will hope they can combine that with their home ground advantage to progress past the Mariners.
The Gosford side comes in with supreme confidence, having lost only once in their last matches, as they aim to secure their first semi-finals appearance since the 2013/14 season.
Adelaide Goalkeeping coach and club legend, Eugene Galekovic, believes the experience in their side will help steer them past the Mariners.
“Central Coast are a good team…They’re in good from, but they are a young side, and a lot of their boys probably haven’t played too many finals games. We have some experienced boys that have played in big games and that’s also another massive advantage,” Mr Galekovic said to media on Thursday.
The winners of both matches will meet up with the two Melbourne clubs, City and Victory, who each get a weeks’ rest as a reward for finishing in the top two.
A-League semi-finals matches currently scheduled (AEST)
Western United-Wellington Phoenix: 19.45, AAMI Park, Sat 14 May
Adelaide United-CC Mariners: 16.05, Coopers Stadium, Sun 15 May