Popovic only content after grand final win

April 19, 2013
By Angela Habashy

If you think Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic is content with his side's already history-making achievements ahead of Sunday's A-League grand final - think again.

The Wanderers take on Central Coast at Allianz Stadium on Sunday as both clubs vie for a maiden championship.

Western Sydney have already far exceeded expectations in their remarkable debut season.

They made Australian sporting history as the first start-up club to win silverware securing the Premiers' Plate on the back of a record 10 straight wins.

But when Popovic was asked if, win or lose on Sunday, he takes heart from the fact that their season will still be considered a huge success, his answer was swift and blunt: "No. No it doesn't," he said.

"My focus is all on this game and winning this game.

"On reflection, maybe in the off season when we all look back, I'm sure we'll look back with pride on how the season has gone.

"But we want this final and we want to win."

Mariners coach Graham Arnold has already begun his notorious mind games saying the Wanderers will be feeling the pressure of ensuring a fairytale finish in their first title decider.

He's also made a point of emphasising the fact the Wanderers will enter Sunday's clash with a lack of match practice having only played one game in more than three weeks.

Wanderers skipper Michael Beauchamp isn't surprised with the comments and feels it will be the opposite situation, with the Mariners sure to feel the pressure after having lost three previous grand finals.

"Of course they're going to say that. Why wouldn't they?" he said.

"But we're not feeling any pressure.

"It's their fourth final, so I think the pressure is a bit more on them."

Popovic feels his players have been dealing with pressure since the club's inception and says Sunday's big-game atmosphere won't faze his side.

"Everyone talks about pressure and expectation but these boys and this football club has had it from day one," he said.

"We had pressure to prove ourselves when we started then, when we got to the top, we had pressure to stay there.

"So I've got no doubt that they can handle pressure."

Popovic is still sweating on the availability of key midfielder and dead-ball specialist Aaron Mooy (knee) and defenders Adam D'Apuzzo (foot) and Jerome Polenz, who aggravated his quad injury in last week's semi-final clash with Brisbane.

But he feels confident striker Mark Bridge, who missed training with an ankle injury on Tuesday, will be fit.

"I don't know yet if these players will be available," Popovic said.

"I'll make that call tomorrow after training.

"In their minds, they all want to play. But it's a grand final so we've got to make sure that the players tick all the boxes physically.

"Same with Bridge, but even without seeing him train today, I'm pretty sure he'll be fine."

The only player the Wanderers are certain to miss is crafty midfielder Youssouf Hersi, who is suspended.

This could open the door for talented youngster Kwabena Appiah-Kubi to take his place, while teen Yianni Perkatis could also be in line to play in the showpiece should Mooy not recover.

If defenders D'Apuzzo and Polenz are ruled out, Tarek Elrich would come in at right-back with Shannon Cole replacing D'Apuzzo at left-back.