Another cracking Sydney Derby takes over the Harbour City this Saturday in round eight of the Hyundai A-League. And form is set to be be thrown out the window as 10th place Western Sydney Wanderers FC host fourth place Sydney FC at Wanderland.
The Sky Blues got bragging rights earlier this season but Tony Popovic’s side have been crowned Asian champions since then and will be hell-bent on revenge to get their season up and running.
We look at the three reasons why both teams will fancy themselves to get some joy in Parra on Saturday night.
WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS FC
1) Home form. The Wanderers may be winless in the Hyundai A-League this season but they are a different side when playing out of their Parramatta base. Their two points for the campaign have both come at home in the last week, stretching their unbeaten run at the venue to 12 games in all competitions. With the vociferous RBB behind them as a 12th man again on Saturday night, it might just inspire the Wanderers to their best performance of the season against their rivals.
2) Milos Dimitrijevic is suspended. The Serbian midfielder has been in superb form for the Sky Blues so far this season, playing a huge role in their success. Along with Socceroos midfielder Terry Antonis, the pair has provided the stability, class and assists to Graham Arnold’s side and would have been hard for the likes of Wanderers pair Mateo Poljak and Iacopo La Rocca to contain. But a red card on the weekend means Arnold will need to find a replacement for Dimitrijevic in the middle of the park, but there’s no doubt the Sky Blues have lost some thrust with his omission.
3) Attack ready to explode. While their stunning Asian Champions League success will take some topping, there’s no doubt the heavy travel and huge achievement has taken its toll on the players. But there have been signs in the last two games the Wanderers are close to rediscovering their mojo. The exciting, powerful and speedy “front-four” of Tomi Juric, Vitor Saba, Nikita Rukavytsya and Romeo Castelen have the potential to form a lethal partnership. If they catch fire on Saturday night, the Wanderers might just find some joy against the stingy Sky Blue defence.
1) Graham Arnold. The Sydney boss just loves coaching against the Wanderers and good mate Tony Popovic. In six matches Arnold has pitted his wits against the Wanderers (with both Central Coast and Sydney), the ex-Socceroos mentor has lost just once. There’s been three wins – including the grand final triumph in 2013 and the first derby this season – as well as two draws. While the result will ultimately be decided on the pitch, the Sky Blues have an ace up their sleeve on their bench.
2) Sky Blues brick wall. There’s a far greater resilience about the Sky Blues this season that hasn’t been around for the last few seasons. The central defensive pairing of Sasa Ognenovski and Nikola Petkovic is uncompromising and assured while goal-keeper Vedran Janjetovic is getting better every week. Arnold has got his side pressing high up the park as well which has also sparked an improvement. The Sky Blues have conceded just one goal in their last five games, while the Wanderers have scored just twice in their last four matches.
3) Janko’s found his feet. The marquee man copped some criticism in the early rounds for his lack of input but the critics have gone quiet in recent weeks. Janko grabbed a brace in the win over Melbourne City last weekend and his team-mates are seemingly learning quickly the type of service he thrives on in and around the box. Wanderers defenders Matthew Spiranovic and Nikolai Topor-Stanley might be hopeful of getting the nod from Ange Postecoglou for the upcoming Asian Cup and they will get a good test of those credentials against the powerful and wily Austrian skipper. If he is given a sniff Janko is likely to pounce.