Melbourne Victory have form on their side but history against them as they seek to cap a stellar season with the club’s second championship win.
Premiers Melbourne Victory are wary of Sam Kerr’s firepower and refuse to claim the favourites tag heading into the finals series despite a strong record against the other three teams.
The Victory crowned an impressive campaign by finishing top of the standings with a 2-1 final-round win over Kerr’s fourth-placed Perth Glory on Friday night.
Those two teams meet again on Sunday for a spot in the grand final against either Brisbane Roar or Sydney FC, who clash in the day’s other semi-final.
The two-week finals series looks wide open after the tightest season on record with just five points separating the top six on the ladder.
“It’s a whole new ball-game in the finals series,” said Victory coach Jeff Hopkins.
“We’ll keep our feet on the ground and we’ll keep focused on next week.”
It has been a smooth and steady approach from Victory who have built impressively over three years under Hopkins.
The former Welsh international defender knows a thing or two about finals football, having two won grand finals with Brisbane Roar in the first few seasons of the W-League.
Form is on the Victory’s side with three wins and a draw in their five matches against the other finalists this season, including a pair of 2-1 victories over Perth Glory.
But Matildas superstar Kerr looms large, having topped the regular season scoring with 13 goals from her 11 games – including one against Victory on Friday.
That’s four more goals than next-best scorers Natasha Dowie (Victory), Caitlin Foord (Sydney FC) and Veronica Latsko (Adelaide United).
“We know what we have to do against Perth,” Hopkins said.
“The good thing is we have that match (last Friday) in our head, not in our legs.
“Obviously Sam Kerr and Rachel Hill are always a threat, and you have (Alyssa) Mautz there as well.”
History is against the Victory, with only one table-topping team going on to win the grand final since 2012.
Victory’s one grand final win across the 11 seasons of the competition came in 2014.
But before they can think about next weekend, the Victory must complete their regular-season campaign with a catch-up match against Canberra United on Tuesday.
While the club have no major injury concerns, they are likely to rest a couple of players, including American Dani Weatherholt who was substituted against Perth with back soreness.
Brisbane Roar and Sydney FC renew their long-term rivalry in the second semi-finals, their fifth finals match-up but first since 2013.
The free-scoring Sydney FC secured a tough 3-1 win on their last visit to Brisbane just a fortnight ago, and routed the Roar 5-1 earlier in the season.
But the Sky Blues’ juggernaut has hit a speed bump in recent weeks with a draw against the Victory, followed by a one-sided 2-0 defeat against dethroned champions Melbourne City.
Sunday, 10 February
Melbourne Victory vs Perth Glory – AAMI Park, 2pm AEDT
Brisbane Roar vs Sydney FC – Dolphin Stadium, 7:15pm AEDT
Highest-placed winner to host the grand final on 16 or 17 February.