Sydney Derby: 3 key match-ups

The Wanderers might be propping up the competition table but – as is often pointed out – form and ladder position means nothing when it comes to derby day.

We look ahead to three crucial match-ups which will play a major role in determining which hue of the Harbour City will be celebrating come 9.30pm Saturday night.

Sydney FC striker Marc Janko v Wanderers central defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley

These two towering figures should provide a gigantic head-to-head battle in the white-hot furnace of the derby.

After a slow start to his Hyundai A-League career, Janko is living up to his big-money price-tag with six goals in his last four outings.

This has seen the Austrian skipper shoot to the top of the goal-scorers' charts alongside Wellington and Socceroo star Nathan Burns.

As the Mariners, Victory and Glory have found out in recent weeks, when Janko is on his game, he is hard to stop.

That job this week falls on the shoulders of “Topor”, the man whose will to win epitomizes the Wanderers ethos.

While it hasn’t been easy-going for the Wanderers this season, Topor-Stanley’s performances have remained strong and his leadership will be crucial on Saturday night.

But he will have his hands full dealing with the threat of Janko, who is proving just as dangerous not only in the air – making the most of his almost two-metre frame - but also on the deck.

If Topor-Stanley and his defence give him any space, the form Janko is in it will spell disaster for the home side.

Wanderers hardman Iacopo La Rocca v Sydney playmaker Terry Antonis

Over the short history of the Sydney derby, Wanderers hitman La Rocca hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the Sky Blues fans.

Sydney FC are still seething over the midfielders challenge on Ali Abbas earlier this season, while La Rocca was also sent off in the corresponding fixture a couple of years ago for a stray elbow on Antonis.

And the fiery past will only add to the contest between La Rocca and Sydney’s chief playmaker Antonis on Saturday night.

With Mateo Poljak and Matthew Spiranovic both suspended, the burden of keeping Sydney FC’s midfielder quiet will undoubtedly fall to La Rocca.

In recent years a physical presence like La Rocca might have put Antonis off his game but the young Socceroo  has matured immensely under Arnold. He’s added a hard-nosed element to his silky skills and superb passing game which is making him a complete midfielder and vital cog to Sydney’s title challenge.

Wanderers flyer Nikita Rukavytsya v Sydney defender Sebastian Ryall

This confrontation has the potential to light-up Pirtek Stadium.

Rukavytsya has shown in glimpses why Tony Popovic brought him back to the Hyundai A-League, without fully taking full flight just yet.

But on his day he has the searing speed and shot on goal which can turn or win a match on his own.

If Rukavytsya hasn’t quite won over Wanderers fans yet, he would become an instant hero if he can pull off a piece of magic to beat their dreaded neighbours.

It won’t be easy though against the often under-rated Ryall, who thrives on the atmosphere of a big match.

Over the quad injury which has disrupted his season and having overcome the scrutiny for his role in that penalty against Melbourne Victory a fortnight ago, Ryall will come straight in at right-back for this one.

Not only does he possess the defensive nous to keep Rukavytsya in check, Ryall enjoys getting forward and will ask questions of his opposite number at the other end of the pitch too.

Don’t take your eyes off this clash because it will be an all-action battle where neither will leave anything in the tank.