"We have been preparing for this all year": Ange Postecoglou. Photo: Getty Images
Ange Postecoglou goes into the sudden-death final against Perth Glory with a crucial choice to make: does he stick with proven finals performer Leigh Broxham in midfield, or does he give the nod to inconsistent marquee man Marcos Flores?
Broxham has been a revelation under Postecoglou this season, the midfielder becoming a crucial utility who has covered for his coach in several positions. But he is most effective as a scurrying fetcher and carrier in the centre of the park and has established a good playing relationship with Mark Milligan and Billy Celeski.
Flores is a classy player whose skill and inventiveness can be invaluable as match-winning assets in crucial games. But, despite some impressive cameos where he looks capable of playing at a level beyond many of his teammates, he has not looked entirely convincing all season.
The Melbourne Victory coach might err on the side of Broxham, reasoning he can be unleashed to devastating effect later in the game when circumstances could require a fresh approach.
Teenager Jason Geria, who made his starting debut in the 3-2 win over Wellington on Sunday, looks likely to retain his place at right back in a team that should otherwise be unchanged.
Whichever line-up he goes with, Postecoglou is sure his side can put Perth in its place.
''We are very confident,'' he said. ''I am not the sort of person who goes into a finals series without the belief that we can win the competition.
''We have been preparing for this all year - we made it our intent to play finals football and we are there now. We will give it our best shot and I reckon our best shot will go pretty close.
''You are building a team that you anticipate will play finals football, so you are working on it during the year.''
A frenzied atmosphere will be no problem for his team, Postecoglou said, and is likely to be to its advantage as opponents might struggle in the conditions.
''The tempo and intensity early on is always up a notch,'' he said. ''There is the pressure of knowing it's a big game with a big crowd. That always raises the heartbeat of players … the beauty for us is that we get it every second week and we are, hopefully, better prepared than anyone else.
''Playing for this club prepares you well for finals games. We have played derby games, matches against Sydney and Adelaide, even the Western Sydney games. They are big games and our players are constantly under that pressure and scrutiny, knowing if you make a mistake you are going to make it in front of 25,000 to 30,000 people.''
Meanwhile, Perth Glory striker Shane Smeltz may have declared himself available for Friday night's elimination final but he is still in the dark as to whether he'll get a starting role. Smeltz hasn't played since requiring 15 stitches for a nasty gash to the forehead while playing for New Zealand a fortnight ago.
The 31-year-old had the stitches out earlier this week and travelled as part of Glory's 16-man squad to Melbourne on Friday.
But Dean Heffernan's best-on-ground performance in last week's 1-1 draw against Adelaide United means Smeltz is no certainty to slot straight back into the starting line-up.
Glory coach Alistair Edwards was full of praise for Heffernan, who normally plies his trade as a defender but flourished as a striker against Adelaide.
However, it would be a tough call to leave out Smeltz, who thrives on the big stage and is the A-League's highest goalscorer with 73 goals in 119 games.
''Shane's a big-game player, there's no doubt about that,'' Edwards said on Thursday.
''But Dean's performance on the weekend has really put the cat amongst the pigeons.
''We're going to put out a team that's going to cause Melbourne Victory as much problems as we can … Whether that includes Shane or Dean, you'll have to wait until the team runs out on Friday.''