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Popovic shrugs off favourites tag

Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic has refused to offer an opinion on whether his side are favourites heading into Sunday’s A-League grand final.

Having already secured the Premiers’ Plate after finishing top of the table at the end of the regular season, the Wanderers are regarded by many as the likely champions as they prepare to tackle the Central Coast Mariners at Allianz Stadium.

Speaking at the pre-grand final press conference on Saturday, Mariners captain John Hutchinson credited the Wanderers – in their first A-League season – with favouritism, labeling his own side underdogs.

Asked soon after on the same topic, however, Popovic gave the sentiments short shrift.

“That’s for other people to decide,” he said.

“Whether it says favourites or underdogs next to Western Sydney, it won’t change nothing for us.”

Popovic also gave little away when questioned on the fitness of several of his players for Sunday’s match.

While forward Mark Bridge is almost certain to overcome his ankle complaint to take his place in the starting XI, there has been considerable doubt over the condition of midfielder Aaron Mooy and right-back Jerome Polenz due to their own respective injuries.

“We have decided,” Popovic replied when asked if his injury riddles had been solved.

When pressed, he offered little more: “You’ll see tomorrow.”

“(All the in-doubt players) are all very good. They all trained this morning. Everyone trained this morning, which tells you everyone should be available.”

Heavy rain in Sydney on Saturday caused each side’s final training sessions to be moved from Allianz Stadium to the Sydney Cricket Ground, but Mariners coach Graham Arnold had little concerns for what he described as the ‘best draining field in Sydney’.

Popovic was also confident the Allianz pitch would recover in time for the grand final, though he said his players would simply have to cope no matter what its condition.

“We had a look on it this morning. We didn’t have an opportunity to train on it, but they assure us that the pitch will still be in good condition tomorrow,” he said.

“Obviously if the weather doesn’t ease up, it will heavy. But I think, from our point of view, you have to be ready for any situation – whether it’s hot or cold, whether the pitch is heavy, you have to be prepared.

Sat 20 April, 2013
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