Wanderers could start Martinez
Photo Source: AAP
Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic has hinted at a first A-League start for marquee Nicolas Martinez in Friday's grand final re-match against Adelaide.
Popovic was impressed with Martinez' 30-minute stint off the bench in round one, despite the Argentine midfielder flaming out late.
"In the last 10 minutes, he probably found it a bit tough physically with the lack of training and game time he's had," Popovic said.
"But for that 15-20 minute period when he first came on, you can see the quality he has on the ball. His movement off the ball, you can already see some combinations building in our front third."
It's that kind of quality that could tempt Popovic to start Martinez against the Reds and form an intriguing midfield that includes fellow import Jumpei Kusukami and Mitch Nicholls.
Popovic insisted on attempting to take a long-term approach with the former Olympiacos player, saying there was no need to rely on Martinez too early.
"We want Nico available all season. To throw him in and start that game in the derby ... he's got more of a chance tomorrow," Popovic said.
"But it's about having him being able to reproduce week by week, at training, in games and having him available because he's a very good player."
The Wanderers' coach was also delighted with the first outing of Kusukami, who was easily Popovic's most-dangerous threat against Sydney FC.
The former J-League player lit up ANZ Stadium with a number of slicing runs, and was on target with both of his shots on goal.
"He showed against Sydney FC in such a big game, especially in a moment where we were behind on the scoreboard, he really tried to step up and get us back in the game," Popovic said.
"There's a lot more to come from him, but we're delighted to have him at our club."
It's the defence that could be of concern for Popovic, who has given captain Nikolai Topor-Stanley permission to pursue an overseas opportunity and another defender in Artiz Borda suspended.
The Wanderers will have to overcome a poor record against the Reds in recent years, having won just one of their past nine clashes and none in five matches in Adelaide.
Reds defender Iacopo La Rocca expected Popovic to extract plenty of fight out of his old club.
"I know Poppa - I know he will push the team. Of course, they will come here to get the three points, but we play at home - we have the advantage," he said.
STATS THAT MATTER:
* Adelaide have only conceded two first-half goals across their past 11 matches
* United have only tasted defeat once in their past 22 A-League matches (W16, D5)
* The Wanderers have conceded at least three goals in each of their past three A-League games