Wanderers well aware of Berisha factor

Besart Berisha is without question Brisbane Roar's key attacking weapon in Sunday's grand final against Western Sydney Wanderers, and the statistics back it up.

Watch the A-League Grand Final between Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers on SBS 2 and in HD and online on delay from 4.30pm AEST on Sunday 4 May

It's the statistic that matters most in grand final week, further illuminating, as it does, the crucial importance of the A-League's best striker to Roar's cause.

Can Berisha do it again for Brisbane one last time on the way out, before joining Melbourne Victory next season? Or will the Wanderers manage to keep him scoreless, as they have done four of the six times they have come up against the sharp shooter?

Results in Roar-Wanderers games have turned around this season. Last season, Wanderers won all four clashes - 1-0, 1-0, 2-1 and, finally, 2-0 in a semi-final. Berisha played in all four games and came up empty each time.

This season, Roar beat Wanderers 3-1 in Brisbane, and the two subsequent regular-season clashes, both played in Sydney, ended in 1-1 draws.

Berisha scored the opening goal in each of the first two games, but missed the third game through suspension.

He is primed for the grand final, having scored the only goal in Roar's 1-0 semi-final win over Melbourne Victory with a typically deadly strike.

Wanderers goalkeeper Ante Covic was involved in some lively clashes with Berisha last season. There was some sledging, some unnecessary contact - it was tremendous, competitive stuff.

The rivalry hasn't been so outwardly obvious this season but rest assured each will be desperately trying to win the individual battle on Sunday because it could mean so much to the result.

"Oh, for sure," Covic said, when asked if he enjoys competing against Berisha.

"Look, you've definitely got characters in the league and some characters clash on the field. We've had our brushes, but that's to do with two guys who are very motivated and have each got a very big winners' mentality.

"I'd probably put us both in the category that we're sore losers.

"But you can't question what he does on the field. He's got a great goal-scoring record.

"You know he's dangerous - if he gets a chance he'll score a goal and he's one guy that I really don't want scoring against me. We've got to be careful when it comes to him.

"He's their key strikeforce. He's the one who has scored the goals for them the last few years.

"You don't want anyone to score, but you don't want him to score because that just lifts his confidence and he's the kind of player that wants more and more.

"But they've got a lot of good players. Thomas Broich won player of the year at the A-League awards and he's been absolutely phenomenal for them. He sets up their plays so many times and he's key to them.

"They've got a great midfield, great defence. They've got a lot of players to watch for and we have to be switched on."

Covic said the key to restricting Berisha's impact was to reduce the amount of quality ball he received, from Broich and others.

"Yeah, look, it's not about Berisha - it's about the whole Brisbane squad," Covic said.

"They've got Broich, whose been fantastic this year, they've got (Ivan) Franjic, who's back fit and who runs up and down those sides creating havoc, they've got (Luke) Brattan in the middle and such solid central defenders as 'Jado' (Jade North) and Matt Smith.

"They're a team, and if we let the team play they're going to get the service to the guys up front and that's when Berisha is at his most dangerous.

"We're not worrying about Berisha as such, or Thomas Broich, we've got to focus on the whole team to make sure we nullify what they're capable of doing.

"There's probably a million stats you can put out there, but we're not going to be looking at stats.

"We're going to be looking at our own game plan, and even though this year we haven't won a game against them, in all three games we dominated for large parts. We just didn't put the ball in the net.

"And the one victory they did have against us, they had a fantastic first 20 minutes during which they punished us with two goals and we never recovered. We probably had the rest of the game, but football comes down to putting the ball in the back of the net and they did that three times."

Brisbane captain Smith says there will be no risk of Berisha letting emotion in his last match for the club put him off his game.

"Besart is a very good professional," Smith said. "He'll be extremely focused on one thing, to do well for the team and finish his contribution to the club with hopefully another grand final win.

"His preparation week in, week out, regardless of the situation, has been very professional. He always puts the team first and I expect the same thing in the grand final.

"There will be no-one more than Besart who wants to do well for the club on Sunday."

Source SBS