Talking points preview: Brisbane vs City
The draw against the Wanderers last week was an unfortunate speed bump that slowed down our departure from the pack as we fight to put some distance between us and the rest of the table.
Though with Central Coast close behind, a win this week will give us a little breathing room with a game in-hand, and the rest of the ladder will truly need to 'Mind The Gap'.
We're up against a strong defence in Brisbane Roar, and have a forced change of our own to deal with so we should be wary as we go up north on Saturday.
Here's what to look out for:
Aiden O'Neill? Just quietly the best DM in the A-League at the age of 24.
Richard van der Venne? The ever-boisterous Dutchman started a little slowly but now has two goals and three assists to his name.
Valon Berisha? The "good Berisha" was an instant cult favourite amongst fans, between his classy touches on the field and big personality off it, so what's not to like? Well, whilst this game of ours is more than just goals and assists, it's a tad worrying that he has currently notched up zero. He certainly adds a lot to the playing field that won't show up as well in the numbers, between his technical ability, feisty tackling and strong vision he'd be hard to replace. However, if those skills don't add up to something tangible, a certain Frenchman is providing good competition for the spot.
Old favourite Florin Berenguer has come off the bench for Berisha in the past two games and he's been very impressive. He is four years Valon's senior now at 33 years of age, but Flo hasn't struggled for goals and assists since the Joyce era, and he's clearly settled back into the team well. There's little debate that we have the best midfield in the A-League Mens, but could we see Rado make the change?
Oh, Captain! My Captain!
Undoubtedly the biggest news in the lead-up to our match this weekend is that rising star Jordan Bos has been ruled out of the squad with a reported minor concussion. Its terrible timing considering the January transfer window has just opened and rumours are sure to swirl around young Bos, as the lad is quickly becoming one of the best left-backs in the country.
First in line to replace him is unquestionably Scott Jamieson. One question that does rise from this opportunity though, is what happens to the captain's armband? Jamo has been our fearless leader through many seasons, regime changes, and successes, but he's only started four games this season and not much of his playing time has been spent at his natural position of left-back.
In his absence, Maclaren has stepped up to the plate and it will be intriguing to see what Rado Vidosic and his team decide. Other than a disappointing loss to Sydney FC - our only loss of the season - the caretaker manager has enjoyed a strong period of stability so far in his tenure, even enduring the Derby debacle. So will he opt for a change now? We'll know come Saturday night.
A potential stalemate
The Roar might be well below us on the table sitting in 7th, but a win against our City boys on Saturday could see them climb as high as 4th as the ever-competitive A-League Men has a particularly close ladder this season with only six points separating 10th and 3rd place.
Where the orange team from Brisbane more closely resemble ourselves is in defence. They've managed to keep themselves in a decent position mostly through keeping things tight at the back as they've only conceded ten goals so far this season, behind only ourselves and 3rd-placed Western Sydney.
Sadly for Warren Moon's boys they've also only scored ten goals, with an average of 0.8 per game, and this is where we again outstrip them by a mile with 2.2 goals per game for the boys in blue. When your highest scorer is Carlo Armiento, you know things are in dire shape. But with our highest scorer J-Mac potentially relieved of captain's duties he could be free to focus on what he does best - scoring goals.
Jamie will no doubt be disappointed to have had his record goalscoring streak interrupted last week despite having three shots, and he loves to score against his old club up in Brisbane as we saw in the second round of the season with a big celebration after netting a penalty right in front of the Den. We all know the Golden Boot king loves to hold a grudge, so maybe we won't have to worry about a stalemate after all.