WILL Sunday be the last time we will see Thomas Broich in the A-League?
The German maestro will be leaving Brisbane Roar at the end of the season, ending a seven-year stint that will see him go down as the competition’s best ever. Fittingly, he will be up against the striker who he shared such a potent understanding with.
Plus Saturday night will see the battle of the playmakers as Diego Castro and Milos Ninkovic face off.
SATURDAY: Sydney FC v Perth Glory LIVE from 7.30pm AEST on Fox Sports 505
SUNDAY: Melbourne Victory v Brisbane Roar LIVE from 4.30pm AEST on Fox Sports 505
Here are the Burning Issues heading into Saturday and Sunday’s A-League semi-finals…
BROICH v BERISHA – POSTECOGLOU’S GREATEST LEGACY
With 66 assists, Thomas Broich holds an all-time A-League record.
With 100 goals, Besart Berisha is the greatest goal scorer the competition has seen.
Between them they hold six A-League Championships, two Johnny Warren Medals and two golden boot awards.
While Sunday night could be billed as the Postecoglou Derby – with Victory and Roar still boasting the Socceroos boss’ fingerprints in their footballing DNA – the story of Broich v Berisha will steal the show.
In their three seasons together at Roar, Broich teed up 12 goals for Berisha, a quarter of his total goals. In two grand finals, the Broich to Berisha combination led to vital goals as Roar went on to lift two titles with their superstars involved.
The salary cap system meant Berisha had to leave for Melbourne Victory – with Broich and club captain Matt McKay taking up marquee spots – while Broich now cannot be retained by Roar beyond this season.
That means Sunday night could be the last time we see the German grace the A-League, unless Brisbane can cause an upset to reach the final. Roar have had a tricky travel schedule, playing in the Asian Champions League on Wednesday night, a game which saw Broich play an hour.
Yet they do still have the better domestic form, having overcome Western Sydney Wanderers on penalties in the elimination final and winning their final two games of the season. Victory on the other hand were underwhelming after Sydney FC wrapped up first spot, picking up just four points form their final four games before sitting out the first week of the finals.
THE BATTLE OF THE PLAYMAKERS
It’s Broich v Berisha on Sunday and Saturday night sees another match up, but this one of a different kind.
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Milos Ninkovic has been the competition’s best player, sealing Fox Sports’ Alex Tobin Award. Second behind Ninkovic was Diego Castro who has once again starred for Perth Glory.
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The two are the key attacking playmakers from their side, flourishing when coming inside from wider starting positions and linking up with other attackers such as Alex Brosque or Andy Keogh.
For Sydney FC fans, it was a relief when Ninkovic was declared fit – the week off allowed the Serbian to recover from an ankle injury sustained in the final game of the regular season.
Yet the Sky Blues’ defence will have to be wary of the threat posed by Castro, with the Spaniard scoring 13 goals and picking up seven assists this season.
With the two best playmakers on show, expect some magic.
WILL JAMIE YOUNG BE AT HIS BEST?
Michael Theo has been ruled out for the season so when Jamie Young sliced his forearm open on a rusty goal hook, Brisbane Roar hearts were in mouths.
A staggering 26 stitches later and after an ACL cameo by third choice Tomi Bilic, Young has been declared fit to play on Sunday, a huge relief for John Aloisi and Roar. The club had even looked at the potential of making an emergency signing.
The question still remains though, will Young be fully fit to last a finals game, with there being a risk of a collision that could split open the wound. Time will tell.
CAN ANOTHER CLUB BE HISTORY MAKERS?
Every A-League grand final winner has finished either first or second.
That’s a record Brisbane Roar and Perth Glory will be hoping to end, while Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC will hope it continues.
The Championship has been won seven times by the best side in the regular season and four times by the second-placed team.
Only two teams have ever reached the final day from third place – Central Coast in 2005-06 and Perth Glory in 2011-12 – and no team from lower than third has ever reached the grand final.
In a season of records being broken, is another on the cards?