In the race for the A-League championship Perth Glory are the rightful front-runners, but can any of the remaining three teams stage an unlikely upset and pip them at the post?

I’ve analysed how Adelaide United, Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory fared against Perth through the regular season to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s claim to the throne.

Adelaide United

Played 3 (W-2 D-1 L-0)

Rd 4: ADE 0 – 2 PER, Rd 15: PER 0 – 0 ADE, Rd 22: ADE 0 – 2 PER

Adelaide are Glory’s first finals opponents, and the premiers should make light work of them at HBF Park on Friday night as they have done throughout the season. Perth kept three clean sheets against Adelaide in their three games this season, two of which were at Coopers Stadium.

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Adelaide and Brisbane Roar share the second-worst goal tally in the league this season (38) with Central Coast bringing up the rear (31), and without the goals of talismanic figure Craig Goodwin that figure would be far worse. It took Adelaide 119 minutes to score the only goal of their finals encounter with Melbourne City on Sunday evening, highlighting their lack of a top-shelf striker.

In round 22 of the season Glory exposed this weakness whilst simultaneously displaying their own strength in the same facet of the game. Tony Popovic named top scorer Andy Keogh on his bench and although Glory took an early lead over Adelaide they struggled through the game under their pressure, barely holding onto their slender advantage. Needing to consolidate their lead Popovic threw Keogh on just after the hour mark. Five minutes later the Irishman scored, deflating Adelaide’s spirit and sealing the game.

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That particular game showed what Adelaide lack, Glory have in spades. Simply put, Adelaide and Perth is a mismatch which, barring an uncharacteristically clinical display from Adelaide’s strike force, is likely to go to script with a comfortable Glory win.

Melbourne Victory

Played: 3 (W-2 D-0 L-1)

Rd 2: MEL 2 – 3 PER, Rd 18: MEL 1 – 2 PER, Rd 23: PER 0 – 2 MEL

Melbourne Victory poses the biggest threat to Glory’s title credentials out of their three remaining competitors. Glory earned two heroic away wins against Victory this season, and Chris Ikonomidis’ injury time winner in their 3-2 win in Melbourne stands out as one of the iconic moment in a season of iconic moments.

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However, on neither occasion did Melbourne have both Keisuke Honda and Ola Toivonen on the park, and when both Victory stars rolled into Perth in round 23 Glory truly felt the impact they have when playing in tandem. Their 2-0 win at HBF Park, decided by a goal each to Toivonen and Honda, was an immense psychological blow for Glory. It had been six weeks since they last played at home and the fans came out in droves to join in on the pre-premiership party, but Kevin Muscat’s men rained on the parade.

They left a chink in Glory’s armour on that night; the largest they’ve sustained throughout the campaign.Should these two sides meet in the grand final Muscat will be able to call on that experience and follow the exact template in preparation for the game. His players will have no fear of coming to Perth and stealing the spotlight, as it’s something they achieved not long ago.

Sydney FC

Played 3 (W-1 D-0 L-2)

Rd 9: PER 1 – 2 SYD, Rd 12: PER 3 – 1 SYD, Rd 26: SYD 1 – 0 PER

In the penultimate round of the A-League campaign with the Premiers Plate sewn up Glory took a weakened side to Jubilee Stadium, where Sydney FC won 1-0 through an Adam Le Fondre goal in a forgettable affair.

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That game aside Glory and Sydney had two encounters at HBF in quick succession at the start of the season. In the first game Popovic made a rare tweak to his formation, taking one wide attacking player out of his 3-4-3 formation to accommodate Jake Brimmer in midfield in a 3-5-2 setup. The move proved ineffective against Sydney, who won the tense affair 2-1.

Three games later the sides met again and this time Popovic reverted to his favoured 3-4-3 with Brendon Santalab leading the line. What followed was a first-half display many believe to be the best football Glory played all season, scoring three goals to none in a free-flowing display.

What’s interesting to observe about these two fixtures is Sydney’s win in Perth is the one glaring example of Popovic getting his tactics and line-up wrong all season. The problem for Sydney is, considering the meticulous nature of Popovic as a coach, this will be a mistake he’s learned from and is unlikely to make again.

Featured image credit: Perth Glory

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Football nut, student journalist and firm believer that Berisha dived in the 2012 A-League Grand Final. Covering Perth Glory for the 2018/19 season.