Season 14 of the A-League will come to a close on Sunday at Optus Stadium, where we will see either a new winner or a traditional power claim a fourth championship.
Perth Glory go into the match as favourites having only lost three matches for the regular season, winning the league by an eight-point margin. They pushed past a spirited Adelaide United to reach the big dance.
Sydney FC meanwhile flew under the radar somewhat, but still managed to finish second and secured their grand final berth with an emphatic 6-1 thrashing of Melbourne Victory.
Glory and the Sky Blues conceded the least goals of the 10 A-League clubs in the home and away campaign, and Perth in particular made that stubbornness count offensively.
For underdogs Sydney, the key to victory will be winning the midfield battle, according to Fox Sports analyst and Identity Pro founder Scott Miller.
“It comes down the organisation and the condensed shape in that mid third and I feel if Sydney go after Perth in that front third and press, they won’t be able to do it for 90 minutes, especially with Brosque dropping in and Le Fondre pressing,” Miller explained on Friday’s Daily Football Show.
“I see them dropping off in that space and pressing key players like Juande and Neil Kilkenny because if they do get on the ball, that is a real trigger for Perth to come alive.
“The two No.9s, Brosquey and Le Fondre are going to be key in terms of screening and then engaging off the back of that press. O’Neill and Brillante will be overloaded.
“I’m seeing (Sydney) allowing Perth to build up progressively and then there will be a time where Steve Corica has sat his team down and said, ‘any time they enter into this part of the field, this is how we’re going to react and this is how we’re going to win the ball back’.
“I see a real chess match playing out on Sunday evening. When I mean cagey, I mean disciplined, purely disciplined.”
So who are the men that need to stand up and take charge? Both sides have a breadth of quality to call upon.
For Perth, Miller said, two of their more senior statesmen will need to show the way.
“Kilkenny and Castro from Perth’s perspective (are the key men),” identified Miller.
“We speak about the wing-backs’ influence quite a lot about Perth, and yes, they add an unbelievable dimension and they’re physical capacity is massive.
“However, Kilkenny for me has been the standout and he holds that mid-third buildup together with his dominant characteristics that we didn’t see too often at Melbourne City.
“His technical ability brings that team to life and allows Castro and Keogh and Chianese to work in those pockets behind.”
And for Sydney?
“One that I’ve really enjoyed watching is O’Neill – I just think he’s really enjoyed returning to his home town,” Miller continued.
“He plays with a self-discipline and simplistic approach to his game as well, so he’s going to be key in that midfield.
“He’s going to have to be working very hard defensively, screening the attacking threat of Perth, but he’s (also) going to have to be very good on the ball.
“In transition, his distribution into those channels is going to have to be superb.”
All things considered, Miller is expecting a shock.
“I see Sydney FC getting up on this one. I think Sydney will be the winners.”