Coach Tony Popovic will have to put together a makeshift Western Sydney back-four to deal with the threat of Melbourne Victory’s Beshart Berisha on Friday.
Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic is confident his depleted back four can prevent Melbourne Victory striker Beshart Berisha from getting off to a dream debut with his new A-League club on Friday night.
Berisha scored three times in four meetings with the Wanderers last year when playing for Brisbane Roar, the most crucial coming two minutes from time in the grand final.
The Albanian hitman’s effort levelled the scores at 1-1 before Henrique grabbed an 108th-minute winner to deny Popovic’s side a first A-League title in only their second season.
Berisha is the Victory’s highest-profile new arrival and Popovic will re-shuffle the centre of his defence with skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley away on international duty and Matt Spiranovic still recovering from ankle surgery.
New signing Brendan Hamill has impressed during the Wanderers’ Asian Champions League campaign alongside Topor-Stanley but he is the only fully recognised centre-half at Popovic’s disposal.
The former Crystal Palace defender was keeping his cards close to his chest about the make up of his side but Daniel Mullen, who played on occasions in the middle during his Adelaide United days, is likely to switch across from right-back.
Victory skipper Mark Milligan is also out for the hosts due to international commitments and Popovic said the decision to start the new season when the Socceroos are playing friendlies in the UAE and Qatar wasn’t ideal.
“We can’t begrudge our players being called up for the national team, it’s the greatest honour available,” Popovic said.
“Ideally we’d all like a free weekend when the international games are on, but perhaps it’s something that will happen a few years down the line.”
Berisha and the evergreen Archie Thompson have the potential to be a prolific forward combination this season for Kevin Muscat’s side.
The former Roar striker has scored an impressive 48 goals in 76 A-League matches but Popovic said there’s no secret formula behind his success
“We know him very well and Melbourne has done very well to bring him across,” he said.
“He’s one player of many we have to be aware of, but we have to go down there with the frame of mind that we are a good side and can bring home the three points.
“His main attribute is that he scores goals regularly, he also scores them in big games.
“It’s up to us to stop him and I’m confident we can do that.”
Wanderers striker Tomi Juric has returned to light training but will also miss the game due to a groin problem.
Popovic said he was confident last year’s top scorer will be fit to face Sydney FC next week.