It could be the most lopsided Sydney Derby in history.
Sydney FC, who sit seven points clear on top of the A-League ladder and are yet to experience defeat in season 2016-17, take on a Western Sydney Wanderers outfit who’ve won just two matches and are looking down the barrel of missing the Finals.
The Sky Blues sounded a warning siren to the rest of the competition back in October when they thrashed the Wanderers 4-0 in the opening round of the season, and since then have gone on to record 11 victories and three draws.
Their arch rivals meanwhile have recorded two wins, four losses and a whopping eight draws, unable to capitalise on opportunities and establish a strong defensive unit.
But what’s happened over the last 14 weeks tends to matter little in a Derby. There is no doubt that Sydney FC would consider the Wanderers a huge threat this Saturday night while Tony Popovic will be marking this game down as a must-win and an opportunity to revive his team’s season.
Popovic hit the freeway and travelled to the Central Coast to watch Sydney FC sneak home 3-2 against the Mariners last Sunday afternoon, and would have seen opportunities for his side to strike.
Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold will be forced to shuffle his side somewhat this week with central defender Seb Ryall suffering a serious hamstring injury and Josh Brillante picking up a yellow card, which will rule him out of the derby.
The Wanderers are coming off a 1-0 loss to Melbourne City last Friday night, and Popovic said his team needs to take things game-by-game as their finals chances slowly start to evaporate.
“We have to concentrate on just going week by week and that wouldn’t change whether we were at the top or where we are now,” he said.
“We’re performing without getting results. We’ve had too many draws, we know that, but we can’t change that now.”
A sell-out crowd is expected for Saturday night’s Derby at Allianz Stadium but fans are being warned of huge delays expected at the Moore Park precinct.
With the Big Bash cricket match between the Sydney Thunder and Sydney Sixers being played at the SCG, it’s likely upwards of 70,000 people will converge on the area, with fans urged to take public transport.
Sydney Trains is also conducting trackwork this weekend, which will add even more travel time for fans, particularly those coming from Penrith. Buses are replacing trains between St Marys and Granville for much of the weekend.
The match, which kicks off at 7.50pm, is being broadcast live on Fox Sports.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor.