Ninkovic v Castro: Who'll come out on top?

If form on the board and statistics hold true, Sydney FC's Milos Ninkovic and not Perth Glory's Diego Castro will be the dominant force in Saturday night's semi-final at Allianz Stadium.

Diego Castro Milos Ninkovic

Diego Castro, left, will go head to head with Sydney's Milos Ninkovic Source: Getty Images

Diego Castro is a brilliant player who has done extraordinary things for Perth against many other teams this season, but by his own high standards he has been a non-factor against Sydney.

In three games against the Sky Blues this season, two of which he started and the other where he came off the bench in the 68th minute, Castro has no wins, no goals and no assists.

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Ninkovic, in the same three clashes, has three wins, two goals and three assists.

Castro has still had his good moments, but Sydney, with their superior fitness and suffocating defence, have proven their ability to consistently clamp down on the Spaniard - and the teammates he tries to find.

The World Game looks at the two stars from several angles heading into this winner-take-all match.

CONTRIBUTION

Ninkovic: The Serbian has nine goals and 10 assists in his 26 games. He may be 32, but there are no signs of him slowing down. He has a big engine - the club's own tracking shows he is consistently at or near the top for the amount of running he does - and he links up brilliantly with his teammates.

Castro: Advancing age isn't dulling his skills either. Leads the competition for chances created (68 in his 26 games) and has 13 goals and seven assists. Often holds the ball up in front of multiple defenders who think they have him covered before delivering a stunning pass to a support player.

MENTALITY

Ninkovic: Unselfish player who delights in playing a hand in someone else scoring as much as he likes scoring himself. Has worked very hard on his game and been determined to fit into coach Graham Arnold's system - last season he was good, but this season he is great.



Castro: He is the Glory system. Expects a huge amount of himself and his teammates. Knows how good he is and wants to take responsibility accordingly. Constantly challenges defenders to prove they are up to the task of matching him. Like a spider with a fly sometimes.

WHERE THEY SCORE FROM

Ninkovic: All nine of his goals (seven off his right foot and two from his left) have come from inside the box, proving his expert finishing ability from within that danger area. That's how Sydney mostly operate, building up through multiple players right down to a finish from fairly close range.

Castro: He has five penalties in his 13 goals, as well as another goal from a direct free kick. His other seven have all come from inside the box, where his excellent close control and ability to squeeze the ball through gaps have come to the fore. All his goals have come off the right foot.

SUMMING UP:

Ninkovic: Could Sydney win the championship without him? The answer is probably yes, but that is not to suggest he isn't hugely important to the team. Obviously, they are a much better chance of winning it with him, but it's a tribute to him that he fits so well into a great team structure.

Castro: Could Perth win the championship without him? Almost certainly not. It's going to be hard enough for them to win it with him, with all of their travel and having to face Sydney in the semis. So much of what they do revolves around him. If he wasn't there they would be in trouble.


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4 min read
Published 27 April 2017 at 5:00pm
By Greg Prichard