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Poppa tips WSW to handle A-League stress

NZN 31/03/2016 Adrian Warren

Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic expects his players to handle the pressure, expectation and emotion surrounding the thrilling battle for the A-League premier's plate and their last match at their home venue.

Only two points separate the fourth-placed Wanderers from ladder leaders Melbourne City with just two rounds to go.

A win over last-placed Central Coast on Friday will lift Popovic's club to the top for at least 24 hours.

If that wasn't enough incentive and pressure, there's the inevitable flood of emotion that will hit Pirtek Stadium, which is going to be rebuilt, with the Wanderers utilising ANZ Stadium and Spotless Stadium for at least next season.

"We played them (the Mariners) in our first game here round one, year one, and now it will be our last league game here (for the time being)," Popovic said on Thursday.

"We're looking forward to finishing this part of the journey on a high and sending everyone home happy on the weekend.

"It's a big game in the context of the season. There are two games to go, it's the business end.

"You could say there's pressure and expectation.

"But I think we've shown in our short history that's something this football club has always dealt with very well, the pressures, whether they are external or internal.

"The players have always shown they are capable of handling that and have come out on trumps on many occasions.

"I expect in front of a big crowd tomorrow night that our players will stand up once again and come home with the three points."

Confirmed wooden spooners Central Coast will finish with the least amount of wins in a season in their history if they don't record just their fourth victory of a wretched campaign on Friday.

"We all hate being bottom of the league, we all hate the number of wins we've got," Mariners' coach Tony Walmsley said.

"As massive a challenge as that is, it gives us an opportunity to cut out those mistakes again and see if we can get something out of the game."

The Mariners are sweating on a fitness test on Friday for captain and midfielder Nick Montgomery, who is battling to recover from a calf injury.

STATS THAT MATTER

*Western Sydney have won both of their matches against Central Coast so far this season, though they have never beaten the Mariners three times in a single season

*If the Mariners don't win their final two matches of the season, they will finish with their fewest wins ever in an A-League season

*The Wanderers have won every (seven) home game this season whenever they have gone ahead in the match.

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