Simon Hill’s six best fixtures in the early rounds of Season 2020/21

The dawn of a new football season always takes me back to the magic of childhood. New signings, perhaps a lick of paint to the stadium, the pristine state of that lush green playing surface, and most of all, there’s the release of the fixture list.

For clubs with local rivals, the derbies are the first fixtures fans look for – and with the addition of Macarthur FC into the A-League this season, their supporters, and those of Western Sydney Wanderers, don’t have to scour the fixture list for too long to find their historic first meeting. Here’s my six of the best in the early rounds of the new campaign.


WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS V MACARTHUR – 27th December 2020 (Double Header), BankWest Stadium, 6.30pm.


The pair will kick off the season just two days after Christmas at BankWest, and this could be the start of a rivalry as intense as the Wanderers/Sydney FC affair.

Macarthur have already stated they intend to be “noisy neighbours,’ and the clanging of the cowbells (already a feature of their pre-season matches) should ensure they live up to that promise. Having set up their training base in Fairfield, the two clubs will exist cheek by jowl, and that creates the sort of narrative that makes for great derby fare. What sort of impact will the the two Spaniards, Market Susaeta and Benat Etxebarria, have on the A-League? Are the Wanderers finally about to get it right under Carl Robinson? This could be a fire & brimstone affair with both sides having so much to prove.

The W-League season will also kick off at the same venue on the same night, with the Wanderers now a force to be reckoned with in the women’s game. Dean Heffernan led them to their first-ever finals campaign last season, eventually falling one game short of a maiden Grand Final appearance. With the FIFA Women’s World Cup on home turf in three years time, the W-League is going to be under the microscope like never before. Which of the up & comers are about to stake a claim for the right to play alongside Sam Kerr & co in front of sellout home crowds in 2023?


SYDNEY FC. v MELBOURNE CITY (Double Header) – 30th December 2020, ANZ/BankWest Stadium, 7pm


Three days later, there’s a repeat of last seasons A-League Grand Final between Sydney FC and Melbourne City. Two clubs who will once again be expected to be major challengers for silverware.

Patrick Kisnorbo has been handed the coaching reigns after the departure of Erick Mombaerts, and already he has made some useful looking signings in the shape of Aiden O’Neill, Andrew Nabbout and the returning Ben Garuccio. Can he be the man to deliver the clubs elusive first championship? Sydney away however, is the acid test for every A-League club in the modern era, and even though the reigning champs have been relatively quiet in the transfer market, they are the team to beat. They will also have the advantage of being match-fit following their AFC Champions League exertions. No A-League outfit has evert done the three-peat – can Sydney FC make history this year?

That night will also be a double header, with the W-League clash between the same two clubs – also a Grand Final rematch. City beat Sydney twice last season, including in the showpiece occasion, when a goal by Steph Catley was enough to give City a record fourth championship. So Sydney, which is the only club to have broken the Melbourne City stranglehold in the last four seasons, will be out for revenge – and to win a fourth title themselves, to equal City’s record.


CENTRAL COAST MARINERS. V. NEWCASTLE JETS – 31st December 2020, Central Coast Stadium, 7pm


Central Coast Mariners have claimed the New Years Eve fixture as their own, with fans traditionally treated to the bayside fireworks after watching their favourites at the most picturesque ground in the A-League.

This year, there’s an added bonus, with F3 rivals Newcastle Jets providing the opposition. The reciprocal deal between the clubs which allows supporters to travel to the away derby and enter as part of their membership package means the stands should be full (CoVid permitting).

The Mariners, who gave Alen Stajcic his first win as coach in a five-goal thriller in the Hunter in March 2019, welcome Oliver Bozanic back to his spiritual home in Gosford, and is this the big breakthrough year for rising stars, Dylan Ruiz-Diaz and the exciting Alou Kuol?

The Jets are embarking upon a new era and have captured Ramy Najjarine on loan from Melbourne City, arguably one of the most gifted young players in the competition. Olyroos John Koutroumbis, Angus Thurgate, Connor O’Toole and Najjarine, all need big seasons to put themselves in the frame for Tokyo 2021.


MELBOURNE VICTORY V. BRISBANE ROAR – 2nd January 2021, AAMI Park, 7pm.


The second round of the new season sees Melbourne Victory play in front of their home fans for the first time since Grant Brebner and Steve Kean were confirmed as the head coaching team on a full-time basis.

Brebner has added Olyroos, Ben Folami and Dylan Ryan to his squad, and along with imports Jacob Butterfield and Callum McManaman, Victory should be set for a much better campaign.

But they have a tough start. Brisbane Roar were the most improved team in the A-League last season, and with Warren Moon having had a full pre-season to get his message across, they will provide a stern test – especially with the precocious Joey Champness back from his musical hiatus in the US.

This fixture has provided us with some real hum-dingers in the past – remember the 3-3 draw in August 2009 at Docklands, containing some of the best goals you are ever likely to see?


WESTERN UNITED. V. WELLINGTON PHOENIX – 12th January 2021, MARS Stadium, 7pm.


Looking further ahead, there are plenty of midweek fixtures to keep us entertained, and one that catches the eye is on the 12th of January between Western United and Wellington Phoenix.

Mark Rudan’s team did exceptionally well to make the finals in their debut season. In Alessandro Diamanti, they have arguably the league’s top entertainer, and in Besart Berisha, the competitions all-time leading goal scorer. Rudan led the club to their first-ever A-League win over the Phoenix in Round One last season – but the ‘Nix exacted their revenge later, winning the other two meetings last season.

In fact, when Phoenix defeated Western 3-1 in Ballarat in December 2019, they were in the middle of a nine-game unbeaten run that had them dreaming of a first-ever Grand Final.

Sadly, CoVid kicked in and made life very difficult for Ufuk Talay’s men. They have lost a fair bit of quality in the off-season, but Libby Cacace is the sort of academy product that Phoenix fans can be proud of, and if he can succeed in Belgium, that reflects well on both the club and the A-League. Don’t forget too, Talay had similar problems last season, and managed to surprise a lot of people. Can they do the same again? Mirza Muratovic (who has joined from Brisbane), and Josh Laws, are two young guns that could push for Olyroos selection, while Ben Waine and Sam Sutton could be in Tokyo representing the OlyWhites.


PERTH GLORY. V ADELAIDE UNITED – 16th January 2021, HBF Park, 6.15pm.


Round 6 sees Perth Glory welcome Adelaide United to HBF Park, with two Aussie coaches – Richard Garcia, and Carl Veart – being given the chance to lead their hometown clubs – offering the sort of local feel these two parochial & passionate sets of fans identify with.

Andy Keogh returns to WA for the third time – with Diego Castro and Bruno Fornaroli already in situ, and Nick D’Agostino & Chris Ikonomidis to challenge as well, Perth seem to have firepower in abundance.

The Reds seemed a much more together bunch under Veart’s temporary leadership once the A-League resumed post-Covid break last season. Established first-teamers, Riley McGree, Nikola Mileusnic and Paul Izzo have all moved on to the next stage of their careers, and South Australians will be watching their progress with interest.

But their departures open the door for the next generation. Who will be the next player of the conveyor belt of talent, following in their footsteps, and the likes of Al-Hassan Toure, his brother Mohamed, and Louis D’Arrigo, who filled Isaias’s boots with such surety last season?

That’s the beauty of the A-League – twelve months ago, the Toure’s were barely recognisable, now they are firm fan favourites!

This fixture also produced eight goals back in July. New imports, emerging stars, and attacking football? That’s what A-League fans are looking forward to this season. Now it’s up to the players to deliver. Bring it on!