A-League: Western Sydney v Adelaide United
Played: 5 – Wanderers 3, Adelaide 2
Adelaide 1-0 Wanderers, January 19, 2014
Past five matches:
The Wanderers snapped their three-game losing streak with an historic maiden ACL win over Guizhou on Wednesday night. The squad will arrive back from China on Friday morning giving them just over 24 hours to prepare for what is a crucial clash with the Reds. Coach Tony Popovic left the likes of Ante Covic, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Matthew Spiranovic, Shinji Ono, Tomi Juric and Brendon Santalab at home and will be able to freshen up his side for Saturday's match. After being talked up as genuine title contenders a few weeks ago, there is a little bit of pressure starting to fall on the Reds. Last week's 2-1 loss to Brisbane was their second defeat in three games and they start the weekend just one-point ahead of Newcastle who are in seventh spot. While it's not panic stations just yet, Adelaide won't want to go another week without getting any points. A win would see them close the gap to the Wanderers to just one point heading into the final month of the season.
The big issue:
Wanderers – A feature of the Wanderers' recent three-game losing streak was uncharacteristic defensive mistakes. Popovic has been content with the way his side has been playing but they have been continually punished for any lapses of concentration at the back. With Reds attackers Jeronimo Neumann, Fabio Ferreira and Cirio in free-scoring form, they will need to cut out the errors or they will pay the price again.
Adelaide – After taking the league by storm for a couple of months, there's just a couple of signs Josep Gomabu's side may be hitting the skids at just the wrong time. While they still possess some great attacking options and are always a threat going forward, their insistence on playing a high-line at the back is an area opposition side's will continually look to exploit in the run-in to the finals.
The game breaker:
Tomi Juric – The young striker is a key player for the Wanderers and it's no surprise they have struggled without him since he's been on the treatment table. It's not only his goals that are important for the Wanderers but Juric's all-action approach and ability to bring other players into the game proves a handful for opposition defenders and the Reds' back four won't enjoy his physical style.
Prediction: Wanderers 2-1 Adelaide
Going on recent form domestically you would have to give Adelaide a big chance in this one. While they lost to the Roar last week, they had won three of four before that and know this is their last chance if they hope to make a push for second spot. But there's nothing like a midweek win in the ACL to restore confidence to a Wanderers side that had otherwise looked like it was running on fumes. The trip away and the return of that winning feeling will undoubtedly lift the mood around 'Wanderland' and it might be the spark to get them over the line on Saturday night.