Best of the Press: ‘I can’t see him being in Australia for much longer, he’ll go overseas’

Take a look at all the fixtures coming up in Round 18 of the Isuzu UTE A-League is your one-stop shop for the best of the pre-weekend media activity ahead of what’s set to be an enthralling Round 18 in the Isuzu UTE A-League.


Brattan tips special Sky Blues talent to secure move overseas

It’s not often a club captain hopes to see a teammate leave the club but Sydney FC skipper Luke Brattan believes the talent Jake Girdwood-Reich possesses means it’s inevitable the youngster will soon be heading off overseas.

“I can’t see him being in Australia for much longer, he’ll go overseas,” said Brattan when asked about his young teammate. “He’s good on the ball, he’s calm…

“For his age, he’s one of the best one-on-one defenders I’ve come across for a long time.

“He’s got a mix of great on the ball and very aggressively defensively and tough to beat… and he’s a good kid as well.”

Having initially come into the Sydney side as a number six, Girdwood-Reich has shown his versatility this season, seamlessly swapping between partnering Brattan in midfield to filling the void left by injured Jack Rodwell in the heart of the Sky Blues defence… and he’s certainly impressed his skipper.

“I hope he’s not here much longer. I think he can have a great career overseas and do something special.”

Luke Brattan on the future of teammate Jake Girdwood-Reich.

Spirits are certainly high at Sydney FC right now with the club unbeaten in five games, picking up three wins during that period.

However Brattan says while Saturday’s encounter with City represents a good opportunity to boost their finals chances whilst simultaneously denting their opponent’s, they won’t be taking their out-of-form visitors for granted.

“Looking at the table I don’t think they should be where they are, they’re a fantastic team (with) some incredible players, I don’t think the table represents what sort of team they are.

He continued: “We’ve created a great rivalry as well over the last couple of years so (we’re) looking forward to it.”

Cohesion the key for Vidmar as City eye Sydney scalp

Aurelio Vidmar believes fans will begin to see the best version of Melbourne City this season provided his attacking unit is able to consistent minutes together on the pitch.

Last weekend’s goalless draw with Melbourne Victory brought about the end of their two-game losing streak and while they may have only won once in their last five matches, Vidmar believes the fact Mathew Leckie, Jamie Maclaren, Andrew Nabbout and Marco Tilio all gained significant minutes on the field together was a big plus point.

“It’s clear when a team has cohesion in terms of regular players playing all the time, there’s a lot more cohesion and it works better,” said Vidmar ahead of this weekend’s trip to face Sydney FC.

“But when it’s the complete opposite – and unfortunately we’ve had to face that on many occasions over the last five or six weeks – (we’re) chopping and changing players so really not getting a lot of cohesion.

He continued: “Tils (Tilio) played his first game in six months last week, Lecks (Leckie) also his first start for a number of months, also five months for Andy (Nabbout) so of course they’re a little bit rusty and it’s going to take a bit of time to get some cohesion.”

With three wins in their last four matches against Sydney The reigning Isuzu UTE A-League premiers head to Allianz Stadium sat 7th on the ladder but their recent record over the Sky Blues will give them confidence given they’ve won three of their last four meetings.

That said, Vidmar is fully expecting another tough encounter in the Harbour City on Saturday evening against a trademark Ufuk Talay team.

“Typical ‘Uffie’, playing aggressive,” remarked Vidmar when asked what he made of Sydney FC under Talay. “They’re pressing very high and very aggressively.

“That’s something that we’re going to need to deal with and cope well with so yeah, obviously he’s made a massive improvement since he’s been there.”

Unfortunately for Vidmar and City though they’ll have to face Talay’s Sky Blues without star midfielder Tolgay Arslan, who remains suspended for one more match following his red card against Perth Glory on February 2.

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“Those last two weeks have been pretty tough for him,” revealed Vidmar when discussing Arslan’s suspension following comments he made to a match official.

“He’s been emotionally on a bit of a rollercoaster through this period. I said to him last week that I’m happy that it’s all over. He’s accepted it and he can just focus on his football now.

He continued: “He brings so much quality for us through the midfield, in the front third and we have missed him a little bit to be honest.”

Italiano warns of ‘title talk’ as key players return for Distance Derby

They may be five points clear at the top of the Isuzu UTE A-League but Wellington Phoenix boss Giancarlo Italiano remains wary of discussing any form of title challenge.

“I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves,” said Italiano when asked if his side were now in prime position to capture their first ever piece of silverware. “I know it’s cliché but what’s worked for us at the start and what’s working for us now is making sure we go game by game.

“We focus on stuff that we can control and it’s worked well until this day. If you’re starting to talk about Championships and expectations, it creates an extra layer of complexity that, unless you do it, you know how to manage it.”

Wellington travel to Perth in Round 18 for what will be this season’s third instalment of the Distance Derby but they’ll be without forward Kosta Barbarouses.

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Currently enjoying one of his best seasons to date in the Isuzu UTE A-League, the in-form striker has netted 10 goals in 18 games this season but will miss the trip to Western Australia after picking up a calf injury.

“He has a small grade tear in his calf,” revealed Italiano. “So it’s better than what’s expected at the moment. We thought maybe it might be a little more severe when he first picked it up but after all accounts he should be right to be back on park next week.

He continued: “More as a precaution he’s not playing this weekend just to make sure he’s fine, there’s no long term damage, and he should have some minutes against Adelaide.”

Elsewhere the Wellington head coach did confirm both captain Alex Rufer and defender Tim Payne are in line to start against Perth however Bozhidar Kraev is likely to be on the bench as he recovers from a muscle injury.

‘Outstanding’ Nisbet shines again as Mariners turn their attention to Victory clash

Mariners football manager Mark Jackson isn’t one to single out individual performances after games but Josh Nisbet’s performance against Macarthur during their recent AFC Cup win made that a little harder to adhere to.

“I thought he was outstanding last night,” said Jackson when discussing his midfielder’s display in their 3-2 win over the Bulls.

“I’ve said this before but whatever position you put the player in he excels and thrives in it.

Central Coast boss Mark Jackson on the qualities of midfielder Josh Nisbet

He continued: “His understanding of the game is excellent and his ability is getting better and better every game and every training session so that’s credit to him.

“I’m delighted he’s on our team and not against us!”

A goal from Ronald Barcellos in the 120th minute of the game sealed a dramatic 3-2 win for the Mariners against Macarthur meaning they now play Indian side Odisha FC in the two-legged Inter Zonal semi-finals next month.

Before that though is a return to Isuzu UTE A-League action and a tricky trip to AAMI Park to face Melbourne Victory on Sunday afternoon.

“We feel like we’re in a good position now but these positions mean nothing,” said Jackson when discussing this weekend’s clash. “We know that we’ve given ourselves a good base to build on and push on in this final part of the season.

“It’s a game we’re looking forward to, we’re going to be up against a really strong team. They showed the fighting spirit in their last game and came back with two late goals so we know it’s going to be really challenging.

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“That balance of recovery combined with preparation is going to be vital and getting the player’s mindset ready to go and give a strong performance in Melbourne is our key at he minute.”

A win for the Mariners would not only move them three points clear of Victory but, crucially, would guarantee they hold on to second spot come the end of the round.