Hyundai A-League preview: Sydney FC v Wanderers

Three months after a record Hyundai A-League crowd saw Sydney FC smash four past the Wanderers at ANZ, the unbeaten league-leaders host their bitter rivals in the 14th Sydney Derby.

MATCH DETAILS

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Sydney FC v Western Sydney Wanderers FC

Allianz Stadium, Sydney

Kick-Off: 7:50PM (Local) (7:50PM (AEDT))

Referee: Peter Green

Assistant Referee 1: David Walsh

Assistant Referee 2: Anton Shchetinin

Fourth Official: Kurt Ams

TV Broadcast: Live coverage on Fox Sports 505 from 7.45pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport 3 (New Zealand)

Radio Broadcast: ABC Radio Sydney, ABC Radio Canberra, ABC Local Radio NSW, Grandstand Digital, Online & via the ABC Radio Mobile App – A-league Live, Hawkesbury Radio

Join the conversation on Twitter using the hash-tag #SydneyDerby

To purchase tickets visit www.aleague.com.au

Sydney FC squad: 1.Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 4.Alex WILKINSON, 7.Michael ZULLO, 8.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9.BOBÔ, 10.Milos NINKOVIC, 11.Bernie IBINI, 12.Aaron CALVER, 13.Brandon O’NEILL, 14. Alex BROSQUE, 16.George TIMOTHEOU, 17.David CARNEY, 18.Matt SIMON, 19.George BLACKWOOD, 20.Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 21.Filip HOLOSKO, 23.Rhyan GRANT, 25.Patrick FLOTTMANN.

**two to be omitted**

Aaron Calver

Ins: 12.Aaron CALVER (promoted), 14. Alex BROSQUE (returns from suspension), 16.George TIMOTHEOU (promoted), 25.Patrick FLOTTMAN (promoted)

Outs: 6.Josh BRILLANTE (suspended – 1 match), 22.Sebastian RYALL (hamstring – indefinite)

Unavailable: Nil

Western Sydney Wanderers FC squad: 1.Jerrad TYSON (gk), 3.Jack CLISBY, 5.Brendan HAMILL, 6.Mitch NICHOLS, 7.Steven LUSTICA, 8.DIMAS (c), 10.Nicolás MARTÍNEZ, 12.Scott NEVILLE, 13.Bruno PIÑATARES, 14.Jumpei KUSUKAMI, 15.Kearyn BACCUS, 16.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 18.Robert CORNTHWAITE, 20.Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk), 22.Jonathan ASPROPOTAMITIS, 23.Lachlan SCOTT, 24.Terry ANTONIS, 49.Abraham MAJOK

**two to be omitted**

Wanderers skipper Dimas is up there with the best passers in the competition.

Ins: 8.DIMAS (returns from suspension),12.Scott NEVILLE (promoted), 24.Terry ANTONIS (promoted), 49.Abraham MAJOK (promoted)

Outs: 17.Aritz BORDA (suspended – 3 matches), 42.Keanu BACCUS (omitted)

Unavailable: 2.Shannon COLE (injured – 1 week), 11.Brendon SANTALAB (suspended – 1 match)

BLUFFER'S GUIDE

It’s the day when the Hyundai A-League takes over Sydney – you’re either sky blue or red and black on derby day. And rarely have we previewed one with such contrasting form lines.

The unbeaten, ladder-leading Sky Blue juggernaut against underperforming, seventh-placed Wanderers in this season’s second Sydney Derby.

And the stats say it all this season.

This season, the Sky Blues have won 11, drawn 3 and lost none in the league - their only loss being to Melbourne City in the Westfield FFA Cup Final. 

Conceding just seven goals in 14 rounds and smashing a staggering 34  - including four in that romp over Wanderers at ANZ last October – Sydney FC are on the way to becoming one of the greatest ever A-League sides.

The stats show it's important to make a fast start to the Hyundai A-League season.

Wanderers have been, by comparison, hit and miss: playing some eye-catching lead up play but lacking a hard-edged winning mentality and defensive nous that made them so difficult to beat in years gone by.

But the beauty of the derby is that the occasion takes centre stage - and therein lies Wanderers’ biggest hope. They are clear underdogs - and that’s a big advantage.

In fact, if you analyse Wanderers this season – and without sounding too much like a Tony Popovic sound bite - they have been playing some good football and creating chances. But just two wins and eight draws tell the tale of a season that’s largely been stuck in second gear.

Wanderers have better possession stats to Sydney FC (51%-46%) and better passing accuracy (78%-73%). But crucially Wanderers have not kept a clean sheet all season, as opposed to the Sky Blues with an impressive eight. 

The goals conceded column says it all for the red and black with 24, worryingly, leaked. 

If the red and black can fix individual errors at the back, stay disciplined (they’ve already copped four straight reds) and take whatever chances arise, they’re a chance of causing a derby upset.

Sydney Derby gallery lead

Sydney FC haven’t lost in this fixture since January 2014, winning six and drawing two against the Wanderers. So they’ll need to pull out the performance of the season.

