Match Preview: RZ and co to embrace “toughest challenge yet”

Ruben Zadkovich is backing his young charges to embrace what he regards as their toughest challenge so far in Wednesday’s final game of the A-League season against Melbourne City at HBF Park (kick-off at 7.05pm, tickets HERE).

View his full media conference HERE.

Three points for the table-topping visitors, who are expected to be at close to full strength, would see them take a huge step towards securing their second consecutive Premiership title.

But despite losing leading scorer Bruno Fornaroli to injury and Andy Keogh to retirement, Zadkovich feels his Glory squad will benefit from pitting their wits against Patrick Kisnorbo’s high-fliers.

“We’re under no illusions; this could be the toughest test that this young squad has had,” he said.

“City are playing for the Premiership, we lose a couple of players with Andy [Keogh] and Bruno out and we have to get through training again tonight.

“It’s going to be a big task, but it’s one that we embrace because these are the type of challenges where you learn the most.

“Some of our young guys, who I think have been exceptional, like Jacob Muir and Joseph Forde, are going to come up against the best in the comp and that’s an exciting thing for those players and we’re going to learn a little bit more about them as well.

“It’s a great thing for us, as a young group, to embrace that challenge and pit ourselves against the best in the league.”

Zadkovich went on to shed further light on the latest squad news.

“Bruno has pulled up sore, so he’s out,” he said.

“That’s frustrating for everyone, to be honest and he’s a massive loss.

“We’ve got training this afternoon and we’ll have to see how Daniel [Sturridge] gets through training and assess from there, but hopefully he’ll be good to go.”

None of the club’s long-term absentees, Carlo Armiento (knee), Luke Bodnar (foot), Jack Clisby (knee), Brad Jones (knee), Brandon O’Neill (shoulder), Trent Ostler (shoulder), Kosuke Ota (calf), Adrian Sardinero (knee) and Adam Zimarino (ankle) are set to return for the City clash.

In terms of his tactical approach, meanwhile, the Head Coach confirmed that he will be looking for his side to build on the impressive defensive discipline they showed in Saturday’s home draw with Western Sydney Wanderers.

“These are the cards that I’ve got to play and it’s certainly not the style of football that I want to play or that we will be playing [in the future], but for now, it’s about competing when we have our backs against the wall,” he said.

“I thought we did really well the other night, those defensive principles were certainly in play and the effort and mentality was first class, so we’re hoping for that same kind of effort and to improve with the ball.”

Zadkovich went on to reflect upon the progress he has overseen since taking charge in mid-March.

“The positives for some of the players are massive,” he said.

“The directive from the club has been to make sure we put some of our young assets out on the pitch and see how they fare.

“Some of those individuals have excelled.

“Looking at the other night, three players in our back four were under 19, so there are some massive positives and again, the way some of the senior players have handled themselves through that adversity has also been a massive positive.

“The training ground environment and the culture has changed.

“We’ve pushed these boys harder in the last ten weeks than they were before which has been difficult because we were already a depleted squad and down towards the bottom of the league and lacking confidence.

“Watching them work hard through the struggles has been a really good process for us in terms of knowing who’s going to be the nucleus of the squad moving forward.

“The foundations and the building blocks of what is going to be a successful team next year are there.”

City’s unbeaten run of 11 games was ended by Victory in their most recent A-League outing, since when they have been involved in a gruelling run of AFC Champions League fixtures.

Among their standouts this season have been Jamie Maclaren, whose 14 goals have put him in pole position to claim a remarkable fourth A-League Golden Boot, Florin Berenguer, who has contributed five goals and five assists and newly-capped Socceroo Marco Tilio, who has regularly been introduced from the bench to great effect.

The two sides fought out a 2-2 draw back in Round 13 and although City have claimed maximum points on their last two visits to HBF Park, Glory have won 9 of the 16 overall meetings in the west.