Popovic hopes Castro stays

Coach Tony Popovic would love to see marquee import Diego Castro stay with Perth Glory for another A-League season.

The West Australian side are in the hunt for their first championship this time thanks in part to the skills of the Spanish midfielder. His contract expires at the end of this season but Popovic is hoping the 36-year-old will remain for a possible Asian Champions League campaign next year.

"I'm sure he can go on; I don't have any doubt about him going on after what I've seen," said the former Western Sydney coach, who took over at Perth before the start of the season. "He is well enough and fit enough to continue and make an impact.

"I have the utmost respect for Diego as a person and a player. If he decides he wants to play at the end of the year, well then I'd love that to be with us at Perth."

Popovic said the 2014/15 Johnny Warren Medal winner had his focus on playing at the moment and his future would be resolved at the end of the season.

Meanwhile, owner Tony Sage said: "We've always done the negotiations with him in June. He'll make up his mind by then."

Castro has played 90 games and scored 38 goals for the club since joining from Getafe in 2015.

The Glory will have former Melbourne City marquee Bruno Fornaroli joining them from the start of next season, which Sage believes might help persuade Castro to sign up for another year.

Perth will take a big step towards securing the Premiers' Plate if they can beat last season's champions Melbourne Victory on Saturday. With five rounds left, Popovic's side are nine points ahead of Sydney FC, with Victory in third a further point behind.

Perth Glory are 6/4 to win the Grand Final and 19/20 to win their next game against Melbourne Victory, who are 13/5 with the draw 13/5.

Perth close in on Premiers’ Plate

Perth Glory extended their lead at the top of the A-League to nine points with a comfortable 2-0 win away to Adelaide United.

Goals either side of the break from Diego Castro and Andy Keogh saw Tony Popovic's side return to winning ways after back-to-back draws.

The Glory have now suffered just one defeat in 22 rounds, and are closing in on the Premier's Plate.

Adelaide have gone five games without a win and could fall to sixth spot by the end of the round.

Castro silenced the jeers of the United fans at Coopers Stadium when he put Perth ahead 10 minutes before the break.

The Spaniard had just fired horribly wide with what looked a straightforward chance, after United keeper Paul Izzo parried Chris Ikonomidis' curler into his path.

He made amends when he saw a shot from 15 metres out deflect off defender Scott Galloway past the wrong-footed Izzo to put the visitors in front.

Izzo made diving first-half saves from Chris Ikonomidis and Joel Chianese as Perth threatened to take command.

But he was left exposed with 20 minutes to go when captain Isaias turned over possession in his defensive half to substitute Keogh, who homed in on goal before sending his low shot past Izzo for his 13th goal of the season.

It meant Perth set a club record with their 15th victory of the campaign.

The pressure is now on their closest rivals Sydney FC to beat Melbourne City on Sunday and get the gap back to six points with five rounds left.

Meanwhile, defending premiers Sydney FC are 19/20 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 3/1 with the draw 5/2.

Sydney are 6/1 to win the game 1-0.

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Late Glory revival denies City

Captain Diego Castro scored in injury time to rescue a point for A-League leaders Perth Glory in a 2-2 draw away to Melbourne City.

The Spaniard let fly from distance with a shot which deceived City keeper Eugene Galekovic and completed the visitors' late revival.

Tony Popovic's side had trailed by two goals six minutes from time, but still managed to extend their unbeaten run to 12 games and increased their lead to six points at the top of the ladder.

They got back into the match when substitute Joel Chianese headed home a Jason Davidson cut-back, while Galekovic had had an outstanding match until being beaten by Castro's strike.

The keeper pulled off a pair of wonderful saves, one in each half, to deny first Chris Ikonomidis and then Andy Keogh.

City will be frustrated at their failure to hold on to their lead, despite having only 34 per cent of possession at AAMI Park and making 306 passes to Perth's 583.

The home side benefited from a controversial decision in the first half when referee Alex King gave a penalty against Shane Lowry for handball.

Lowry was bracing himself in a sliding challenge and had no chance of getting his arm out of the way of Florin Berenguer's cross, but the decision went against Perth.

Jamie Maclaren netted from the spot for his second goal of the game, making it five goals in his first four appearances for Warren Joyce's team.

The Socceroo had earlier given City the lead when he got between Matt Spiranovic and Lowry to head home a pinpoint Scott Jamieson cross.

Perth Glory are now 13/8 to win the Grand Final, while Andy Keogh is 5/2 to be top goalscorer in the A-League.

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Glory go seven points clear

Perth Glory opened up a seven-point gap at the top of the A-League with a 2-1 win away to nearest rivals Melbourne Victory.

Tony Popovic's side took a big step towards securing the premiership after taking a two-goal lead in the second half at AAMI Park.

Though Kosta Barbarouses pulled one back with 13 minutes to go the visitors held strong to see off Kevin Muscat's side for the second time this season.

