The Western Sydney Wanderers will be eyeing off a vital opportunity to secure three points against Wellington Phoenix in their home debut to the 2013 A-League season this Sunday afternoon.
After securing a draw against the champions, Central Coast Mariners, in the first round the Wanderers come home to Pirtek Stadium and hope to get the job done against the Phoenix.
The reason this match is so vital for the Wanderers is found in their early schedule. For the Wanderers style – absorbing pressure and attacking on the counter – to work in individual matches and across a whole season requires them to stay in touch with the opposition.
To open the season the Wanderers have already played the Mariners. These are the next five Wanderers fixtures: Phoenix at home, away to Sydney FC led by a sparkling del Piero, home against Adelaide, away to Heart and home to Melbourne Victory.
Wanderers Coach, Tony Popovic will eye the Phoenix and Heart as the best chances to secure three points and ensure the Wanderers are near the top of the ladder once the pecking order is established.
Taking a handful of points this weekend is imperative and to do so the Wanderers must hold possession and be clinical in front of goal.
Socceroos representative, Mitchell Duke, opened the scoring for the Mariners last week and it took a delightful chip into the corner to spoil a strong defensive performance by the Wanderers.
In response, Tomi Juric showed flashes of his own Socceroos potential when he volleyed home a wonderful cross from Youssouf Hersi.
Juric was one of the signings made by Popovic to increase the Wanderers success in front of goal and it has paid dividends already in a tight match. After doing well in the first half the Wanderers chances dried up and they needed a calm finish in the 87th minute to secure the point they deserved on balance.
A clear impact of newly signed players who have a nose for goal, combined with the unpredictable attacking genius of Hersi, means the Wanderers already have a scoring formula for the tough matches.
Against the Phoenix on Sunday the Wanderers will expect the likes of Aaron Mooy, Shinji Ono and Mateo Poljak in midfield to dominate proceedings as the Phoenix struggle with players called up to represent New Zealand.
If the Wanderers engine room is up to the task the second string Phoenix players could be run off their feet in their second road game in two weeks on what looks likely to be a very warm Sunday afternoon at kick-off come 5pm.
The attacking runs of Mark Bridge and Hersi, who love to break between the opposition fullbacks and centre halves are always crucial to Wanderers’ success and will be on Sunday as well. The Phoenix have an inexperienced defensive line and were the cause of their team’s downfall against the Roar in Brisbane in round one.
Bridge and Hersi will cause havoc to that defensive line and if the deep-lying midfielders secure more possession than last week the likes of Labinot Haliti will be able to run into attacking space from the wing back positions.
Given the great forecast for Sunday there’s a great chance the Wanderers fans will fill up Pirtek Stadium and a wall of noise will greet the youngsters from Wellington. Building a home fortress is essential to a title run and the Wanderers will hope for a packed house and the foundations of a strong home record this week.
My prediction? The Wanderers will start fast and be able to close down the game late on, cruising to a 3-1 victory in front of a bouncing Red and Black Bloc.