Wanderers farewell skipper ahead of grand final rematch
FOOTBALL: Western Sydney Wanderers skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley has sprung a surprise ahead of tomorrow night's A-League grand final rematch with Adelaide United, asking for a release to pursue a career elsewhere.
Topor-Stanley, who was suspended for last weekend's 4-0 loss to Sydney FC, was expected to return for the clash at Coopers Stadium.
"The situation with Nikolai has changed this morning where he's got an opportunity possibly overseas that we're allowing him to have a look at today and possibly pursue,” coach Tony Popovic said.
"We've got Jonathan (Aspropotamitis) and Brendan Hamill that are ready to step in.”
It was later confirmed the big central defender, who Popovic said was not guaranteed a starting spot, is set to fly to Dubai to link with the newly promoted Hatta Sports Club in the UAE Pro League.
The 31-year-old was in the final year of his contract with the Wanderers but is reportedly set to sign one-year deal with Hatta, with an option for the contract to be extended for a second season.
The central defender's loss could hit the Wanderers hard, especially with new signing Aritz Borda suspended following his red card in last week's derby defeat.
Popovic was sure there was enough cover at the back, adding: "We've built a squad that we feel that anyone can play and there was no guarantee Nikolai was playing tomorrow.”
Former Socceroo Robert Cornthwaite and Jack Clisby are new additions to the Wanderers' defensive stocks alongside youngster Aspropoatimits and Hamill.
One of those will probably line up alongside Cornthwaite in the heart of the defence, with Popovic saying the players needed a bit of breathing space.
"That'll take time to gel,” he said. "Three of the back four were different from last year.
"We had a new back four at the start of last season, which took time to gel.”
Adelaide United centre back Iacopo La Rocca said he was sure the Wanderers would come out firing at Coopers Stadium as they looked to gain some sort of revenge for last year's 3-1 grand final defeat and last week's 4-0 loss.
"I expect a different reaction,” said the Italian, who played 58 times during a three-year spell at Western Sydney.
"I know Poppa (Popovic) and I know he will push the team hard.
"I know too that they will push for the three points but we are at home and we will go for the win too.”