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Santalab winds up La Rocca for A-League GF

Brendon Santalab has thrown his first A-League grand final jibe, suggesting former Western Sydney teammate Iacopo La Rocca has been forced to shift to a defensive role at Adelaide United.

La Rocca was a Wanderers crowd favourite for three years before being let go as part of coach Tony Popovic's mass off-season overhaul.

Since linking with the Reds, the Italian holding midfielder has played in central defence.

It means striker Santalab will come face to face with his equally combustible ex-teammate on Sunday at Adelaide Oval.

And Santalab lit the fire early by claiming he was surprised to see coach Guillermo Amor deploying La Rocca in defence.

"Because he didn't enjoy playing that here," Santalab said.

"To see him playing there now for Adelaide is a bit of a shock to me because I know he doesn't enjoy playing there.

"So I need to take advantage of that and find out his weaknesses."

Santalab still rates La Rocca highly, and predicts a heated clash between the pair as both clubs play for a maiden title.

"He's an aggressive player and we worked very well together for a couple of years here," he said.

"It will be a great battle.

"He's a fantastic defender and I'm looking forward to the challenge."

The Wanderers fly to Adelaide on Friday, giving them two days in the city before the season finale.