Melbourne Victory and Central Coast enter their A-League elimination finals as favourites despite being in mid-week action.
Kevin Muscat’s Victory side go into their encounter against Sydney FC at Etihad Stadium on Friday on a high, having stunned Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande 2-0 in the AFC Champions League.
A second game in four days makes things difficult for Victory, who fielded a relatively weakened squad in upsetting Evergrande 2-0 on Tuesday.
Returning for Muscat’s men will be the likes of Adama Traore, Gui Finkler and Archie Thompson after none of the trio played a minute in continental action.
Centre-back Adrian Leijer appears unlikely to play a part after hurting his foot in the first half of the continental triumph.
Attacking duo James Troisi and Kosta Barbarouses should start despite playing out 90 minutes, with the former particularly crucial to Victory’s chances.
But they must overcome what has been a poor record against Sydney FC this season.
Frank Farina’s men have claimed two wins and a draw in three meetings with Victory, including a 5-0 thrashing at Etihad Stadium on Australia Day.
Sydney veteran Alessandro Del Piero shapes as a key for the visitors, with the Juventus great slowly returning to form at the right time of the season.
Del Piero, 39, scored 10 regular-season goals, including two against Wellington on April 6, and set up the late winner for Sydney in their 2-1 win over Perth last time out.
On Saturday, champions the Central Coast Mariners host Adelaide United at Bluetongue Stadium.
Phil Moss’ men may have lost several players in both the off-season and in January, but the Mariners continue to surprise.
A 2-0 win over premiers Brisbane on Saturday showed what Central Coast are capable of ahead of what should be an entertaining encounter against Adelaide.
The Mariners host Seoul in the AFC Champions League on Wednesday and must recover quickly ahead of the elimination final.
Adelaide have won the past two meetings between the teams, but both of those encounters were at Coopers Stadium.
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