Victory aim to derail Wanderers’ ALM finals hopes

Joanna Guelas |

Leigh Broxham will play his final regular-season ALM game when Victory host Western Sydney.
Leigh Broxham will play his final regular-season ALM game when Victory host Western Sydney.

Already locked into an A-League Men elimination final, Melbourne Victory are looking to spoil Western Sydney Wanderers’ post-season aspirations and send Leigh Broxham out on a high.

Tony Popovic’s side host the Wanderers at AAMI Park on Saturday, and while Victory’s finals path is decided, the same cannot be said for their opponents.

After slipping to a disappointing 2-1 loss to visiting Melbourne City last round, Marko Rudan’s men must win if they are to move past the home-and-away season.

But even a win may not be enough.

The Wanderers – who sit seventh, two points behind City – also need struggling Western United to pull off an upset win on Sunday against Aurelio Vidmar’s sixth-placed side.

Popovic will use the Wanderers game as a dress rehearsal for his side’s do-or-die finals match.

“The Wanderers, they need the result so it’s actually quite good,” Popovic said on Friday.

“I’m sure they wouldn’t be happy where they are, but if you look at their lineup and their squad, there’s a lot of quality in that team.

“They’ll bring their quality, their passion, their energy, their intensity – which can help us for our own motivation, which is to win, but to be in the best shape possible for next week.”

If denying the Wanderers a spot in May was not enough of an incentive, Victory will also be looking to celebrate Broxham’s last home-and-away season appearance in style.

Broxham, the league’s games-record holder, this week announced his retirement after 18 seasons in the competition.

Famously starting his career as the club kit man before making his debut in 2007, Broxham has played all 384 of his ALM games for Victory.

The 36-year-old has been involved in all of the club’s league wins to date, celebrating four championships (2006-07, 2008-09, 2014-15 and 2017-18) as well as premierships in 2006-07, 2008-09 and 2014-15.

“He’s such a loved figure in football and at this football club,” Popovic said.

“I feel very honoured and privileged to have coached him for what is the third season now.

“He won’t talk about it, but we’d love to send him out on a high and actually win silverware this year.”

While defender Jason Geria sits on the sidelines at the start of his two-match ban following his sending off against Brisbane Roar last time out, midfielders Ryan Teague and Jordi Valadon return to Popovic’s side from the Olyroos’ failed Olympic qualifying attempt at the U23 Asian Cup.

Victory have appealed against Geria’s sanction in a bid to reduce his suspension to one week.