Scott Neville faces his old club tonight in their clash with the Wanderers (Photo: brisbaneroar.com.au)

Brisbane Roar will look to take top spot in the Isuzu Ute Men’s A-League on Friday night, when they host league leaders Western Sydney Wanderers at Suncorp Stadium. 

The Roar have had an impressive start to the season, placing them fourth on the embryonic A-League ladder entering tonight’s game. They have had three wins and a draw from their opening five matches. 

Another three points for the Queensland outfit this evening will see them leapfrog tonight’s opponents into first place for the first time since 2016.

It won’t be an easy task for Ross Aloisi’s men, as Western Sydney are unbeaten in the league this season. The size of the challenge ahead wasn’t lost on Roar coach, Ross Aloisi, at Thursday’s pre-game press conference. 

“Western Sydney are one of the top four teams in the country and have an amazing player roster. They have that fighting mentality as well, so it’s an exciting challenge for our playing group,” he said. 

It’s a task made more difficult given a couple of key outs for Brisbane. Aloisi confirmed that key defender Corey Brown and French attacking midfielder Florin Berenguer will both miss the game through injury. 

The absence of Berenguer, who has featured in every game so far this season, is a particular blow for Aloisi. The ex-Melbourne City star has also notched two goals since his move in August. 

“Flo (Florin Berenguer) has shown what a top footballer he is in a short period of time here, so it’s tough on him,” Aloisi said. 

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The Wanderers have injury worries of their own, with their star striker Brandon Borrello recently ruled out for three months due to a foot fracture. 

Although Borrello is yet to get on the score sheet for the Wanderers, he has been ever-present this season. The Socceroo registered his second international goal for Australia in the recent rout of Bangladesh. His proven scoring ability and all-round forward pressure will be sorely missed by Marko Rudan’s side. 

One player not fazed by Borrello’s absence is Roar defender Scott Neville, who was quick to play down the impact of Socceroo’s omission when asked on Thursday. 

“Borrello’s a great player, but [his absence] doesn’t change the way that we play, and we’ll stick to our processes,” he said, also adding that playing against his old team was no added incentive for him personally.

Although both Western Sydney and Brisbane will be missing key attacking players for the Suncorp clash, it’s perhaps the other end of the pitch that will prove pivotal.  

Wanderers have the best defence in the league to date – conceding just two goals in their opening five games – and breaking them down will be a key focus for the Brisbane coaching staff. 

“We need to ensure we have good forward movement and retain possession around the penalty area to break them down,” Aloisi said. 

Aloisi also alluded to the fact that Wanderers haven’t travelled much yet this season, playing all five of their games in New South Wales. The only two goals Western Sydney have conceded this season were in a 2-2 draw at Newcastle.  

With the weather in Brisbane predicted to be a sultry 25 degrees despite an evening kick off on Friday, it will be a new experience for Rudan’s team. 

Given the Roar’s possession-based football has been a feature of their game under Aloisi, it could be a tiring night for the Wanderers defence. 

Whether they can cope with the heat, as well as significant periods without the ball and a vocal home support, will be key to the outcome of this clash.    

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