Wanderers release import duo

Western Sydney Wanderers have released imports Alexander Baumjohann and Oriol Riera at the end of a disappointing A-League season.

A number of other players are likely to be shown the door after exit interviews in the coming days, after Markus Babbel's side finished 16 points off the Finals Series.

Baumjohann, who was the team's chief creative outlet, is leaving after just one season while Babbel has confirmed leading scorer Riera won't be returning for next season when the club move into their new Bankwest Stadium home.

Wanderers will also lose Josh Risdon, who is moving to A-League expansion team Western United, while Mark Bridge has retired.

Riera's 10 goals in 21 league outings couldn't prevent Babbel's team missing out on the top six. He also led the club in goals last season with 16 when they finished two points outside the Finals Series places.

Among other players who could leave are Roly Bonevacia, who has been linked with a move to Perth Glory, Spanish defender Raul Llorente and youngster Abraham Majok – a target for Central Coast Mariners.

Babbel said: "I'm 100 per cent sure we'll have a stronger side next season. If we get the players what I have in my head I think we'll have a strong side.

"In the end, it's a quality thing. We need quality, we need experience because how we play, the style was most of the time good. If you get this man chances you have to win these games.

"This is the next step … many players have two frustrating years behind them and definitely will not follow a third one. We have to come back in the playoffs, this is what the club expects and where we want to go."

Wanderers finished eighth in the table, where they had been since round eight, and won just six of their 27 matches.

Meanwhile, minor premiers Perth Glory are 11/10 to win the Grand Final. Australia are 250/1 to win the 2020 World Cup.

Hamill reaches milestone

Captain Brendan Hamill brings up his 100th game for Western Sydney Wanderers when they meet Melbourne City but his club future is up in the air.

Hamill has made more appearances than any other Wanderers player this season, all 19 of them coming in the starting side. With only five rounds left of the campaign, though, he has yet to be offered an extension to his contract that runs out at season's end.

Hamill, who played every minute of the two-legged Asian Champions League final when Wanderers beat Al-Hilal in 2014, will be taking on his former club City in his milestone game.

The central defender, who was born and bred in Western Sydney, says to reach the 100-game mark for the club is a huge honour.

"It's my home and I never ever take it for granted … it's a dream come true for me," he said. "It's pretty special to make your 100th appearance for your hometown club in front of your family and friends."

But the 26-year-old, who was handed the captain's armband at the start of this season, admits he is yet to open talks about a new deal.

"Not really, honestly it's game by game for me and I just want to get the win on Saturday," he added. "[I've got] no plans, I just really want to finish the end of the season strong, healthy and win as many games as possible."

City have beaten Western Sydney in both their league meetings so far this season and, although Markus Babbel's side have home advantage in three of their remaining five games, they know they won't qualify for the Finals Series.

A purple patch of 10 points from four games starting early last month took them out of danger of finishing bottom of the table. But their 3-1 defeat last time out at Wellington Phoenix left them 11 points behind sixth-placed Adelaide United.

Wanderers will have youngsters Tass Mourdoukoutas, Keanu Baccus and Abraham Majok all available after returning from international duty with the Australian U23s.

Western Sydney are 19/10 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 11/8 with the draw 12/5. Wanderers are 11/1 to win the game 1-0.

Wanderers down on numbers

New signing Giancarlo Gallifuoco could make his first start for Western Sydney when they take on Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.

The former Australia U-23 international, who signed earlier this month as an injury replacement player, made his debut as a late substitute in last week's 4-1 win over Brisbane Roar.

Wanderers are bidding for a fourth win in five games, but have three players away on international duty.

Defender Tass Mourdoukoutas, midfielder Keanu Baccus and striker Abraham Majok are with the Olyroos in Cambodia, while Mark Bridge has suffered another injury setback and Nick Fitzgerald is facing a race against time to prove his fitness.

Coach Markus Babbel said it was a "disaster" to lose three players to youth international duty.

"Keanu Baccus was in outstanding form, he was a very important player for us, this hurts us," he added.

"This is for us a disaster and a new experience for me because in Europe this is not possible in the season, the players just going away because it's not an international break."

Rashid Mahazi is likely to retain his starting place in the midfield while German midfielder Alex Baumjohann may return after he was dropped for poor performances during training.

Speaking of Baumjohann's training this week, Babbel said: "Much better, I think he understands. I had a longer talk with him and I said this is not what you also expect from yourself.

"He is too good for this. He has to work hard because now we have options for this position."

Western Sydney are 12/5 to win their next game against Wellington, who are 21/20, with the draw 11/4.

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Babbel blasts U23 call-ups

Western Sydney Wanderers are unhappy at losing three of their players to international duty later this month.

Wanderers have had midfielder Keanu Baccus, attacker Abraham Majok and defender Tass Mourdoukoutas called up by the Australian U23 team.

The trio will miss one round of the A-League season to play in the AFC U23 Championship qualifiers.

