Parramatta Stadium will host what promises to be a riveting city derby on Saturday, with plenty at stake for Sydney FC and the Premiers' Plate on offer for the hosts
|By GOAL AUSTRALIA
WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS
Cole, Topor-Stanley, Beauchamp, D'Apuzzo
Ono, La Rocca, Poljak, Trifiro
Ryall, Neill, Griffiths, Grant
Emerton, Abbas, Triantis, Antonis
Griffiths, Del Piero
While Saturday's Sydney derby promises to be a feisty affair, both Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney FC will be pursuing vastly different objectives which could define their campaign.
Although the allure of a victory in a local derby will dominate the thoughts of both sets of fans ahead of their encounter at the Parramatta Stadium, Western Sydney could clinch the Premiers' Plate with a win while Sydney FC are desperately trying to accrue enough points to consolidate their top six spot and qualify for the play-offs.
Tony Popovic's men, top of the standings with 53 points, will have to make do without several key personnel, with defender Jerome Polenz and midfielder Aaron Mooy poised to miss out with quad and knee injuries respectively.
Perhaps more ominously for the A-League leaders, 'lucky charm' Youssouf Hersi will also be sidelined due to suspension. The attacking midfielder's personal winning run stretched to 15 games last Saturday as the Wanderers notched a record 10th-consecutive A-League win, against Melbourne Heart.
Marquee signing and former Feyenoord playmaker Shinji Ono is also struggling with a slight hamstring strain but should shake it off to take his place in the Wanderers' first XI.
Shannon Cole, Iacopo La Rocca and Jason Trifiro lead the candidates for elevations into the starting line-up.
Sydney FC, meanwhile, come into this fixture on the back of an entertaining 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory last Saturday and are sitting in fifth spot with 31 points.
However, the Sky Blues are poor travellers and two points from their last seven away matches paint a telling picture.
If they are to harbour any hopes of claiming a play-off spot, they have no choice but to break their away hoodoo as their remaining two matches are on the road.
In contrast, their sterling home form over the last three months have enabled Frank Farina's troops to stay in the hunt for a finals spot.
Nevertheless, Sydney FC will take heart from the fact that they eked out a 1-0 win over their fierce city rivals last October thanks to an Alessandro Del Piero, who lashed home after initially missing from the penalty spot.
Unlike the Wanderers' injury and suspension woes, Sydney FC manager Farina has no fresh injury concerns, with regular Australia international captain Lucas Neill recovering from a calf problem.
He would have missed his country's meeting with Oman on Tuesday due to suspension.
Former Socceroos coach Farina will have to decide whether to reinstate the former West Ham United man or to stick with Adam Griffiths and Tiago Calvano in the heart of defence. Sky Blues captain Terry McFlynn, however, will miss again after failing to recover from a hamstring injury.
Sydney FC will do well to pay close attention to Wanderers forward Labinot Haliti, who has netted three goals in his last three matches, including a double in his side's record-breaking victory over Heart.
It has been remarkable return to form for the 28-year-old player of Albanian descent, who just a month ago was reduced to a bit-part role under Popovic.
The former Newcastle Jets attacker will be relishing the chance to further consolidate his first-team spot and his pace and mobility could well trouble the Sydney FC rearguard.
That being said, the Wanderers will have to pay close attention to Juventus legend Del Piero, especially since the World Cup winning forward endured a frustrating match against Victory and will be looking to double his goal-scoring account against the Wanderers this campaign.