From the moment Adelaide United held aloft the Premiers Plate in Season 1 of the A-League expectation has grown in the City of Churches only to be crushed either by internal club drama or Melbourne Victory. The Reds have played finals in 7 of the first 10 A-League season however their finals campaigns have generally ended in tears.
This year's finals series represents Adelaide's third in succession, which is some achievement given the clubs history of yoyoing up and down the table following a finals charge. Manager Josep Gombau has developed a culture where winning is expected but not at the expense of attractive football. Gombau has maintained throughout his tenure that the style of play is almost as important as results however that goes out the window in the heat of sudden death finals. The Reds showed their appetite for the pressure contest during their charge to becoming the inaugural FFA Cup champions.
Although results have dropped following the Cup win the Reds have now got themselves within a game of another Grand Final, odds on to be against Melbourne Victory. The team that cruelly ended Adelaide's previous Grand Final dreams in 2007 and again in 2009. The Reds face the difficult task of playing Sydney in Sydney for a spot in the final. Surprisingly the Reds enter the contest with a perfect away record against the Sky Blues with 3 wins at Allianz Stadium this season, the last of which was however somewhat unconvincing.
Although the bling of Sydney will be well rested following the week off, the battle hardened Reds will like their chances of progressing. Gombau's style of maintaining possession allows Adelaide to entrench themselves in the contest even away from home. With a range of attacking threats who share the goal scoring (Sanchez 8, Carrusca 7, Cirio 7, Djite 6, Mabil 5, Goodwin 4) the Reds are hard to contain and Sydney will need to alert to the multi pronged threat.
For Adelaide their focus will centre on target man Marc Janko who led the league with 16 goals in his debut season. Sydney also possess goal threats through Ibini and Brosque and off the bench from Shane Smeltz in a squad which on paper looks hard to beat.
Both teams have been on the front foot in the build up to the game which is a sure sign that both teams are anxious for the game to start. Graham Arnold is renowned for playing mind games pre match but the talk won't count for much come Saturday night when both teams start the match on a level playing field.
For Adelaide the time is now to put to rest the demons of finals series past. Last weeks 2-1 victory over Brisbane coupled with the FFA Cup Final win in December should have given the players the confidence to understand what is required to win finals football. They have a manager who has developed a plan capable of beating anyone, anywhere. Although all the talk is about the Melbourne Derby and whether the Grand Final should be held hosted by Melbourne Victory or Sydney FC, don't discount a United v City Grand Final at the Adelaide Oval!
All will be revealed on Saturday night!