First five Hyundai A-League crackers!

Goal Australia dissects the draw to determine which games you need to mark down in your calendar ahead of the 2014-15 campaign.

1. Sydney FC v Western Sydney Wanderers (Round 2)

With a softer start to the campaign than previous years, the Sydney derby is arguably the first big game of the season. And what a game it promises to be. With Shane Smeltz and Bernie Ibini up front, the Sky Blues will mean business under Graham Arnold and have no intention of giving up any more ground to the new kids on the block.

Depending on the outcome of their AFC Champions League campaign and the Round 1 curtain raiser away to Victory, the Wanderers, who lost the most recent battle for Harbour City bragging rights 3-1, may be feeling vulnerable after shedding a host of foundation players and losing highly rated assistant coach Ante Milicic to the Socceroos. Neither side will want to take a backward step.

2. Melbourne Victory v Melbourne City (Round 3)

The Melbourne derby fell flat in Round 1 last year, a 0-0 bore draw that will have down little to lure back some of the casuals in the crowd. No chance of that in 2014-15, with FFA making supporters of the Big V and the rebranded Heart wait patiently for their hotly contested showdown. The prospect of Besart Berisha, Carl Valeri, Damien Duff and David Villa – along with other big names yet to be revealed – gracing the same pitch is mouthwatering.

3. Western Sydney Wanderers v Brisbane Roar (Round 4)

Tony Popovic and his players will have to wait for a month to try and gain a measure of revenge for their agonising extra-time defeat at Suncorp Stadium in May. Although there will be changes on both sides, the bulk of the two squads will remain the same, meaning there is likely to be plenty of niggle in Parramatta. Barring a huge change in fortunes, expect these two sides to be vying for major honours at the pointy end of the season, so this is an early opportunity to gain a psychological edge.

4. Sydney FC v Central Coast Mariners (Round 4)

The Mariners didn’t expect to see Graham Arnold back in these parts so soon after he left the reigning champions to test himself overseas, declaring he had done everything he could in Australian football. Eight months and one abortive stint in Japan later and he’s in the hotseat at the Sky Blues, already ‘poaching’ players like Ibini. By all accounts Central Coast weren’t too happy when he lured Michael McGlinchey away to Vegalta Sendai on loan soon after pitching up in the J-League, so there will be no love lost in this one.

5. Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory (Round 6)

One-off results haven’t always accurately reflected the state of the rivalry but Victory have undeniably had the edge over the Sky Blues in a broader sense in recent years, challenging at the top of the table under Ange Postecoglou and then Kevin Muscat while their enemies scrapped to get in the top six. Despite having Alessandro Del Piero among their ranks, Frank Farina’s Sydney couldn’t get past their arch-rivals in last season’s finals campaign, prompting the appointment of Arnold in a bid to transform their fortunes. The outcome of this clash will give us some indication of whether or not a shift in the balance of power could be looming.