Encouragingly, last week revealed some promising signs for Popa’s men.

A silly red card early in the game saw them on the back foot against City, but with a “false 9” and strong team spirit, their 10 men almost left AAMI with a point.

And the emergence of Robbie Cornthwaite - subbed on after Borda's red card - in central defence bolstered organisation and added some fire to the red and black belly.

He handled his debut last week with aplomb but running out in front of the Cove will be a whole other thing – though he might have an insight or two on how Sydney FC play.

Likewise, new signing Terry Antonis may see some game time for the visitors against the club where his career started. 

Terry Antonis

Wanderers haven’t won in five league games. Sydney FC hasn’t been defeated in their last five and are unbeaten all season. Few are tipping the Wanderers to break their 1000-day plus derby hoodoo.

Unbeaten Sydney FC are a seemingly unstoppable force, winning even when they aren’t at their best, scoring at will and locking out opposition with a concrete defensive block lead. 

Sounds like another easy win for the Sky Blues.

But in the white-hot atmosphere of a derby, and with Sydney FC missing key men Josh Brillante (suspended), Matt Jurman (transferred last week) and Jurman’s central defensive replacement Seb Ryall injured, there is some hope of an upset of sorts.

Adding even more spice, how will Wanderers keeper Vedran Janjetovic cope with the feeling of being at Allianz as an opposition player?

It is after all, the Sydney Derby, the city’s greatest, most intoxicating sporting event where anything can happen.

OPATA DATA

Hyundai A-League Round 15 stats preview

Your Sydney Derby dossier

ROUTE TO GOAL

Comparing these two strike lines is like chalk and cheese.

Sydney FC have numerous attacking weapons, different types of strikers, a sublime attacking midfielder and two lung-busting, aggressive and attacking full backs.

If the front four are a little narrow, full backs Zullo and Grant can stretch defences by pushing high up to double as wingers and get in behind.

So there are up to six attacking options at any one time, from different parts of the pitch, and with good rotations able to drag defenders out of position, do you stick or twist?

In short, they’re a nightmare to defend against.

Firstly, the press. It’s hard and high.

Maybe not all the game given the humid conditions (around 30 degrees) on Saturday, but expect it to be in full force.

The Sky Blues have the pure goal poacher in Bobo, the in-form Brazilian marquee will loiter in the box and when the chances come, he’ll take them.

Graham Arnold gives instructions to Sydney FC stars Bobo and Milos Ninkovic.

Milos Ninkovic – who has assisted eight goals this season, more than any other player, while scoring a further six of his own - will provide those chances for Bobo, and make surging, tricky runs into the box from pockets himself. 

Then there’s Brosque, Holosko, Carney, Ibini and Simon all in the mix either from the bench or starting.

It’s proven a lethal combination. Add huge self belief and Wanderers will need to be 100% at their best to pull off a derby shock.

Attempting to blunt that FC attack will likely be Robbie Cornthwaite alongside Aspropotamitis in central defence.

It’s a strong combination and both look in form as a central duo after Cornthwaite came on last week as a sub following the red to Aritz Borda. 

But it’ll likely be Bruno Pinatares who’ll likely be tasked with shackling Serbian superstar Ninkovic - expect the Uruguayan to lay on a bruising first tackle for ref Peter Green to adjudicate.

It’ll light the fuse as he and skipper Dimas (a welcome return from suspension) patrol the midfield and try to stamp their authority on a key part of the park. 

Wanderers’ forward line, by contrast, is a barren place. They are missing suspended key striker Brendon Santalab and Kerem Bulut has been released.

And without reinforcements in the window, they’ll just have to make do. But that may just be a blessing in disguise on Saturday night.

The Wanderers celebrate after Nicolas Martinez scores against Perth in Round 5.

Much will fall on the shoulders of attacking midfielders Nico Martinez, Mitch Nichols and Jumpei with rookie Lachlan Scott and Jaushua Sotirio other options.

The key will be how Wanderers will set out their modified attacking set up of a “false 9” and how Sydney FC will adapt to that, particularly with this potentially troubling central defensive issue of who’ll partner Alex Wilkinson in central defence (likely to be Brandon O’Neill or one of the untried U-20s in Arnie’s squad).

And if Wanderers want to channel inspiration from the past, who better than Jumpei, whose hero Shinji Ono made Allianz his own during his sparkling spell in the red and black.

WHO’S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?

Sky Blue skipper Alex Brosque vowed to bring the same toughness and “relentless” attack as their previous meeting in October. 

Meanwhile Wanderers skipper Dimas tipped Nico Martinez to show how good he really is on the big stage. Last time these two met he was far from fit. Saturday night could well be the Nico show. 

Brosque vows 'relentless' Sydney FC against Wanderers

Dimas: Nico to inspire desperate Wanderers in Sydney Derby

FORM LINES (last five games)

Sydney FC DWWWW

Wanderers LDDDL

PREDICTION

Sydney FC 2-2 Wanderers