Last season's grand finalists will not have to wait long to renew hostilities, while the A-League will have its latest-ever finish as the FFA revealed the 2013-13 season draw
|By JOHN GRECO
Grand final combatants Central Coast and the Western Sydney Wanderers will resume hostilities in the opening round of the A-League season after the 2013-14 fixture list was revealed on Wednesday.
The championship-winning Mariners will host Tony Popovic's side on Saturday, October 12 - just 24 hours after Alessandro Del Piero's Sydney FC open the campaign with a clash against the Newcastle Jets.
The Melbourne Derby is also a mouth-watering feature of the first round, while Adelaide take on Perth and Brisbane meet Wellington.
The entire season draw was unveiled in Sydney on Wednesday, with Football Federation Australia revealing - as expected - that the campaign will have its latest ever-finish.
The FFA has pencilled in a May 4 grand final to come closer in line with major European leagues and also give A-League players a better chance to make the Socceroos' World Cup squad.
"This season's draw has been crafted to ensure that whether you are an avid supporter of a team or the many new fans discovering the A-League there is always something to look forward to in every round of the 2013-14 competition," FFA chief executive officer David Gallop said.
"This season will also see the competition fight for more turf, with the A-League 2014 Grand Final set to take place on May 4."
The first Sydney derby of the year will be played in Round 3 at Allianz Stadium, with the Sky Blues to get two of the three matches with the Western Sydney Wanderers on their home turf.
Sydney FC will also host a match on Boxing Day for the first time, taking on the two-time champions Roar.
Other features of the draw include a repeat of the hectic festive fixtures, with 16 games to be played in just 18 days around the Christmas-New Year period.
There is more of the blockbuster fixtures to be played on Fridays, with Melbourne Heart the big winners with eight games to kick-off the weekend.
All Friday games will be televised live on both Fox Sports and SBS, with the latter part of the A-League's first free-to-air deal.
"We're delighted that we have three more Friday night games at home this season and importantly that our players have a good travel schedule to prepare for their matches on the road," Heart chief executive officer Scott Munn said.
"With increased exposure on free to air TV this season, added to having two home games against both Sydney and Western Sydney, this is an exciting time for us."
Sydney FC chief executive officer Tony Pignata was equally bouyant: "It's a draw that offers plenty of excitement for Sydney FC members and fans," he said.
"... We open the A-League season by hosting Newcastle Jets, which will be a huge match as it was last year when more than 35,000 people saw Alessandro Del Piero make his home debut.
"Our members and fans can also look forward to an action-packed start to the season with the Big Blue clash with Melbourne Victory following the opening match and the first Sydney Derby."