Preview: Sydney FC V Western Sydney Wanderers
Played: 5 – Sydney 1, Wanderers 3, Drawn 1
Wanderers 1-0 Sydney FC, January 11, 2014
Past five matches:
Sydney FC: LWWLL
Sydney FC saw their two-game winning streak brought to an abrupt end with a disappointing 2-1 away loss to the struggling Central Coast last weekend. Despite the defeat, the Sky Blues remain in the top six but just two points ahead of both the Newcastle Jets and Wellington Phoenix. And with a tough stretch of matches to come after this, they desperately need the three points here. Frank Farina's side will play Brisbane (home), Adelaide (away) and Melbourne Victory (away) after this weekend in a run that will determine whether they play finals football. Richie Garcia scored off the bench last weekend and could be in for a return to the starting XI. The Wanderers also head into the derby on the back of a defeat, a limp 2-0 home loss to the Jets. Including the ACL game against Ulsan that's back-back-to-back defeats for the club and they can ill-afford another loss if they hope to retain their Premiers' Plate. Matthew Spiranovic is unlikely to play with the central defender to return late from Socceroos duty, with club skipper Michael Beauchamp his likely replacement. Young striker Tomi Juric is also hoping to return after a couple of weeks out with a hamstring problem. The Wanderers have won both derbies this season and have also been successful on both previous visits to Allianz Stadium.
The big issue:
Sydney FC – Slow starts. While it's nothing new to say it's important to start strong it's vital for the Sky Blues if they hope to taste derby success. Sydney has lost all nine games this season when they have conceded the first goal, meaning they can't afford to go behind against the Wanderers. They will need to sharpen up defensively at set pieces as well, with almost half the goals they have conceded this season coming from dead-ball situations.
Wanderers – Fatigue. While Popovic has been playing down the significance of his side's hectic schedule now the ACL has started, there's no doubt it had an effect in their lacklustre loss to the Jets last weekend. There was none of that usual spark normally associated with the Wanderers. If they haven't figured out a way to freshen things up this week it could be a tough night out against their local rivals.
The game breaker:
Alessandro Del Piero – The Italian veteran has only managed to show glimpses of his class this season but you get the sense he is saving something special for this clash. Del Piero is the only Sydney FC player to have scored against the Wanderers in the five previous derbies and if the Sky Blues are to knock-off their cross-town rivals he'll need to lead the way for the home side.
Prediction: Sydney FC 1-1 Wanderers
The final derby of the season comes at a time where victory is so important for both sides. Sydney are just hanging on to their spot in the top six and are likely to fall out with a defeat while the Wanderers will all but relinquish the Premiers' Plate if they miss out on the three points. The visitors appear a little tired and vulnerable at the moment and could have one eye on a long trip to China next week. It means Sydney will fancy their chances and despite losing both previous clashes this season to the Wanderers, they were terribly unlucky not to have got anything out of the last one at Parramatta. While history suggests there will be a winner – just one of Sydney's last 18 home games has ended in a draw – I just can't split these two this week.