Composure critical in Sydney derby - Santalab

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The veteran striker reckons no team has gone closer to beating Sydney FC this season than the Wanderers did in January

Brendon Santalab feels Western Sydney Wanderers have come closer than any other team to ending Sydney FC's unbeaten run this season and believes they can do so on Saturday night.

More than 50,000 fans are expected at ANZ Stadium as the two sides of Sydney collide in a crucial match for both teams, although for largely different reasons.

The Sky Blues are looking to take a step closer to the A-League premiership and an unbeaten season, while the Wanderers desperately need three points to boost their hopes of making the finals.

Composure, according to Santalab, will be critical for Western Sydney.

"You can't avoid the hype of the derby, it's a special game for the players, fans and everyone involved," Santalab told reporters on Thursday.

"It's about staying cool and getting on with the job.

"When the whistle blows it's win at all costs. It's about keeping emotions intact and keeping cool and calm.

"It's not always easy with 50-60,000 people, which will be amazing again."

Popovic dismisses Shenhua reports

Santalab scored the winner the last time the Wanderers won a derby in 2014 but was suspended in the most recent Harbour City clash last month.

Western Sydney produced one of their best performances of the campaign that night as they held Sydney to a 0-0 draw.

"We take great confidence from that performance. That was the closest anyone has come to beating Sydney this year," the 34-year-old said.

"The way we played was great, we probably should have had a penalty as well, which didn't go our way and on another night we could have stolen the points."

Having been left on the bench in last week's shock 2-0 loss to Central Coast Mariners, Santalab is expected to come into the starting XI and lead the Wanderers' attack.

Martinez wants to stay with Wanderers

And with their opening AFC Champions League (ACL) clash against Urawa Red Diamonds to follow on Tuesday night, Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic has hinted at a few changes to his starting line-up.

"Everyone is fit and healthy and everyone wants to play in the derby. You have to respect every player for that," he said.

"They all want to play, they are all training well. There'll be some tough decisions this week.

"Of course in this period every player will play, whether it's the A-League or ACL, and we have to be good enough to compete in both competitions."

Skipper Dimas is suspended for the Wanderers, with Bruno Pinatares favourite to take his defensive midfield role, although ex-Sydney man Terry Antonis is another option.

 

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