Brisbane Roar’s A-League men will play their first game back at Suncorp Stadium since early December on Thursday night, and will be keen to bounce back after last week’s disappointing loss to Western United.
After such a positive start to the season, the Roar were underwhelming in Melbourne last Friday night – a performance that head coach Ross Aloisi, described as one of their worst of the season to date.
Aloisi’s men will also be determined to keep their unbeaten home record, having taken seven points out of a possible nine in their three games since returning to Suncorp this season.
It’s a record that will be tested given their opponents are reigning champions the Central Coast Mariners, who have started to hit attacking form in recent weeks after a slow start to their own season.
Home field advantage was something Roar captain Tom Aldred was keen to emphasise at the pre-game press conference.
“It’s our home here in Brisbane and it’s what the fans know as the Roar’s home ground, so it was really important to come back here. I feel like we are starting to make it a fortress in the way that we’re playing and the results we’ve got here this season,” he said.
The Roar stalwart, now in his fifth season at the club, played down the defensive lapses that cost them the game at AAMI Park.
“We hadn’t conceded from a corner this season until last weekend, but we’ve analysed it and found areas we can improve to not let that happen again,” he said.
Aldred was also quick to praise his new central defensive partner Kai Trewin, who has stepped in to replace regular centre back Scott Neville since his injury in Adelaide.
“I’ve got a good partnership with Kai, he learns quickly and is starting to communicate a lot better as part of a back two, rather than a back three which he was more used to,” concluded the Brisbane skipper.
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Injuries still an issue
It’s not only Scott Neville that the Roar will be without for tonight’s clash, with coach Aloisi confirming that none of Brisbane’s other crop of injured players will be fit to face the Mariners.
Young defender Antony Burke Gilroy is still on the sidelines, along with regular left back Corey Brown and French midfield import Florin Berengeur.
Despite three defenders being on that list, it is his attacking options that are giving Aloisi the most food for thought.
“The only issue we have is possibly our number 10 position, as Flo and Henry [Hore] are both still out. Joey Caletti has been playing there but we have missed him in the midfield as he starts a lot of our attacks,” explained the Brisbane coach.
Central Coast a threat up front
Aloisi also acknowledged the attacking prowess of Central Coast, who have scored nine goals in their last three games, and was emphasising the need for his team to stick to their defensive structures when they don’t have the ball.
“They’ve got some very dangerous players up front, we know that. We’ve got to make sure we don’t get caught on the counter and defend well in and around the penalty area,” he said.
One opposing player Aloisi and his coaching staff will be sure to keep an eye on is the Mariners’ Columbian import Angel Torres, with the winger having scored four goals in seven games this season – including a hat-trick against Melbourne City last time out.
However, it’s at the other end of the pitch that Central Coast have been struggling, conceding 15 goals already, to give them one of the worst defensive records in the league to date.
That will be welcome news to Brisbane’s own in-form winger Nikola Mileusnic, who has contributed 3 goals and 3 assists as an ever present for the Queenslanders this season.
His impressive tally includes an assist the last time these two teams met in Gosford in November, when the Roar ran out 2-1 winners.
With both teams desperate for a win – Brisbane could theoretically go top of the ladder with a big score in their favour and the Mariners could break into the top six themselves with three points – it promises to be a fascinating encounter at Suncorp.
And the local crowd could be a significant factor, with Aloisi revealing that home support was important for his young squad.
“The Brisbane Roar crowd always play a huge role and the more supporters we get to the game, the better it is for us. I don’t think people realise how much they lift the playing group,” he said.
Whether Brisbane can use that to their advantage and get back to winning ways could be the story of the night.