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Popovic sweats on doubtful Wanderers

Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic faces a nervous wait to see which of his injured stars recover to play in the A-League grand final.

The Wanderers head into Sunday’s decider against Central Coast Mariners with injury clouds over midfielder Aaron Mooy (knee), right-back Jerome Polenz (quad) and leading scorer Mark Bridge (ankle).

While Bridge trained strongly on Friday and is rated a near-certainty to play, Mooy and Polenz still need to convince the Wanderers boss they will be able to get through 90 minutes.

Mooy has not played since he picked up a knee injury against Melbourne Heart last month, while Polenz was forced off in the first half of last weekend’s semi-final win over Brisbane.

The pair took part in Friday’s session but will need to show no signs of discomfort in the side’s final training hit-out on Saturday to be passed fit.

Asked how his injured trio were progressing on Friday, Popovic said: “I don’t know yet if these players will be available.

“I’ll make that call tomorrow after training.

“In their minds they all want to play … as Aaron wanted to last week but he wasn’t quite right.

“But it’s a grand final so we’ve got to make sure that the players tick all the boxes physically and if they do that they’ll certainly be available.

“If they don’t, we’ll play someone (else) as we have done before.

“It’s the same with Bridge, he’ll train today, but even without seeing him train today, I’m pretty sure he’ll be fine.”

One player the Wanderers must do without is influential winger Youssouf Hersi, who will miss the match through suspension.

While youngster Kwabena Appiah-Kubi is Hersi’s most likely replacement, Popovic said he had yet to decide who will fill-in on the right, with Labinot Haliti and Tarek Elrich also possibilities.

“We have two or three different options we’ve been thinking about which we’ll decide in the next couple of days,” Popovic said.

“Whoever’s come in, they’ve all done well when given an opportunity and they’ve all done well under pressure.

“Every player that’s come in under pressure and in front of a big crowd, they’ve all delivered. That’s pleasing for the coaching staff and a good headache to have.”

Fri 19 April, 2013
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