The stage is set for a scintillating Grand Final when Adelaide United and Western Sydney Wanderers take to Adelaide Oval on Sunday afternoon.
Both teams will be quietly confident as the top two finishers after 27 rounds, with United running out 4-1 winners against Melbourne City, and Wanderers coming from behind to clinch a 5-4 victory over Brisbane Roar in extra time to qualify for the final.
Head Coach Guillermo Amor appeared calm and collected today despite sitting next to the coveted Hyundai A-League trophy, while conceding that the finals format is something he was not familiar with during his time as a player.
“It’s like boxing, no?” he could still welcome a chuckle.
“Normally the team with the most points wins and that is it, but we’re still going to play a football match and this is how it is, it’s no problem for us at all,” he told reporters at the official pre-match conference.
“For us it’s good that the final is at home. For us it’s very important for our people, and it is a big day for Adelaide.”
Amor’s guidance has already seen the greatest Hyundai A-League turnaround ever seen, so no doubt his playing experience will prove pivotal for the Reds come tomorrow.
Captain Eugene Galekovic admitted that it was a different week with his side absorbing much media attention, but he re-affirmed with his teammates to remain concentrated.
“There’s a lot of excitement, I think, this week we’ve been embracing it, enjoying it and preparing well – the boys have been great and we’re looking forward to tomorrow, “ he said.
“We’ve trained on the oval and it’s looking great, we’re all excited about 50,000 people being there.
“Obviously winning the FFA Cup is good experience, but look at the last few months - we’ve been going into every game like a grand final, so we’ll be treating tomorrow in the same way and if we play at our best we’re confident we can get the result.
“The last one I played was against Melbourne Victory in Melbourne and they were red-hot favourites… and now we’re playing at Adelaide Oval in front of our fans and it’s a totally different ball game – we’re certainly embracing it.”
United and Wanderers could not be separated this season, drawing in all of their three games, and taking into account the nature of a finals match, it is likely to be a similar, hard-fought contest in every corner of the pitch come kick-off tomorrow.
But when asked about the potential of a penalty shootout, Galekovic did not seem concerned.
“To be fair I haven’t really thought about going into penalties, or even extra time because I’m going into the game positive and I back my team,” he said.
“It’s one of those things that might happen and we’ll prepare for it, but we’re going to try and get the job done in 90 minutes… it’s just our positive mindset and that’s the way we’re going to be looking at it.”
United will be confident in their striker Bruce Djite, whose form has been a major key to the success of the Reds, while they ought to be cautious of Romeo Castelen, whose hat-trick inspired the Wanderers last week.
With no major injuries reported, both squads have depth at their disposal, with Pablo Sánchez and Brendon Santalab usually capable of damaging their opponent whether in the starting line-up, or featuring from the bench.
Finally, Amor was also full of praise for the Wanderers, acknowledging their depth and quality.
“Tomorrow will be a difficult game against a very good team and the matches we played together were fantastic,” he said.
“They play very well, they run very well and they press and have a very good team – we must do everything well to win this game.”
Whatever the result, a thrilling encounter beckons, and one that will hopefully be history-making for those in Red.
Adelaide United will face Western Sydney Wanderers in the 2016 Hyundai A-League Grand Final on Sunday, 1 May at Adelaide Oval. Kick-off is at 3.30pm ACST.