Victory are nervous and afraid claims Wanderers' Santalab

Western Sydney Wanderers striker Brendon Santalab thinks defending champions Melbourne Victory are probably "nervous" about their own circumstances and "afraid" of the quality of play the competition leaders are producing.


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Ahead of the massive game between the two teams at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night, The World Game asked Santalab if he thought the pressure was on Victory, even though they are at home, because they are the team trying to make up ground on the competition table.

"I'm sure they're well aware of where they are on the table and what they have ahead of them as well and the fact that (Fahid Ben) Khalfallah and (Rashid) Mahazi are out as well will make them a little nervous, I feel," he said.

"You know, where I think they're a little bit afraid of our quality of play that they've seen from us this season and we go into the game with nothing to fear and I feel that's a great feeling and great position to be in.

"It's  a massive game and even more so for Victory than us. I think we don't have the pressure on us at this point, with the way we're playing football and our position on the table, and we can put ourselves in a position where we can be nine points clear of Victory if we win this game.

"Victory are going into their Asian Champions League campaign soon and I feel that with our legs being fresh for the run home and Victory facing a hectic schedule and fatigue, we've got a chance to go further ahead along the way in the remaining 10 games."

Wanderers are on 33 points, six ahead of fourth-placed Victory. Second-placed Brisbane Roar, who are four points ahead of Victory, play at home to last-placed Central Coast Mariners in the early game on Saturday night.

The finals format currently used in the A-League is a three-week sprint that is heavily weighted towards the teams that finish one-two in the regular season. In the three years it has been used, the top two teams have both made the grand final each time.

Santalab said Wanderers had every right to feel good about the way they were playing - as long as they didn't become cocky.

"I think it would be silly not to be confident with the way we're travelling at the moment, without getting ahead of ourselves or too confident," he said.

"We're playing some fantastic football and I feel as though against Melbourne City last week we probably should have won the game comfortably, by possibly five or six (instead of 4-3).

"We let them back into the game with a lapse of concentration just over a period of three or four minutes and it's a fine line between that and whether you go on and give someone five or six.

"It wasn't to be against Melbourne City, but we feel with the way we're playing and further progress we have the potential to do that to opposing teams.

"We're coming to the crunch end of the season and every point is vital in the rounds that are left. It's at a critical stage of the season right now and Victory, you know, they've been up and down a little bit and it's probably the best time to face Victory."

This is the second clash between Wanderers and Victory this season. Wanderers won 2-0 at Pirtek Stadium in round 10.

Victory are unbeaten at home this season, having recorded six wins and a draw, but Wanderers have done quite well away, where they have four wins, two draws and two losses.

Santalab said Wanderers should be able to step up away from home against Victory as well.

"I think the key to when we beat them at home was shutting out (Besart) Berisha, Khalfallah and (Kosta) Barbarouses, three attackers who, on any day, you can't let them breathe," Santalab said.

"They're top-quality players and they will punish you if you give them space and time on the ball and I felt as though we restricted them in every aspect in that game and totally dominated against last year's champions.

"We felt after that game it was a big step forward for us in terms of where we were at and we've continued to progress from then on.

"Victory have made it their fortress at home this season, but we've been very consistent both home and away and hard to beat at all times.

"The Victory are the Victory, they're a class outfit with a class coach and they've proved that time and time again. You have to be ready for them.

"Just because they're a little bit off the pace at the moment and probably not playing as fluent as they would like or getting the results they would like, they're still dangerous in every aspect and you have to show them plenty of respect and prepare yourself as well as possible." 

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5 min read
Published 4 February 2016 at 7:24pm
By Greg Prichard