A-League Preview: Sydney wary of Wanderers ahead of derby
Rhyan Grant insists Sydney FC are not underestimating cellar-dwelling Western Sydney Wanderers as the two teams prepare to square-off in another instalment of the Sydney derby on Saturday.
After being crowned Asian champions in November, 2013-14 A-League runners-up Western Sydney have endured a nightmare season domestically, languishing two points adrift at the bottom of the table.
Having only managed one win in 16 matches this season after last week's late 2-1 loss at Adelaide United, Wanderers - who have two games in hand - are outsiders for Saturday's hosting of fifth-placed Sydney at Pirtek Stadium.
Tony Popovic's men will also be without suspended duo Matthew Spiranovic and Mateo Poljak for the fixture but Sydney defender Grant knows form counts for nothing in derby matches, even after his team defeated Central Coast Mariners 4-2.
"We know things haven't gone as well as they wanted to but that's football. It can take just one game for them to get back into the swing of things and we don't want that to be against us," said Grant, who signed a two-year extension during the week.
"We're very cautious of what they can do. They've got a great squad and a great coach, Popa [Popovic] has done wonders since he's been there and that's why we won't be taking them easily because of how well they've done in the Champions League and in the A-League."
Ladder leaders Perth Glory are also in action on Saturday.
Glory, whose lead atop the table has been cut to just two points amid a run of three draws and two defeats following last week's goalless stalemate at Melbourne City, face Brisbane Roar at nib Stadium.
Roar had the week off last week after their round 17 fixture at home to Melbourne Victory was postponed due to safety concerns surrounding Tropical Cyclone Marcia.
The remaining fixture on Saturday sees second-bottom Newcastle Jets go head-to-head with fellow strugglers the Mariners in the F3 Derby.
Newcastle threw away a two-goal lead as they drew 2-2 with Wellington Phoenix and Mariners captained John Hutchinson has stoked the fire ahead of the match, with only five points separating the two teams.
"If you look at Newcastle, who are meant to have the big community and big club mentality, but I don't remember the last time they made the finals," said Hutchinson.
"I'm sure the fans and members up there would be very disappointed in what the club produces year in, year out.
"This season's been a rebuilding season for us and I know Newcastle has been in a rebuilding phase for the last four years, so we're going through one at the moment."
Archie Thompson - the league's all-time leading scorer - is set to make his 200th appearance for second-placed Melbourne Victory when Wellington travel to AAMI Park on Sunday.
Foundation player Thompson has scored 84 goals and won two A-League titles since debuting for the club in 2005.
In a boost for Victory, who could leapfrog Glory depending on results over the weekend, marquee striker Besart Berisha is free to play after escaping with a reprimand for making a crude gesture towards Sydney supporters almost a fortnight ago.
The round kicks off in Melbourne on Friday as stuttering City play host to third-placed Adelaide, who are level on points with Victory.