The Western Sydney Wanderers limp into the first Sydney derby of the A-League season this weekend after a draw to the Wellington Phoenix on Sunday.
The Sydney derby is fast becoming one of the centrepieces of the sporting calendar in this city and the Wanderers would have hoped to march into this clash on the back of a strong display against the Phoenix last weekend as was predicted.
While they got off to the fast start many predicted, with a goal to Jerome Polenz after just 15 minutes, the Wanderers failed to press home that advantage and slowly gave control of the match to the visitors.
An equalising goal from Jeremy Brockie – one of the underrated players in the competition, stashed away on the underestimated Phoenix – was deserved rather than a lucky grab for the point on the road.
Polenz’s goal was a good reward for dominating possession in the first half, especially early on in the match. Pressing higher up the pitch to maintain possession is a good sign of intent but the Wanderers lacked a killer instinct for shutting the game down with a second goal.
That will be what Coach Tony Popovic looks for this week as he prepares for the Sydney FC clash.
The silver lining to the Wanderers’ start is this week’s opponents, Sydney FC, who come into this match on the back of a 4-0 flogging at the hands of the Brisbane Roar and their star, Alessandro Del Piero is under a dark injury cloud.
Del Piero, so integral to the attacking success and passing structure of the Sky Blues, sustained a calf injury during the loss on the weekend and immediately walked off the field and down the tunnel.
The 38-year-old footballing maestro has been labelled as unlikely to play although the club hasn’t ruled it out entirely.
Injuries often take longer to heal as a professional athlete ages and a player taking himself out of the game doesn’t bode well for it being a small tweak.
The Wanderers will prepare as if Del Piero will be available this week, knowing the likelihood is Sydney FC will wait until game day to select him or rule him out of the match.
Aaron Mooy, who suffered a concussion last week, is the Wanderers’ injury concern.
He may have to sit out the match due to international protocols around concussion management.
This week the Wanderers will probably revert to their preferred style of play, especially away from home.
They will sit back a little further in defence, let the home side do the work and explode on the counter attack with the likes of Youssef Hersi.
A slightly defensive posture will be deployed understanding Sydney FC hasn’t looked dangerous at all if Del Piero isn’t at the heart of a move. Without him, or even with a rushed return, the Wanderers will believe they have the ability at the back to record a clean sheet in this match.
The derby is always a charged atmosphere and one that gets pulses racing.
The Sky Blues will be hoping that bolsters their team after conceding three goals within seven minutes last week and gives them resolve to stick to the task against a hard to break Wanderers wall.
If the game’s early fiery exchanges don’t trouble the score sheet, look for the Wanderers to win this match with a goal or two from a long range attack rather than camping in the opposition half.
The Wanderers will find too many out of place Sydney FC defenders on the counter and will record a 2-0 victory to give the Red and Black Bloc a reason to celebrate.
There’s nothing like grabbing early bragging rights in the first derby of the season.