Preview: Melbourne City v Western Sydney

It's finals hopefuls City against a Wanderers team battling to rescue something from a disastrous domestic season when the Hyundai A-League returns to AAMI Park on Sunday. There'll be plenty of new faces on show too, with both clubs busy in the transfer market in recent weeks.

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Live Blog Hyundai A-League | Melbourne City FC v Western Sydney Wanderers

FIXTURE DETAILS

Sunday, 1 February 2015

AAMI Park, Melbourne

Kick-Off: 5:00 PM (Local) (5:00 PM AEDT)

SQUADS

Melbourne City FC Squad: 1.Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 4.Connor CHAPMAN, 5.Erik PAARTALU, 6.Aaron MOOY, 7.Iain RAMSAY, 10.Robert KOREN, 11.Damien DUFF, 15.David WILLIAMS, 16.Josh KENNEDY, 17.Jason HOFFMAN, 19.Benjamin GARUCCIO, 22.Jack CLISBY 24.Patrick KISNORBO (C), 25.Jacob MELLING, 27, Ross ARCHBALD, # TBC.Safuwan BAHARUDIN, 40.Marko STEVANJA (GK)

***two to be omitted***

Ins: 25.Jacob MELLING (returns from suspension), #TBC.Safuwan BAHARUDIN (new signing), 22.Jack CLISBY (new signing), 40.Marko STEVANJA (GK) (promoted - FNYL)

Outs: 23.Mate DUGANDZIC (knee – 2 week), 14.James BROWN (Knee - TBC), 3.Robbie WIELAERT (Ankle - TBC), 20.Tando VELAPHI (suspended - 1 week)

Unavailable: Nil

Western Sydney Wanderers FC Squad: 1.Ante COVIC (gk), 2.Shannon COLE, 4.Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY (c), 5.Brendan HAMILL, 6.Antony GOLEC, 7.Labinot HALITI, 8.MATEO POLJAK, 10.Yojiro TAKAHAGI, 11.Brendon SANTALAB, 12.Nikita RUKAVYTSYA, 15.Yianni PERKATIS, 16.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 19.Mark BRIDGE, 20.Dean BOUZANIS (gk), 23.Jason TRIFIRO, 31.Alusine FOFANAH, 32.Daniel ALESSI, 38.Steve KUZMANOVSKI

***two to be omitted***

Ins: 10.Yojiro TAKAHAGI (new signing), 11.Brendon SANTALAB (return from injury), 31.Alusine FOFANAH (promoted)

Outs: 33.Nick KALMAR (injury-replacement contract ended)

Unavailable: 34.Golgol MEBRAHTU (knee – indefinite), 9.Tomi JURIC (international duty – 1 match), 13.Matthew SPIRANOVIC (international duty – 1 match)

Hashtag: #MCYvWSW

TV Broadcast: Live and exclusive coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 5.00pm (AEDT) and on delay on Sky Sport 3 (New Zealand)

Radio Broadcast: ABC Grandstand Online / ABC Radio Mobile phone app.

Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones

Assistant Referee 1: Luke Brennan

Assistant Referee 2: Jonathan Barreiro

Fourth Official: Lucien Laverdure

BLUFFER'S GUIDE

City will enjoy the unusual experience of going into a meeting with Wanderers in a position of strength this weekend.

Although they lost to the Central Coast Mariners in their final game before the break for the Asian Cup, John van 't Schip's side enjoyed an upturn in fortunes during the final weeks of the first half of the season, beating Brisbane Roar FC 1-0, winning the derby against Melbourne Victory by the same scoreline and demolishing the Newcastle Jets 5-2 away from home.

They have reinforced in key areas, signing defenders Jack Clisby and Safuwan Baharudin from Perth Glory and LionsXII respectively. Josh Kennedy has also been named in the squad, with the former Nagoya Grampus striker potentially set to ease the goal-scoring burden on City's under-resourced forward line.

Those new recruits have a chance of featuring too, with Mate Dugandzic, James Brown and Robert Wielaert injured. Tando Velaphi is suspended after seeing red against the Mariners, meaning Andrew Redmayne will return between the sticks.

There's been plenty of ins and outs at the Wanderers too, with Vitor Saba released and Yojiro Takahagi among the new arrivals. Unlike his fellow Japanese new recruit Yusuke Tanaka, Takahagi has been registered as a Hyundai A-League player and is in the squad for the trip to AAMI Park.

Tomi Juric and Matthew Spiranovic will be unavailable for a match that falls a day after the Socceroos face South Korea in the Asian Cup final, but Brendon Santalab makes a welcome return following shoulder surgery. Former City player Nick Kalmar will be unavailable for the Wanderers after his injury replacement player status came to an end.

OPTA DATA KEY STATS

- City have lost just one of their last five A-League games (W3 D1).

- City have scored at least once in every home game this season, and exactly one in each of their last four.

- Western Sydney Wanderers are without a win so far this season (D4 L8).

- The Wanderers have scored just one goal in their last four matches away from home.

- City have never beaten the Wanderers in A-League history (D1 L5).

ROUTE TO GOAL

It will be intriguing to see how City line up in attack for this one. Should Kennedy start, expect the veteran Socceroo to play at centre-forward, with David Williams and Damien Duff potentially operating either side of him. 

Robert Koren, who finally returned to fitness late last year and announced his arrival in the A-League with a hat-trick at the Jets, will pull the strings behind the forward line. 

But how will Van 't Schip accommodate holder Erik Paartalu and hard-working midfielders Jacob Melling and Aaron Mooy in the same XI? A potential shift from the Dutchman's preferred 4-3-3 (the formation of choice for an Ajax alumnus) could be on the cards.

For the Wanderers, with Juric absent, Santalab, if fully fit, could start at the point of the attack with Labinot Haliti and Nikita Rukavytsya offering support out wide. Could Takahagi start and where will Popovic use the two-cap Japan international?

WHO'S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?

City surprised us with the signing of Safuwan Baharudin, who is a relative unknown to most Australian football fans but arrives with top billing from regular watchers of the game in Singapore and Malaysia. Racking up 43 international caps at the age of 23 is no mean feat. Time will tell if he has the quality and aptitude to succeed in the A-League.

FORM LINES

City went down to 10 men and lost 2-0 away to the Mariners last time out, while the Wanderers suffered a 2-1 loss at home to Melbourne Victory. Popovic's men pushed their visitors hard at Pirtek Stadium in that one and were unlucky to end the game empty handed. Their perfectionist coach will be dismayed at his team's efforts in the A-League so far this season and has surely used to break for the Asian Cup to try and correct the deficiencies that, remarkably, sees last season's beaten grand finalists still winless after 14 rounds of the 2014-15 campaign.

DID YOU KNOW?

- City have scored a league joint-high seven headed goals this season – as many as Wanderers have in total.

- Prior to the beginning of this split round of fixtures, City had the most (72) and Wanderers the fewest (46) shots on target in the A-League this season.

PREDICTION

Melbourne City 1-2 Western Sydney Wanderers

Try as they might, City haven't quite shaken off the reputation for inconsistency they picked up during the Heart era, as demonstrated by that defeat in Gosford earlier this month. 

Everything should be in favour of Van 't Schip's side going into this one. 

They enjoyed an extensive warm weather training camp in Abu Dhabi, have reinforced in key areas and will be enjoying the bounce effect of having both marquee players available for the first time this season.

So we're going the other way and backing the outsiders in the Wanderers. Surely their wait for a first victory of the season can't go on much longer? But if the last three weeks haven't enabled Popovic to address problems behind the scenes at Wanderland, it could be a very long second half of the season indeed for the Parramatta faithful.