A-League preview: Western Sydney Wanderers v Melbourne Victory
Perhaps the league's two most in-form sides, a real cracker looms at Parramatta Stadium on New Year's Day
WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS
Polenz, T-Stanley, Beauchamp, La Rocca
Ono, Poljak, MooyHersi, Kresinger, Bridge
Broxham, Ansell, Leijer, Traore
Finkler, Bru, CeleskiRojas, Flores, Thompson
Both Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Victory have picked up 10 points in their past five games - the same as league-leaders Central Coast Mariners - and are keen to put some more pressure on second-placed Adelaide United.
Victory could overtake United if they beat Wanderers and the faltering Reds lose to Sydney FC, while a win for Western Sydney will see them overhaul Ange Postecoglou's and move into third spot on the A-League ladder.
Western Sydney should have the likes of Shinji Ono, Mark Bridge and Youssouf Hersi back in their starting line-up against Victory, after Wanderers head coach Tony Popovic made six changes from the side that defeated Adelaide 6-1 for the 1-1 draw away to Perth Glory.
The draw in Perth means the Wanderers have now extended their unbeaten run to four games.
But although Popovic's side were praised early in the season for their solid defensive effort, December has seen them step up a gear to become a genuinely impressive team.
With the spotlight now firmly on Western Sydney, can the Wanderers succeed when it is expected? Melbourne Victory will be a big test on New Year's Day, but having won their past two games at home, the Wanderers should fancy their chances of a result at Parramatta Stadium.
Postecoglou, meanwhile, will have Adrian Leijer available again after Victory's captain served a one-game suspension during his team's 3-2 win over Newcastle Jets, but Mark Milligan is still suspended for his punch on Heart's Jonatan Germano during the derby.
Victory can take stock in the knowledge that, in 21-year-old forward Marco Rojas, they have the league's best player.
Dubbed 'The Kiwi Messi', Rojas scored twice in Victory's 3-2 triumph over the Jets to take his season tally to nine goals, second only behind Central Coast's Daniel McBreen.
After a lacklustre first season with Victory, Rojas has blossomed under Postecoglou and his form could tempt clubs around the world during the January transfer window.
Even if they can hold onto the New Zealander for the rest of this campaign, Victory need to capitalise on Rojas' form and win some silverware as he may not be in the A-League next season.
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Top 3 Predictions
Western Sydney Wanderers 1-2 Melbourne Victory
- 18.75 %
Western Sydney Wanderers 3-1 Melbourne Victory
- 12.5 %
Western Sydney Wanderers 2-1 Melbourne Victory
- 12.5 %
|Australia - A-League (AUS1)||14/01/2014||Melbourne Victory 3 - Western Sydney Wanderers 1|
|Australia - A-League (AUS1)||28/12/2013||Melbourne Victory 1 - Western Sydney Wanderers 1|
|Australia - A-League (AUS1)||16/11/2013||Western Sydney Wanderers 1 - Melbourne Victory 0|
|Australia - A-League (AUS1)||16/02/2013||Melbourne Victory 1 - Western Sydney Wanderers 2|
|Australia - A-League (AUS1)||01/01/2013||Western Sydney Wanderers 2 - Melbourne Victory 1|
|Western Sydney Wanderers|
|12/03/2014||Guizhou Renhe 0 - Western Sydney Wanderers 1||ACL|
|08/03/2014||Sydney FC 3 - Western Sydney Wanderers 1||AUS1|
|02/03/2014||Western Sydney Wanderers 0 - Newcastle Jets 2||AUS1|
|26/02/2014||Western Sydney Wanderers 1 - Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i 3||ACL|
|22/02/2014||Perth Glory 0 - Western Sydney Wanderers 2||AUS1|
|12/03/2014||Melbourne Victory 2 - Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2||ACL|
|07/03/2014||Melbourne Victory 3 - Central Coast Mariners 1||AUS1|
|01/03/2014||Melbourne Heart 4 - Melbourne Victory 0||AUS1|
|26/02/2014||Guangzhou Evergrande 4 - Melbourne Victory 2||ACL|
|22/02/2014||Melbourne Victory 4 - Adelaide United 3||AUS1|
|-||Iacopo La Rocca||Midfielder|
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed