HOW ARE THEY TRAVELLING?
It’s been a phenomenal 2016/17 Season so far. Graham Arnold’s side is unbeaten through the first 14 rounds, winning 11 matches to sit seven points clear at the top. And in a galling figure for their local rivals, they are a massive 22 points ahead of the Wanderers. But there are a couple of issues heading into this one, especially at the back. Matt Jurman has moved to a Korean club, Seb Ryall is set for a stint on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, while Josh Brillante is suspended, perhaps leaving them a little vulnerable.
Western Sydney’s season just hasn’t been able to get any momentum. Sure, some of their play has been a joy to watch but their inability to turn eye-catching football into goals – and results – has hurt them badly. Eight draws – and just two wins – from 14 games equals a seventh position on the ladder with a Finals Series finish now the big challenge (especially with the rejuvenated Jets making a fist of this season). It won’t be easy, especially with an ACL campaign to come from next month.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Sydney FC have bossed this fixture over the last three years, unbeaten in the last eight Harbour City clashes.
The Wanderers won the first two derbies at Allianz Stadium but haven’t been victorious in their last four visits to the Moore Park venue.
Ex-Sydney FC stars Vedran Janjetovic and Terry Antonis joined Wanderers this month and are likely to come up against their former side for the first time, while keeper Andrew Redmayne swapped Red and Black for Sky Blue this month as well.
WHAT HAPPENED LAST TIME?
In front of a record Hyundai A-League crowd of 61,880 at ANZ Stadium it was a stunning second-half onslaught which swung the game towards Sydney FC. After an even first 45 minutes – which included an all-in melee – in which both sides wasted excellent chances, the contest sprung to life after the break. It started just after half-time when Bobo’s flick-on header was smashed in by Filip Holosko. Four minutes later and the roles were reversed as the Slovakian put the ball on a plate for the Brazilian to score on his Hyundai A-League debut. The Wanderers pressed desperately for a response and had their moments, only for defender Aritz Borda to receive a red card late and Brandon O’Neill subsequently curled home a superb free-kick before Alex Brosque put the gloss on a memorable night for Sydney FC with a fourth at the death.
THREE KEY MATCH-UPS
Bobo v Jonathan Aspropotamitis
The Brazilian striker is hitting form at just the right time for the Sky Blues. A brace of goals on the weekend (to make seven for the season) to go with his pair of assists the week before should have the Wanderers defence on high alert. So what a challenge that presents for young “Aspro”. The 20-year-old – this week announced as December’s nominee for the NAB Young Footballer Award – has been a consistent performer for the Red and Black and won’t shirk the challenge against Sydney’s marquee man.
Milos Ninkovic v Bruno Pinatares
“Ninko” is in royal form. And when Wanderers set up out of possession, you’d think the tough Uruguayan will be tasked with shackling the Serbian – especially when he starts to drift into those dangerous pockets to create goal-scoring opportunities for Holosko, Bobo or himself.
Alex Brosque v Dimas Delgado
The two skippers both make timely returns from suspension for this one. And their battle in the middle of the park should be a ripper. Brosque has arguably been in career-best form this season and is probably the Sky Blues’ most influential player. His passion inspires his team-mates and his goals have been crucial to Sydney’s unbeaten run. But he’ll have a tough match-up against the wily Spaniard, who is the Wanderers’ midfield general. Not only does Dimas get a lot of the Wanderers attacks started with his clever passing but his ability to stifle Brosque and break-up Sydney’s play will also be vital.
WHAT THEY SAID?
David Carney – Sydney FC attacker
“You’ve got to be up for the fight, if not, you’ll get beaten. The Wanderers have been playing good football this year. They’ve been drawing a lot of games but what we’ve seen, they’ve controlled a lot of the games. They’ll be no easy beats for sure. They’ve a good squad with a lot of good players. It’s going to be a real hard game but also a fantastic game for the fans. Even when we beat them 4-0 it was still a tight game [in Round 1]. Everyone’s looking forward to it. These are the games you want to be playing in.”
Jonathan Aspropotamitis – Wanderers defender
“We’re confident – looking at how the Mariners rattled [Sydney FC on Sunday], we can take a few things from that and implement that in our game plan. We know there’s going to be a lot of heat in the game. It’s always a physical tussle, no matter where we are on the table. The form guide goes out the window when you play a game like this. From our perspective, it’s about keeping a clear mind and going into the game fully focused.”
Football Federation Australia