There was controversy over the first Glory goal, scored from the penalty spot by Neil Kilkenny on 61 minutes, but Diego Castro produced an emphatic finish to double their advantage eight minutes later.

Neither side could find a cutting edge in the first half, with Barbarouses firing over and Elvis Kamsoba drawing a save from Perth keeper Liam Reddy.

Ivan Franjic sliced a shot wide for the visitors and they twice went close just before the break. First Chris Ikonomidis shot into the side netting, before Kenny Athiu had an effort blocked from close range.

Victory keeper Lawrence Thomas did well to palm away an effort from Castro just before the hour mark, with Perth then taking the lead.

Kilkenny's flicked pass into the penalty area struck the hand of full-back Corey Brown and he stepped up to convert the spot-kick.

Ikonomidis set up the second goal for Castro, his cross being volleyed past Thomas to put the Glory firmly in the driving seat.

Though Victory had Keisuke Honda making his return from a niggling hamstring injury they couldn't find a way back although Barbarouses' goal from Leigh Broxham's reverse pass made for a tense finish.

The Victory are 9/4 to win the Grand Final, with Perth priced at 15/8.

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Glory unlikely to rest stars

A-League leaders Perth Glory are set to name their strongest available team when they visit Melbourne City on Saturday.

The Glory are in the middle of a period of six games in January, which comes as a big test of their premiership credentials.

So far, despite being without star forward Chris Ikonomidis, who is playing for Australia at the Asian Cup, they have been able to maintain their lead at the top.

Tony Popovic's side have won all three games this month, scoring 11 goals in the process.

Popovic has rotated his squad for the past two games against Sydney FC and Western Sydney, making six and five changes respectively.

But when asked if he was tempted to rest any of his big names against a City side who are coming off a defeat to Central Coast, the coach indicated he would be putting out his first-choice team.

"I think this game, we've got enough time … we'll pick the team we want to play this game," he said. "We'll put out a team that we believe will win … it won't involve resting anyone."

The Glory have had captain Diego Castro on the bench for two of their past three games, including last time out when he scored against Western Sydney to help spark a 4-3 comeback win.

Wing-back Jason Davidson also came off the bench against Wanderers, while midfield general Neil Kilkenny did not feature.

The Glory will equal their club-record five-game winning streak if they take all three points against City.

The Glory are 19/10 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 6/4, with the draw 9/4.

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Skipper ‘on another level’ in Glory win

Diego Castro's introduction off the bench was pivotal to Perth Glory's stunning comeback in the 4-3 win over Western Sydney, says coach Tony Popovic.

With games coming thick and fast in January, Popovic opted to leave Spanish ace Castro on the bench at HBF Park.

The coach made five changes for the meeting with his former team and things didn't go to plan in the first half as Wanderers took the lead.

The Glory were unable to get a grip on the game so Popovic sent on Castro and Jason Davidson after the break, and the skipper was outstanding.

Perth were two goals behind twice in the match but rallied to preserve their six-point lead at the top of the A-League, scoring four times in the last 20 minutes.

Popovic admitted it had been a "crazy game", and one in which his team had defended poorly.

"It was no surprise that we struggled at times but we found a way to win," added the coach. "We weren't at our best but if you want to give yourself a chance to be there at the end these are the games you have got to come through.

"Diego did what Diego does; the last half an hour he controlled the whole game. His decisions were on another level to everyone else."

Castro netted Perth's first goal, getting them back into the game at 2-1 down.

Ivan Franjic and Andy Keogh netted to get the home side back level, with Juande completing the turn-around when he scored from the penalty spot after Keogh was dragged down by Brendan Hamill.

The Glory are 9/5 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 6/4 with the draw 9/4.

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Glory cross fingers for Castro

Perth Glory coach Tony Popovic would love to get Diego Castro back for the crunch clash with Sydney FC.

The Glory are undefeated after the first eight rounds but only have a two-point lead at the top as Melbourne Victory have intensified their challenge by winning six straight matches.

Perth know they will need as many of their first-choice players as possible available when they take on the Sky Blues, who have finished top of the table for the past two seasons.

Castro missed their 2-0 win over Newcastle Jets at McDonald Jones Stadium with a hamstring problem. The captain isn't, however, being affected by a recurrence of the hamstring injury which dogged him in the early weeks of the campaign according to Popovic.

"It was just tightness; a real precaution," said the coach. "He had a bit of a niggle at training, I think it was just the body adjusting to being back playing again.

"Now with a short turnaround, we need him to really train Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and see him train fully for him to be able to play. We certainly hope he can; I thought he was fantastic against Melbourne City and we'll do everything possible from our end to get him out there."

Popovic says with Perth having been so consistent since the start of the season it's only natural that the hype surrounding them has increased as they establish themselves as premiership contenders.

