Preview: Perth Glory v Western Sydney Wanderers

This looms as the match of the round given the strong form both sides are in and their positions on the ladder.

Date: Thursday, December 27, 2012 Kick-off: 9.45pm AEDT, 6.45pm Local Venue: nib Stadium, Perth

Head-to-head: Played 1: Wins: Perth 0, Western Sydney 1, Draws: 0

Previous encounter: Perth 0-1 Western Sydney, November 18, 2012

Form: Past five matches: Glory: WWLLD Wanderers: WWWLL

The Game: This game presents a great opportunity for one of these sides to really entrench themselves in the top six with the fifth-placed Glory taking on the Wanderers who are one place and two points higher than the hosts. Win and give yourself a nice buffer over those outside the finals spots but lose and you are all of a sudden back in a dogfight with a cluster of teams. It's a good thing then that both of these teams are in form and have all their players fit and firing.

The Glory produced a great performance on the road to beat champions Brisbane last Friday to get some sort of revenge for their grand final defeat last season. But if you thought that was impressive, the Wanderers went even better by crushing second-placed Adelaide 6-1 on the same night, the new club's biggest ever victory. It means there is likely to be very little change to either side for this one, although the Wanderers will be sweating on the fitness of left-back Adam D'Apuzzo, who picked up a calf injury in the big win over the Reds. Iacopo La Rocca filled in for the former Newcastle man and should get the nod again, although the versatile Shannon Cole is also an option for coach Tony Popovic.

The big issue: Glory - Perth have a wonderful recent record at home but were beaten by a 10-man Wanderers when the two sides met at nib just over a month ago. On that occasion the visitors sat very deep and made it hard for the Glory to play through them and as a result Ian Ferguson's men failed to create many clear-cut chances. The Wanderers will be just as organised and resolute in this one and the home side could struggle again unless they've come up with a different plan to unlock their miserly defence.

Wanderers - Last weekend's demolition of Adelaide should put to bed any notion the Wanderers have trouble scoring goals. What Popovic must ensure this week though is his side have come down from that high and are fully focused and prepared for one of the hardest road trips in the competition. There is no doubt the Wanderers have done a superb job so far in their debut season but they no longer have the luxury of flying under the radar. They will need to continue to improve and bring their best every game if they are to keep picking up results.

The game breaker: Mark Bridge - Often criticised for inconsistency in his performances, Bridge is enjoying some of the best form of his career in Sydney's west. So important is he to the Wanderers game, Popovic had no hesitation changing a winning team and rushing Bridge straight back into his starting side last weekend despite two weeks out with injury. The 27-year-old repaid the manager's faith with a brilliant hat-trick to take his tally for the season to five goals. With Bridge in good goal-scoring touch and Shinji Ono and Youssouf Hersi combining well, the Wanderers have an attacking trio for other sides to fear.

Prediction: Glory 1-1 Wanderers This looms as probably the match of the round given the strong form both sides are in and their position on the ladder. It should also be fairly willing with both sides showing they enjoy the physical side of the game when it's needed. The last time the teams met Hersi was sent off for retaliating to a rough challenge by full-back Scott Jamieson. The pair will come face-to-face again and I'm sure the incident won't have been forgotten.