Talking Points: Best-ever start, but are the Wanderers the real deal?
For the first time in Hyundai A-League history, Western Sydney Wanderers are the early season pacesetters.
Western Sydney underlined their title ambitions by edging Sydney FC 1-0 in Saturday's thrilling derby at Bankwest Stadium, ending a 980 day wait for a win over their fierce rivals.
The pre-season optimism generated by Markus Babbel's canny international signings, emerging academy prospects and the club's return to Parramatta has now turned into a feel-good factor not seen in years at the Red and Black, who had never before won three consecutive matches.
Yet, despite their lofty position on the ladder and the euphoria of Saturday's derby win, coach Babbel is remaining grounded.
On Saturday, the Wanderers barely survived a relentless sequence of Sydney FC pressure following Mitch Duke's 19th-minute opener, with the visitors dominating the shot-count 20-10, holding 68% possession and making double the amount of passes on the night.
As Babbel remarked post-match, this was a win forged through grit and determination, rather than 'outstanding' play.
The Wanderers will not be top of the table for long, according to the ex-Liverpool and Bayern Munich stalwart, should they continue in this fashion.
"We were fighting fantastic but only fighting will be difficult to stay up in the table," he said.
"We also have to bring skill so on the pitch. We can do it.
"We have so much to improve, we have a long way in front of us but with this mentality with his attitude we're on the right way."
On the other hand, the tenacity and backbone on display on Saturday were the two qualities the Wanderers lacked in spades season. It's why many feel the Red and Black are indeed the real deal.
“I didn’t feel like we were going to concede," said defender Daniel Georgievski. “I just knew we weren’t going to concede.”
The defeat Sydney needed?
Perhaps Saturday's 1-0 loss is the defeat Sydney FC require to kick-start their Championship defence.
The Sky Blues were slightly off the pace during their narrow, late victories over Adelaide United and Wellington Phoenix in the opening two rounds.
Against the Wanderers, Steve Corica's side produced easily their best display of the campaign.
"We were the better team tonight," said the Sydney boss.
“I’m proud of the boys, they dominated from the start to the finish, threw everything at them."
How costly will Andrew Nabbout's injury be?
The Marco Kurz era is up and running at Melbourne Victory, but it could come at some expense.
Victory beat Brisbane Roar 1-0 on Friday courtesy of Andrew Nabbout's goal but the Caltex Socceroos forward is now set for a stint on the sidelines after injuring his hamstring.
He joins Australian international teammate Robbie Kruse in a growing injury ward for Victory that also includes German defender Tim Hoogland and goalkeeper Matt Acton.
Crucially, you have to wonder how costly Nabbout's absence might be as Kurz tries to get Victory firing, particularly going forward and providing service for Ola Toivonen. The Swede has taken just one shot on target in 270 minutes this season.
Maclaren takes Golden Boot lead
From one-Melbourne based striker to another: there's no doubt Jamie Maclaren is the in-form man in Victoria right now.
Maclaren scored his 13th and 14th goals in 10 matches for club and country as 10-man Melbourne City shocked Western United 2-1 on Sunday.
Two more brilliantly finished strikes for the Caltex Socceroo, who was visibly distressed with his teammates' decision not to pass him the ball as the game opened up on the break late in the second half.
That was just more evidence that the City marksman feels he can score at every opportunity right now. Is Maclaren the man to lead City to their first piece of Hyundai A-League silverware?
Phoenix frustrated again
Ufuk Talay's reign at Wellington Phoenix has begun with three defeats but the Phoenix boss is remaining calm.
Phoenix lost 2-1 to Perth Glory on Sunday in another match Talay's new-look Phoenix side impressed but came away empty handed.
"It's disappointing having three losses in a row. I hate losing four v four staff games," Talay said.
"The progression has been good, it's been positive with how we're playing, but what we need now is a win. I think once we get a win and three points it will have a snowball effect."
With fixtures to Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory away to come in the next two weeks, Phoenix will be hunting a win their performances have merited so far. A fit and firing Gary Hooper, who made his Hyundai A-League debut on Sunday, will greatly aid their cause.