"That's something that we spoke about through the whole pre-season; we want the expectation to grow on the club," he added. "As a team, we have a chance to challenge this year and we're showing that at the moment, we're good enough to challenge."

The Glory are 6/4 to win their next game against Sydney FC, who are 17/10, with the draw 12/5.

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Castro pleased with return

Skipper Diego Castro may be ready for a full 90-minute outing for the first time this season when leaders Perth Glory travel to Newcastle Jets on Sunday.

The Spaniard missed the opening four rounds with a hamstring injury and hadn't been in the starting line up until last weekend's 1-0 win over Melbourne City.

Coach Tony Popovic has been easing him back into matches, naming him as a substitute in two games before deciding he could be risked from the start against City.

The 36-year-old was only withdraw five minutes before the end as the Glory made it seven consecutive unbeaten games to remain two points clear at the top of the table.

Castro said he was happy that he hadn't needed to rush back before he was ready, since the team were playing so well in their first campaign under Popovic.

"Even when I wasn't playing with the team, the team was still looking good; that takes a bit of pressure off me in terms of my recovery," he added.

"Now my focus is on taking the fitness to the best level again. I am happy with the result in that part."

When they take on last season's beaten Grand Finalists at McDonald Jones Stadium, Perth could have Spanish midfielder Juande back following a knee injury.

But they are sweating on the fitness of defender Matt Spiranovic, who lasted just 31 minutes against City on his league debut before limping off with what's believed to be a hamstring issue.

Alex Grant (foot) and Scott Neville (ankle) are still sidelined.

Perth Glory are 7/2 to win the Grand Final.

The Glory are 7/4 to win their next game against Newcastle, who are 7/5 with the draw 5/2.

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Greater depth helping Glory

Perth Glory's excellent start to the A-League campaign is in part due to them having greater depth in their squad, believes owner Tony Sage.

Former Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic has made an immediate impact since taking charge, guiding the Glory to the top of the table after four rounds.

And the fact that he's been able to do so without some of the squad's top names has been significant, as far as Sage is concerned.

The owner isn't getting carried away at this early stage of the campaign, but is certainly happy to have points in the bank after three consecutive wins.

"We haven't had Diego Castro, Matthew Spiranovic, Brendon Santalab or Chris Harold play this season yet – and three out of the four would probably make the starting team in years gone by," said Sage.

"That gives you an indication of the depth at the club; when you add those players to the equation it looks pretty good.

"There's also a completely different playing style now from the Perth Glory of the last four or five years, and the fitness levels are extremely high."

Popovic coached Wanderers to the premiership as well as three Grand Finals, and Sage says he has created a lot of depth at Perth by attracting quality players who want to work under him.

Their early-season form, which has seen them build a two-point gap at the top of the table, will have fans dreaming of a first A-League championship.

During Sage's time at the club, which now spans more than a decade, Perth have reached the Grand Final once and have lost in two FFA Cup finals.

He says it won't be until Round 15 that the league starts to take shape, adding: "I'm just happy we've got points in the bag before Christmas, when in the previous four or five years we haven't had that.

"There are lots of things that can happen, in terms of injuries and such, and we're taking nothing for granted I can assure you."

Perth are 5/1 to win the Grand Final.

The Glory are 2/5 to win their next game against Central Coast, who are 6/1 with the draw 15/4.

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Castro handed Glory armband

Perth Glory coach Tony Popovic is confident Diego Castro is the right man to lead the club into the new A-League season.

The Spaniard has been confirmed in the role ahead of Sunday's league opener against Western Sydney at Optus Stadium.

He will be supported by a three-man leadership team of Andy Keogh, Shane Lowry and Liam Reddy.

Popovic described Castro as a natural choice to lead the team in his first season in charge.

"During the three seasons that he has spent here at Perth Glory, he has been a leader on and off the field," said the former Wanderers coach.

"We are fortunate to have a strong leadership group in the squad which will be a great benefit for us throughout the exciting journey that lies ahead."

Castro was handed a new one-year deal in May after Popovic replaced Kenny Lowe as coach.

The former Johnny Warren Medal winner, who says the captaincy is a big honour and responsibility, doesn't expect it to change his game too much.

"It's a positive thing in my career and I'm ready for the new challenge … this will be an experience that will help me grow and develop," said the winger. "I've always tried to lead by example and suggest advice to the younger players."

Castro had lengthy spells with Sporting Gijon and Getafe before moving to the Glory as a marquee player in 2015.

He was named the A-League's player of the year in his first season, and has racked up 66 appearances and 28 goals for Perth.

The Glory are looking to rebound strongly this season after missing out on the Finals Series in Lowe's final campaign in charge.

Perth are 6/5 to win their first game of the season against Western Sydney, who are 9/4 with the draw 5/2.

The Glory are 9/1 to win the Grand Final.

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