Western United is back in Ballarat for the second of three straight home matches in the Isuzu UTE A-League Men, taking on Adelaide United on Sunday.
Isuzu UTE A-League Men Round 5
Western United vs Adelaide United
Sunday, 26 November
Kick-off: 5:00pm AEDT
Mars Stadium, Ballarat
Broadcast: The match will be broadcast live on Paramount+
John Aloisi will welcome Jacob Tratt back into his squad with the Western United defender returning to contention after recovering from a hamstring injury.
James Donachie remains absent but the rest of the squad is fit and available with Aloisi carrying a plethora of options into this showdown with the Reds.
Noah Botic will be hoping to start after returning from international duty while the likes of Nikita Rukavytsya and Ramy Najjarine will be angling for their first starts of the season.
Western United squad: 1. Tom HEWARD-BELLE (gk), 6. Tomoki IMAI, 7. Ramy NAJJARINE, 8. Lachie WALES, 9. Michael RUHS, 10. Steven LUSTICA, 11. Daniel PENHA, 13. Nikita RUKAVYTSYA, 17. Ben GARUCCIO, 19. Josh RISDON, 21. Sebastian PASQUALI, 22. Kane VIDMAR, 24. Connor O’TOOLE, 27. Jacob TRATT, 32. Angus THURGATE, 33. Matt SUTTON (gk), 38. Noah BOTIC, 39. Matthew GRIMALDI, 42. Rhys BOZINOVSKI, 77. Riku DANZAKI
Last time out
Despite controlling large parts of the contest, Western United fell to a 1-0 defeat against Newcastle Jets last time out.
United twice had the ball in the back of the net but both goals were disallowed, leaving the Green and Black to rue missed chances in the game.
Western United vs Adelaide United has produced some classics in the past, none more so than the first two meetings between the two teams – a 4-3 win for Adelaide and a stunning 5-1 triumph to Western United.
The Reds hold a marginal advantage in the head-to-head standings with four wins to Western’s three, but Aloisi’s side will carry confidence from a 1-0 victory at Coopers Stadium in the most recent meeting.
Key Matchup: Noah Botic vs Nestory Irankunda
This fixture sees two of Australia’s brightest and most exciting young talents lock horns with Botic and Nestory Irankunda taking centre stage.
Fans will have the opportunity to watch the two youngsters sparkle in Ballarat with both set to be key influencers on the outcome of the match.
Botic has started all four of Western United’s league fixtures so far and will approach this match with a boost after scoring two goals on Olyroos duty during the week.
The 21-year-old attacker has become a regular in Aloisi’s side and will be out to lead the line once again and pull his team to victory.
At the other end of the pitch, Irankunda is arguably the Isuzu UTE A-League’s most exciting player with explosive athleticism, electric pace and brilliant skill with the ball.
Western United’s defenders will have their hands full trying to stop him but if they can do so, Botic and co. will be ready to make an impact at the opposite end.
Player to Watch: Ramy Najjarine
Najjarine has come off the bench in each of United’s four fixtures so far and impressed on each occasion with his creativity and skill on the wing.
Enduring a difficult time with injuries since joining the Club in January, Najjarine is continuing to build his match fitness and will be pushing for his first Western United start this weekend.
With the No.7 on his back this season, Najjarine has the quality to unlock an opposition defence and in what could be an open, free-flowing game against Adelaide, he will have an impact once again.
The 23-year-old, whether he starts or comes off the bench, will fancy himself to get his first goal or assist in the Green and Black and hope to fire his team to victory.
Words from John Aloisi
On the work done on the training pitch to try to get the goals flowing again
“It’s something we’ve been working on, we’ve been getting into those areas and we’ve dominated the last two games. Even re-analysing the games we know we’re getting into good areas, and sometimes our final ball can be a little better, and our decision making in the final third can be a little better.
“That’s something in these two weeks we’ve been able to work on, and the boys have been really good. The actual intensity of training, the improvement in the last few weeks – it’s the best we’ve been all pre-season and in the season in terms of our training levels.”
On the prospect of coming up against Nestory Irankunda
“He’s such a talent and it’s great for Australian football, it’s great for the A-Leagues that he’s here until the end of the season.
“He’s exciting for any neutral fan to come and watch him. We know his strengths, we know he’s a player that we have to make sure we don’t give too much space. They’ve got good young players and we have to make sure we play our game and we know their strengths as well.
Words from the playing squad – Noah Botic
On coming back to Western United with confidence after his Olyroos brace
“It was very important, not scoring for a couple of weeks it can sort of get to you to some extent. Obviously scoring two goals, it lifts the confidence a lot and I’m sure any striker can say the same.”
On the team staying positive and looking ahead to the next game
“I think we can turn things around. The boss is always telling us to stay positive. It’s a part of football, losing, and it’s something we can control within games.
“Last game I felt like we dominated and we were creating those chances to score and we just couldn’t put them away. That’s part of football, it’s something you can’t dwell on, you’ve just got to shrug it off your shoulders and go again the next week.”