They have been included in a 24-man squad by coach Graham Arnold for a week-long camp in Kuala Lumpur, where they will play three friendlies.

The squad will then go to the qualifiers in Phnom Penh, where they will face Cambodia, Chinese Taipei and Korea Republic over five days starting on 22nd March.

Melbourne City have also had three of their players called up by Arnold – they will lose Lachlan Wales, Nathaniel Atkinson and Riley McGree for one game.

Wanderers coach Markus Babbel said: "Three of our players who are playing at the moment are leaving us.

"It's very, very hard to accept this because we are a club who want to bring through young players. But we lose these players because they are playing for the national team, so it makes no sense for me."

Also in the squad is Newcastle Jets defender John Koutroumbis, who has returned to action after undergoing surgery following a diagnosis of stage one thyroid cancer.

Meanwhile, Brisbane Roar have signed forward Eli Babalj as an injury replacement player for the rest of the season.

The 27-year-old has been training with the club and could be involved in Friday's clash with Western Sydney.

The Roar are 13/10 to win their game against Wanderers, who are 13/10, with the draw 13/5.

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Babbel switch pays off

Markus Babbel was encouraged by Western Sydney's second-half display as they earned their first away win since early November by beating Adelaide United 3-1.

Wanderers opened the scoring through Oriol Riera early on, but when Ryan Kitto equalised just before the break the coach felt he needed to make a change.

It paid off as goals from Roly Bonevacia and Abraham Majok secured the victory at Coopers Stadium.

Babbel, who saw keeper Vedran Janjetovic save Craig Goodwin's penalty in the first half, said he'd been concerned at what he'd seen after the opening spell.

"We were not playing the way we wanted to," added the coach. "We started quite well for 10-15 minutes but then the pressure was always higher and higher … we were tactically doing the wrong things.

"I said to them we drop with our sixes too deep, we were nearly in a line with them and then they had no pressure in midfield … Oriol and Roly … had no help from our midfield, so we changed things a bit and it looked much better in the second half."

Whether his team can go on and challenge for a Finals Series spot remains to be seen, but Babbel said the players would gain confidence from back-to-back victories – they beat bottom side Central Coast last week.

"We want to get results this is also fair play to the other teams … now we want to have competition on the pitch and we want to try to get a result," added the German coach. "There's so many games to go and we want to improve."

Western Sydney are 11/4 to win their next game against Perth Glory, who are 10/11 with the draw 11/4.

Wanderers are 14/1 to win 1-0.

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Babbel tipped to continue

Former captain Robbie Cornthwaite believes Western Sydney will keep faith in coach Markus Babbel, despite being almost certain to miss out on the Finals Series.

Wanderers have lost eight of their last 10 games and have only two victories from their 17 games overall.

There are still 10 rounds to go, but Babbel's side would need to make up a 16-point gap on sixth-placed Wellington Phoenix as well as overturn a big deficit in their goal difference.

Cornthwaite, who skippered the side in the previous two seasons, sees the Finals Series as being out of reach but doesn't expect the club to make a "big shock decision" to sack Babbel.

"I think Babbel will have at least until the end of the season, when the club will then reassess things," he said. "You've got the new stadium to come and I'd expect him to be looking at which players to keep and which to let go of.

"It's valid to say that the squad isn't what he wants, since he didn't put it together, although he did add some players."

Cornthwaite, who played seven times for the Socceroos, believes the club's owners will assess Babbel over the final games of the season now that he's strengthened his squad by bringing in Mitch Duke and Kwame Yeboah.

"They'll see if Markus wants to stay, what he thinks about the new season and what players he wants to bring in," he added.

Wanderers' only successes this season have come away to Wellington Phoenix in round 3 and at home to Central Coast in round 7.

They are not yet clear of wooden spoon danger, as bottom side Central Coast are only four points behind them.

Western Sydney are 4/6 to win their next game against Central Coast, who are 15/4 with the draw 3/1. Wanderers are 9/1 to win 1-0.

Babbel: Players stopped thinking

Coach Markus Babbel has warned his under-performing Western Sydney players that they are "playing for their future" after a 5-1 home thrashing by Newcastle Jets.

It was Wanderers sixth consecutive home defeat, with Babbel's side trailing 3-0 by half-time.

The German says the team weren't following his instructions in the match.

"The first 10-20 minutes we started well, but then, and I'm not sure why, we forgot the game plan," he added.

"If they stop thinking, then you get a result like this."

Babbel wasn't holding back the punches after the defeat, which leaves Western Sydney 16 points off the top six with ten games left.

It was their worst defeat of the campaign, but the coach questioned how much the players had invested in the outcome, saying they were "a different generation."

"They're not like us, when we played; if I lost 5-1 I would be upset for the entire week," he added. "With them, five minutes and then it's normal life.

"If we go into next season with the same team, I can't believe. They are playing for their futures, here or elsewhere."

Wanderers have now gone ten games without a win, and their lone highlight from the match came when new signing Mitchell Duke scored just after coming on as a substitute.

