So it's finally here, although in such a short 10-week season, it's more like it's already here. I hold out for a future with at least 14-rounds, so each team can play each-other. But that aside, let's look at the 2009 Grand Final first, because it's going to be a cracker. While Canberra United did deserve to be in the inagural decider in the 2008/09 season, the grand final against Roar was a bit of a fizzer just because injuries robbed United of a real chance to compete. Amy Chapman could only hobble due to a knee injury and Brisbane set-up the early goal through a counter-attack down the wing she was playing on. From there, they shut it out early. Saturday's game could still go the same way, but just on the way that both have played this year, I think it will be close - if not go down to the wire.
THE GAME-PLAN - If either team does want to wrap this up early, which let's face it, they do, then early goals will be key. But it's going to be a bit of a tricky mix. Because Brisbane have the best defensive line in the W-League and one of Australia's best goal-keepers, but Sydney FC's forward line is surely the most deadly. Michelle Heyman might have been a one-woman goal-scoring machine for the Mariners, but Sydney have so many scoring options. Sydney FC's defence is possibly their weak-spot, particulary with Alesa Clifford out suspended this week. But Brisbane's forward line will be missing Sasha McDonnell who is also suspended, who created plenty of chances against the Mariners last week. So on those musings, it looks like Sydney FC will create great chances but be shut-out by a great defence, while Brisbane may create less chances against what's seen as the weaker defence - although they are still very capable. So basically in my confusing little equation there I think it's going to take some spectacular efforts to open the scoring for either team, and both teams certainly have those players.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
SARAH WALSH (Sydney FC) Walsh is one of the best strikers in the world, when she sees a chance, she takes it as in last week's beautifully converted Kyah Simon cross. Very, very dangerous.
HEATHER GARRIOCK (Sydney FC) As much as Paaske and Rydahl add so much class to Sydney FC's midfield, the Sydney FC captain is just the heart and soul of the team. She's such a technically great player, but a gutsy one too.
TAMEKA BUTT (Brisbane Roar) If there was ever a game they needed Butt to score, it's this one. The winger is no stranger to it though, has bagged a hat-trick this year and is a competent finisher when needed. Could be the difference.
CASEY DUMONT (Brisbane Roar) So yes, I'll bring it up again. But that first penalty Dumont took against Sydney FC last year? This girl just has mountains of confidence in the big games. Has hardly set a foot wrong all year and will be very very hard to get past in Brisbane's goal.
THE TEAMS - So a straight swap for Sydney, with experienced defender Lisa Gilbert coming into the team for Alesha Clifford. Will Alen Stajcic start with Gilbert in the back though? Or perhaps 15-year-old Teigan Allen who has played for the Young Matildas and a few games this year? Kylie Ledbrook was great when she went back after Clifford's red last week, but I think she's too valuable for the midfield. For Brisbane if Courtney Beutel is fit then I'd assume she'd start for Sasha. Brisbane have named Jenna Tristram, but I think she's very, very unlikely to play. It could be a great chance for some of the Roar's young strikers, like Steph Latham, to get a go.
Referee: Kate Jacewicz
Sydney FC squad: 1. Nikola DEITER (gk), 2. Teigen ALLEN, 5. Lisa GILBERT 6. Servet UZUNLAR, 7. Heather GARRIOCK (c), 8. Julie RYDAHL, 9. Sarah WALSH, 10. Kylie LEDBROOK, 11. Cathrine PAASKE, 12. Michelle CARNEY, 13. Catherine CANNULI, 15. Kyah SIMON, 16. Linda O’NEILL, 18. Whitfield, BRITTANY 19. Leena KHAMIS, 20. Carla MONFORTE (gk)
In: Lisa GILBERT (promoted)
Out: Alesha CLIFFORD (suspended)
Unavailable: Nicola BOLGER (knee - season), Danielle BROGAN (knee – season)
Brisbane Roar squad: 1. Casey DUMONT (gk) 2. Kate MCSHEA, 3. Karla REUTER 4. Clare POLKINGHORNE (c), 6. Joanne BURGESS, 7. Pam BIGNOLD, 8. Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, 9 Jenna TRISTRAM, 10.Lana HARCH, 11. Aivi LUIK, 12. Steph LATHAM 13. Tameka BUTT, 15. Leah CURTIS 16. Lauren COLTHORPE 18. Courtney BEUTEL, 19. Ellen BEAUMONT, 20. Kate STEWART (gk), 21. Alisha FOOTE *two to be omitted*
In: Alisha FOOTE (promoted), Leah CURTIS (promoted), Jenna TRISTRAM (promoted), Stephanie LATHAM (promoted)
Out: Sasha MCDONNELL (suspended)
Unavailable: Emily GIELNIK (foot - season), Brooke SPENCE (ankle - season)
*Head-to-Heads: Played 3 Sydney FC wins 0, Brisbane Roar wins 1, Draws 2.
My prediction? It's almost too close to call, but I like the underdog and I think Brisbane will want to make up for only finishing third in the regular season. So the Roar to win 2-1, although I think Sydney FC are favourites and very much deserve to be.