Western Sydney Wanderers and the Melbourne Victory will meet in Round 6 of the 2013-14 A-League season at Pirtek Stadium on Saturday, November 16 at 7.45pm AEDT
WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS
Polenz, T-Stanley, Spiranovic, D'Apuzzo
Poljak, La Rocca, OnoHaliti, Santalab, Bridge
Geria, Contreras, Leijer, Traore
Mahazi/Jeggo, BroxhamThompson, Troisi, Nichols, Pain
Played: 3 - Wins: Wanderers 2, Victory 1
Victory 1-2 Wanderers, February 16, 2013
Past five matches:
The Wanderers remain the only unbeaten side in the A-League and are riding high on a three-game winning streak after last weekend's gritty 1-0 away win over Melbourne Heart. The biggest concern for coach Tony Popovic at the moment is just who to select in his starting XI with most of his squad fit and in-form. Winger Youssouf Hersi (foot) and striker Tomi Juric (knee) are the only injury concerns and will unlikely be risked against the Victory. Skipper Michael Beauchamp, who was surprisingly rested against the Heart last weekend, is expected to come straight back into the side, while Labinot Haliti may be called on to lead the attack if Juric is ruled out.
Kevin Muscat suffered his first defeat as head coach in last weekend's gripping 'Big Blue' with his side going down 3-2 against a 10-man Sydney FC. The rookie boss now has the task of regrouping his troops for arguably the toughest road trip in the A-League against the Wanderers and their vocal fans. Muscat's cause won't be helped by international duty with skipper Mark Milligan away with the Socceroos, while Kosta Barbarouses is again absent with the All Whites. Milligan's absence might give a chance to Brazilian playmaker Gui Finkler to get his first start of the season.
The big issue:
Wanderers – Injuries are starting to mount up for the Wanderers, with key winger Hersi joined on the sidelines by leading scorer Juric. With so much of their attacking thrust sitting out, there could be a question mark on just where the goals source will come from. It will at least add pressure to the likes of Shinji Ono, Mark Bridge and Brendon Santalab to fill the breach.
Victory – There's no doubt the Victory are capable of scoring goals but they have looked a little shaky at the back, especially from set pieces. All three of Sydney's goals in their defeat last weekend came from defensive lapses at a set-piece. A former resilient and hard-nosed defender, you would think Muscat won't allow that to continue for much longer which puts everyone on notice for the rest of the season.
The game breaker:
Brendon Santalab – The 31-year-old attacker has made a solid start to his A-League returning, figuring in all five matches so far this season. And Santalab has looked more and more comfortable in every game, which could spell trouble for the Victory this weekend. With a new two-year deal locked away this week, Santalab will be hoping to repay the club's faith in him with a goal and he might get that chance if pushed further forward in the absence of Juric.
Prediction: Wanderers 2-1 Victory
After a bad start to their Sydney double-header, the Victory will be desperate to get something from their second trip to the Harbour City. There is already a small gap opening up between the top two, Brisbane and the Wanderers, and another defeat for the Victory will make things even tougher so early in the campaign. You can be sure the visitors won't be so accommodating in defence this weekend but the Wanderers have shown they are just as strong – if not even better – than last season. A Shinji Ono double settled the last clash between the two sides at 'Wanderland' last season and if the Japanese midfielder is in a similar mood, the home side should get the points.