Three of the players who featured against the Jets come off-contract at the end of the season, including captain Brendan Hamill.

Imports Oriol Riera, Alex Baumjohann and Raul Llorente are also without deals.

Babbel saw his side let a two-goal lead slip in the final eight minutes of their previous game, when they were held to a 2-2 draw by Brisbane Roar.

But that is the only point they have picked up eight games and they are still in danger of finishing bottom of the league.

Meanwhile, Sydney FC are 19/20 to take care of Melbourne City on Sunday. The visitors are 3/1 while the draw is 5/2.

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Babbel: Battery was empty

Western Sydney coach Markus Babbel felt his team ran out of energy when they were held to a 2-2 draw at Brisbane Roar.

Wanderers were within seconds of grabbing their first win in nine games, but followed a familiar script of conceding late goals.

The coach made the point to players this week that they needed to be resilient at the end of matches, but it didn't help – and Babbel said that was down to them running low on batteries.

Western Sydney have now conceded nine goals in the last eight minutes of their matches over the past six rounds.

Babbel concedes they have found it tough to cope with the busy January schedule.

"It's every week the same. I think the first time we played a good style of football, deserved the lead, had everything under control," he said.

"We couldn't create many chances, we weren't 100 per-cent in the game, and then after 70-75 minutes, I saw the boys got really, really tired.

"This is the biggest problem we have – 90-95 per-cent of my team have never played 10 games in a row, three games in a week.

"You saw the battery was empty and then you start to do mistakes, you can't stay in the tactical discipline, and then you come under pressure."

Wanderers have signed former Central Coast Mariners striker Mitchell Duke until the end of next season.

Duke joins the club after a four-year stint with Shimizu S-Pulse in Japan, where he scored three goals in 89 games.

The 28-year-old, who played 66 A-League games for the Mariners before moving overseas, has been capped four times by Australia.

Meanwhile, Perth Glory are 10/11 to win Sunday's tussle with Newcastle Jets, who are 3/1 with the draw priced at 5/2.

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Roar net point with injury-time goals

Western Sydney continue to cough up late goals at an alarming rate, as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Brisbane Roar.

Wanderers were two goals up in stoppage time but still couldn't find a way to win, with Tobias Mikkelsen and Adam Taggart both scoring to deny them.

The visitors looked certain to pick up a first win in nine games, having scored twice in the first half.

But Markus Babbel's side are failing to follow his instructions to avoid shipping late goals.

This time it was keeper Vedran Janjetovic's howler that cost them the three points, as he failed to deal properly with a back pass and conceded a corner in the 96th minute.

From the resulting flag-kick, Taggart powered home a header that sent the home crowd home delighted from Suncorp Stadium.

Wanderers took the lead when Roly Bonevacia drove into the area and fired past keeper Jamie Young, the Dutchman scoring for the fourth consecutive game.

Kwame Yeboah then lashed past home following good work from Bruce Kamau.

The Roar wasted chances through Henrique and Taggart before Dylan Wenzel-Halls saw a 76th-minute strike ruled out for offside.

The home side did pull a goal back through substitute Mikkelsen in the 92nd minute – his first in the A-League – and from looking dead and buried they were able to secure a point through Taggart.

While it felt like a victory for Brisbane, in truth it was a result neither side wanted as they have a big gap to make up on the top six.

The Roar remain next to bottom with just nine points from 16 games while Wanderers, one place and one point better off, are 13 points adrift of sixth-placed Wellington and have played a game more.

Meanwhile, Perth Glory are 10/11 to win Sunday's tussle with Newcastle Jets, who are 3/1 with the draw priced at 5/2.

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Babbel concerned over goals tally

Western Sydney are being punished for their inability to convert chances, says coach Markus Babbel.

Wanderers went down 2-1 to Melbourne Victory at ANZ Stadium, leaving them with just one win in their last eight games.

They are now seven points off the Finals Series places, and the statistics show they are underperforming in attack.

Though Babbel's team are second in the A-League for attempts, they have the second-worst scoring record.

Wanderers are converting on a league-low nine per cent of their attempts, and it's a concern for their coach.

"I feel really sad for the boys because the performance was top," said Babbel after the game. "(I'm) very proud of our team; played a really good side, dominated them, created many chances, but this is the biggest problem we have.

"But we're not scoring; this is the biggest difference tonight. They had 3-4 chances, they scored; I don't know how many we had, 6-7 big chances, we couldn't score."

Babbel is looking for an improvement when his team host Wellington Phoenix on Tuesday, and isn't pinning all the blame on his forwards.

"It is not only the strikers; everyone can score a goal," he said. "You can see we had two massive chances with our set-pieces – it wasn't our strikers who could score a goal, this is a team problem at the moment."

Wanderers had most of the chances at Coopers Stadium, but came up against an in-form keeper in Lawrence Thomas.

They now have just one win in their past 16 matches against Victory.

Western Sydney are 80/1 to win the Grand Final.

Wanderers are 3/1 to finish in the top six.

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