A-League: Western Sydney Wanderers v Perth Glory
Played: 3 Wins: Wanderers 2, Glory 0, Draws: 1
Wanderers 1-0 Glory, February 23, 2013
Past five matches:
Due to a quirk in the A-League draw this clash is the first time these two sides will meet this season, despite being more than halfway through the campaign. And it's a vital game for both sides who are in contrasting form. The Wanderers are enduring their worst run in the club's history, slumping to three losses from their last four games – including last weekend's limp 1-0 defeat to Adelaide - to lose ground with leaders Brisbane. Injuries have played a part in their dip, with the likes of Jerome Polenz, Mateo Poljak and Iacopo La Rocca all sidelined. Coach Tony Popovic has another problem this weekend with young striker Tomi Juric out suspended, with either Labinot Haliti or Brendan Santalab expected to lead the attack.
In contrast the Glory continue to pick up points under new boss Kenny Lowe, holding a 10-man Roar outfit to a hard-earned 0-0 draw in their last outing. Lowe seems to have got the mix right between the club's emerging talent and experienced crop and Perth are playing with a newfound resolve and confidence which makes them a dangerous opponent. Marquee man William Gallas got through 45 minutes in his return from injury last weekend and will be hopeful of giving a bit more this week while star striker Shane Smeltz could also be ready for a starting berth. The two sides have played just three times with the Glory still searching for their first win.
The big issue:
Wanderers – Squad rotation. Popovic's tendency to make mass changes to his side from week-to-week has been a topic of hot conversation now the Wanderers are starting to lose a few games. While injuries haven't helped their cause of late, the Western Sydney boss has yet to pick the same XI in back-to-back games this season. While he is eager to keep his side as fresh as possible ahead of the finals and an ACL campaign, the constant chopping and changing can't be good for team cohesion.
Glory – Improving their away form. The Glory have built their recent resurgence on some impressive results in front of their away fans but if they are to lock-up a top six berth, will need to do similar on the road. Perth seem to be a different side whenever they travel across the Nullarbor and have managed just one win away from nib Stadium so far this campaign. There's no more hostile road trip in the A-League than the Wanderers and their amazing support so this will be a huge test for the Glory and their away woes.
The game breaker:
Youssouf Hersi – The Dutch winger has again been a model of consistency this season, continuing to look the Wanderers most dangerous player even during their lean patch. His pace and tireless running is a huge advantage for Western Sydney and his service down the right will be vital if the home side are to get all three points here. Surprisingly, the Wanderers have yet to tie him down for next season but if he continues his outstanding performances it can't be long until Hersi gets a new and improved contract.
Prediction: Wanderers 2-1 Glory
Are the Wanderers in a worrying downward spiral or just going through a mini-slump due to their mounting injury toll. That question is likely to be answered on Australia Day. While the Glory have struggled on the road this season they head to 'Wanderland' in confident mood and desperate to hold onto their top six spot. But you would have to expect a response from Western Sydney. The Wanderers haven't lost back-to-back games since round 2-3 of last season and will want to make sure it doesn't extend to three matches.