Preview 1: by Ty Stedman
Tonight begins Season 11 of the Hyundai A-League and the opening game sees Asian Champions League winners Western Sydney Wanderers host the Brisbane Roar. Both sides are full of new players and in Brisbane's situation, a new coach in the form of John Aloisi.
It's a new era for both these teams after reasonably poor seasons in 2014/15; the Wanderers can look at their continental success as a crowning achievement for the now four-year old club but on domestic front, last season was a failure on every level (who could forget an unknown midfielder by the name of Thomas Love smashing a long range goal in to send the Wanderers out of the inaugural FFA Cup at the hands of former national league powerhouse Adelaide City.
For Brisbane, they did in fact make the finals last season but only due to Perth Glory's salary cap dramas. The black and white truth says that last season was simply not good enough by the lofty standards of the Roar and they'll be looking to make rights of a lot of wrongs, starting with an away trip to Parramatta.
Can Brisbane achieve under John Aloisi (who some still doubt as a coach) with financial dramas plaguing the club constantly. It seems as though a lot don't think the Roar can find success this season; judging by the fact that only the Mariners and Jets rank lower than the Roar in the betting markets for A-League winners.
The Wanderers welcome a new striker, in the form of Federico Piovaccari and considering the Italian played nearly thirty games in the Spanish La Liga last season, hopes at Wanderland is that Piovaccari can be a key part of the Wanderers domestic revival.
A lot has changed at Western Sydney with no less than 18 players leaving the club in the off-season. Key additions include the aforementioned Piovaccari, Dario Vidosic, Mitch Nichols Scott Jamieson, Scott Neville, goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne and a rather unknown and unpredictable Spanish trio of Andreu, Dimas and Alberto. Andreu being a product of the Barcelona youth system is expected to make an impact.
At the Roar, incoming coach John Aloisi is the headline change and losing Luke Brattan will no doubt leave a gap in midfield; one that Aloisi is hoping will be filled by former Real Madrid academy player and long-term Almeria player Corona (not the alcoholic beverage). In fact his full name is Miguel Angel Garcia Perez-Roldan so I'm not sure where Corona came from but it's a name that will surely be heard a lot this season.
Jamie McClaren is a handy addition to the Roar squad as well and I'm sure any Jets fan reading this will remember his two-goal effort off the bench early last season; denying the Jets a maiden win in the West. Young stars like Devante Clut are expected to break out in the A-League this year.
As a prediction, I simply cannot go past the Wanderers in this one. They've got no excuses this season and a lot of people (myself included) are expecting them to return to the powerhouse of a couple of years ago.
Hopefully a big crowd can spur them on at Pirtek Stadium and hopefully there aren't any troubles in the stands considering the somewhat harsh rules already being imposed on the Red & Black Bloc. It's been a fairly troubling week for the locals in Parramatta and I for one am hoping that tonight can remind people what a great, cultural-diverse area Parramatta and the surrounding Western Sydney area is. Wanderers by two.
Preview 2: by Keegan Pulik
Wanderers enter their 4th season with a fresh faced squad and determined not to have a season like last. For the first time in their short existence, Western Sydney went a season without making the final series finishing in a dismal 9th place. Tony Popovic has taken the opportunity now to freshen up the squad. Wanderers have let go 17 players including the likes of veteran goalkeeper Ante Covic, Kerem Bulut, Tomi Juric, Matthew Spiranovic and Lacopo La Roca just to name a few. Despite the massive clean out that the club has conducted they have recruited well with Socceroo’s Dario Vidosic (FC Sion) and Mitch Nichols (Cerezo Osaka) both signing with Jets duo Scott Neville and Jacob Pepper also committing to the club. Along with the known A-League and Australian names that they’ve signed, Wanderers also dipped into the European market signing Spanish trio: Dimas Delgado (Free Agent), Alberto (Free Transfer) and Andreu Guerao Mayoral (Racing Santander) as well as Italian Federico Piovaccari (Free Agent).
Western Sydney have had mixed result throughout pre-season, having won 3 and lost 2 games (not including FFA Cup). From the 5 games Wanderers were able to display their attacking options scoring 11 goals. The real concern will be that the two games they lost came against A-League opposition (Central Coast and Wellington) and their 3 wins were against Mt Druitt Town Rangers, Canberra FC and APIA Leichardt. FFA Cup saw Western Sydney face Brisbane in round of 32 where a 69th minute strike from Golgol Mebrahu was enough to put the Wanderers through where they faced QLD NPL side Palm Beach Sharks. After knocking out Palm Beach 2-0 in what was a confidence boosting result they faced Perth Glory where they were taken all the way, and eventually losing out on penalties.
Brisbane have had an off seasons covered in controversy and drama. With the ownership debacle with the Bakrie Group running the club into the ground, fans have called for the FFA to take over like they did with Newcastle. Off field dramas aside, Brisbane have appointed a new manager in former Socceroo John Aloisi who is looking to kick start his managerial career after having a year off since leaving the then Melbourne Heart. Aloisi has had a quite transfer window bringing in only 3 players. One of the new faces is former Perth Glory striker Jamie Maclaren who will look to continue on from his decent season last year.
Pre-season was a fairly successful one for the Roar playing 7 games, winning 4 and scoring 25 goals. Brisbane played host to European Giants Villareal and Liverpool. Against Villareal the Roar were clinical running out 3-0 winners with Devante Clut bagging a double and Solorzano scoring the third. Liverpool was always going to be a huge challenge for the Roar but despite this they met the challenge pushing the Reds all the way. Although they lost 2-1 there were many positives to take out of the match.
Coming up against A-League opposition Brisbane had mixed results, losing 1-0 to Melbourne Victory, hold Newcastle to a 0-0 draw and beating Central Coast Mariners 3-1. The other 2 preseason fixtures were against local QLD NPL U23s All Star side where they ran out 8-0 winners and Gold Coast All Stars where Jamie Maclaren went on a rampage scoring 8 in a 10-0 win. FFA Cup was a short one for the Roar losing in the Round of 32 to Western Sydney 1-0.
The season opener will be vital for both, Brisbane to show that the off field drama has not affected the on field performances and for the Wanderers they are looking to hit the ground running and show that last season was a one off.
Ty's Tip: Western Sydney 3-1 Brisbane Roar
Keegan's Tip: Western Sydney 2-0 Brisbane Roar
Alex's Tip: Western Sydney 1-1 Brisbane Roar
Western Sydney Wanderers FC squad: 1. Dean BOUZANIS (GK), 3. Scott JAMIESON, 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY (c), 5. Brendan HAMILL, 6. Mitch NICHOLS, 7. Romeo CASTELEN, 8. Dimas, 9. Federico PIOVACCARI, 10. Dario VIDOSIC, 12. Scott NEVILLE, 15. Kearyn BACCUS, 16. Jaushua SOTIRIO, 18. Andreu, 20.Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 21. Jacob PEPPER, 22. Jonathan ASPROPOTAMITIS, 33. Josh MACDONALD
Brisbane Roar FC squad: 1.Michael THEO (gk), 5.Corey BROWN, 6.Jerome POLENZ, 7.CORONA, 8.Steven LUSTICA, 9.Jamie MACLAREN, 13.Jade NORTH (c), 14.Daniel BOWLES, 16.Devante CLUT, 19.Jack HINGERT, 20.Shannon BRADY, 21.Jamie YOUNG (gk), 22.Thomas BROICH, 23.Dimitri PETRATOS, 28.Brandon BORRELLO, 32.George LAMBADARIDIS