Lions FC goal machine Marek Madle is confident his side will make an impact on the national stage in the NPL Finals Series.
Lions embark on their maiden quest to become national NPL Champions on Saturday night when they host Newcastle-based Edgeworth Eagles in an Elimination Final at Lions Stadium.
The NPL Finals Series pits the Premiers of all eight NPL competitions against each other – with the winner of the knock-out series winning automatic qualification to next year’s FFA Cup Round of 32.
Lions head into this weekend’s match as Queensland’s undisputed premier team after winning the NPL Queensland Premiers-Champions double with an extra-time win over Olympic FC last weekend.
Madle said the team is now looking to pit their outstanding form – which includes a run of 14 straight wins in NPL Queensland league and finals games – against some of the countries strongest clubs outside the A-League.
“The last few weeks have been very special for the club by winning the double and now we have our chance on the national stage,” he said.
“It’s been tough on the players with a lot of tough games but hopefully things will be a bit more relaxed this weekend. We are really looking forward to the game and playing at home will be beneficial for us.”
“We had a lot of fans at the last few games in big numbers and they give us a big boost and extra motivation that we can use.”
Madle conceded the lure of qualification to the national rounds of next year’s FFA Cup will also be a driving force in his side’s approach to their upcoming matches.
“Knowing that the winners of the national finals go into the Round of 32 next year is a massive motivation for us,” he said.
“It can really help us next year because it means there will be five games we don’t have to play in the preliminary rounds.”
“We could take the energy we save from that into the league next year and that will certainly help us trying to win the Premiership again.”
Eagles are a familiar opponent for Queensland NPL fans after lining up twice against NPL Queensland opponents in the national finals in recent years – matches that saw Brisbane Strikers and Moreton Bay United prevail eliminate their southern opponents.
However, Madle said he is more concerned by Eagle’s current squad, which includes former A-League players Daniel McBreen and Josh Rose, as well former Strikers National Soccer League player Josh Evans, than their history in the competition.
“At the end of the day, they are the Premiers of Northern New South Wales and they will be a good test with a few ex A-League players,” he said.
“They do have some experience in the national finals and that can only help them, but they have changed the team a lot since last year, so I don’t really think it will be a huge advantage for them.”
Despite plying his trade up front, Madle cited Lions’ miserly defence that has conceded just 13 NPL goals all year as the key to this weekend’s game – although acknowledged the absence of centre back and captain Matija Simic will need to be managed.
“I think defence wins you the league, and it certainly won us the Grand Final last week, but in one off games attack and defence are equally important.”
“If you don’t score goals then you simply cannot win games, but it certainly helps to not concede too many as well.”
To that end, Madle is undoubtedly the go-to man for Lions in the attacking third against Eagles – after netting 19 goals in just 15 games for Lions following his mid-season switch from Holland Park Hawks, where he delivered a further 23 goals.
“For a striker it is all about confidence. I gained that confidence at the start of the year with Holland Park and it just rubs off all the time now.”
“With my move to Lions, they are a fantastic bunch of boys and there is quality behind me and good service too. So it is really up to me to make the most of that and keep scoring goals.”
However, not everyone has been as enamoured with Madle’s scoring blitz this season.
The Czech-born strike taking the opportunity to address recent fan outrage after his goal scoring exploits proved insufficient for him to be included in the starting elevens in either the FQ Premier League nor NPL Queensland Teams of the Year named by Football Queensland earlier this week.
“Look, I didn’t really expect to make those teams because I didn’t play a full season in either competition.”
“I think I only made team of the week twice in the NPL, so I’m not even sure how I made it onto the bench in the end – maybe they just snuck me in to prevent any more riots in the comments,” he concluded wryly.
Should Lions prevail in the NPL Finals Series they will set an historic precedent, with no Queensland club winning the NPL National Champions title in four previous attempts – Olympic FC, Palm Beach SC, Moreton Bay United and Brisbane Strikers all falling short in prior seasons.
A win over the Eagles will see Lions advance to take on Victoria’s Heidelberg United – last year’s national NPL Champions – in the next round after the Melbourne-based club defeated Tasmania’s Deveonport Strikers last weekend.
National Premier Leagues Final Series
Lions FC v Edgeworth Eagles
Saturday, September 15 | 7:30PM
Lions Stadium, Richlands
More in Lions FC
Assistant to take reins in club's tilt at becoming national champions.
Midfielder says Heidelberg toughest opponent yet for Queensland Champs.
Simic proud to lead team in Grand Final showdown with Olympic.
Coach says team is ready to test themselves against A-League opposition.
Defender says winning Premiership on home soil is the aim.
Three away games in seven days to test Lions' Premiership credentials.