Best of the Press: Socceroo close to City comeback, coach delivers ‘frightening’ Nabbout update reporter James Dodd takes your through all the big talking points ahead of the latest round of action in the Isuzu UTE A-League dissects all the pre-weekend media activity across the Isuzu UTE A-League as Carl Veart prepares to face a rejuvenated Sydney FC while Marko Rudan pays the ultimate compliment to a rival.

One injured City star ‘not far away’ while another is making ‘remarkable’ progress

It’s the news Melbourne City fans have been waiting for: Mathew Leckie is closing in a return to the side.

“Lecks is not far away,” revealed Head Coach Aurelio Vidmar ahead of this weekend’s Isuzu UTE A-League clash with Macarthur. “He’s done a lot of work. Next week he has to report to the surgeon to get a bit of an all-clear.”

This weekend’s game at AAMI Park will come too soon for the Socceroos star who aggravated a knee ligament injury during the off-season, but the signs are still looking good.

“He’s doing a lot of straight-line running but hasn’t started changing direction so his next stage is doing that.”

Meanwhile the City boss also provided a positive update on the fitness of injured winger Andrew Nabbout, who remains sidelined after suffering an achilles injury in pre-season.

“Andy is progressing really well but he’s still months away,” said Vidmar. “At the moment he’s smashing the gym and he’s doing all that work but as soon as we start to see him on the park running that will give us a better indication.”

Following the news of that injury back in October the initial prognosis was the 30-year-old would miss the entire Isuzu UTE A-League season, and while his Head Coach isn’t expecting any miracles, he does admit his progress is very encouraging.

“Remarkable,” commented on Vidmar when asked about Nabbout’s current physical condition. “He’s probably added a lot more strength. I haven’t seen him in a long time but now I see him he is a very, very strong boy!

“He’s really frightening, I wouldn’t want to run into him!”

City welcome an unbeaten Macarthur FC side to AAMI Park this weekend with both teams coming off the back of midweek matches in the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup respectively.

Melbourne City v Macarthur FC
Sunday, November 12 2023
Kick-off: 3:00pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+, 10 Bold

Veart wary of ‘new manager bounce’ as Reds prepare for Sydney FC clash

Adelaide United boss Carl Veart is expecting Sydney FC to find their spark sooner rather than later.

On Tuesday the Sky Blues’ board ran out of patience with Head Coach Steve Corica, removing the club icon from the job following their third-successive loss to start the season.

The man chosen to replace him was former Sydney FC player and assistant coach Ufuk Talay, who had been without a club since departing Wellington Phoenix at the end of last season and Veart is bracing himself for a reaction.

“They’re a very good side,” said Veart when asked what to expect from Sydney on Saturday. “They haven’t started the league that well but they had a very good pre-season.

“It won’t take much for them to get back to winning ways so it’s important for us that we stick to our processes and perform to our best.”

The Reds will be without suspended teenager Nestory Irankunda following his sending off against Melbourne Victory in last weekend’s ‘Original Rivalry’.

But while it will certainly come as a blow for Veart to lose someone of Irankunda’s quality the Reds boss believes the break will do his wonderkid a world of good.

“He’s still learning the game and there’s a lot for him to learn,” said Veart when discussing the 17-year-old. “In a way it could be a blessing for him to have that little bit of a rest.

He continued: “To play the first three games and play big minutes in those three games, it’s taken a physical toll on him but also a mental toll.

“It takes a lot for him to get himself up and prepare mentally for games so this rest will be good for him.”

Veart also revealed it’s likely to be one of Bernardo or Luka Jovanovic who replaces the suspended Irankunda, with the former having enjoyed an impressive start to the season, scoring twice in the opening three matches.

For Sydney FC, new Head Coach Ufuk Talay takes his side to Adelaide having had just a handful of training sessions to prepare them for the clash against the league-leaders, but he isn’t worried.

“I’ve only got two days to prepare the boys,” said Talay when speaking on Thursday. “But look, I think we’ve got a talented group that take information onboard pretty quickly so I’m sure we’ll head in the right direction.”

“If you look at Sydney and what it stands for we want to be big, bold and iconic. I think that’s the brand of football we need to play.”

Talay returns to Sydney having most recently been assisting Socceroos manager Graham Arnold and while he may not have been in a hands-on coaching role since the end of last season, he’s already identified what he wants to change at the club.

“There will be a few tweaks in the way that we set up and in the way that we play,” said Talay. “I’d be naive to come in and say I’m going to scrap everything in two days that’s been done previously.”

Sydney FC moved quickly to snap-up the 47-year old who departed Wellington Phoenix as the most successful coach in the club’s history.

Adelaide United v Sydney FC
Saturday, November 11 2023
Coopers Stadium
Kick-off: 7:45pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+, 10 Bold

Wanderers boss pays tribute to axed managerial rival

They may have had their touchline spats over the years – but that hasn’t stopped Western Sydney boss Marko Rudan from paying tribute to former Sky Blues coach Steve Corica.

The club announced they had mutually terminated Corica’s contract on Tuesday following a start to the season which has seen them lose all three games. poor start to the season.

“Bimbi (Corica) is a mate and it’s never good to see a colleague lose their job,” said Rudan when asked about Sydney’s decision to part ways with his former teammate.

“I don’t think anyone in the history of the competition will ever make an impact for one club the way he has – not even Kevin Muscat, who was fantastic for Melbourne Victory

He added: “He goes down as an absolute legend of the football club as far as I’m concerned and I’m sure he will be back somewhere.”

The Wanderers face Sydney FC in Round Five of the Isuzu UTE A-League but before that they welcome Perth Glory to CommBank Stadium this weekend as they aim to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.

“Perth are a really strong side, they’re definitely a top-six side,” said Rudan with regards to the test they face this weekend. “They’ve got a lot of experienced pros at the back, they’ve got a marquee striker in Adam Taggart as well so we need to be really good to beat them.”

The Wanderers recovered from going two-nil down against Newcastle Jets last time out to salvage a 2-2 draw.

The big decision Marko Rudan will likely have to make though is with regards to who partners captain Marcelo in the heart of his defence.

With defender Alex Bonetig ruled out through injury, Doni Grdic could feature again after making his club debut last time out having replaced 20-year-old centre back Anthony Pantazopoulous at half-time in that 2-2 draw.

For Perth Glory, Head Coach Alen Stajcic will also be forced to shuffle the pack for the trip to CommBank Stadium.

Oliver Bozanic and Jarod Carluccio are ineligible to play at the weekend given they’re both currently on-loan from the Wanderers, a team Stajcic believes have so far been the most potent in the division.

“I think they’ve probably been the best attacking team in the competition,” remarked Stajcic of counterpark Marko Rudan’s side.

“Their front four players have been exceptional in beating people, creating chances and combining with each other.”

Fresh off securing their first win of the season against the Mariners last time out Stajcic is expected to stick with goalkeeper Cameron Cook, who replaced the out-of-form Oli Sail in Round Three.

Western Sydney Wanderers v Perth Glory
Saturday, November 11 2023
CommBank Stadium
Kick-off: 5:30pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+