Western Sydney Wanderers
Premiers, lost in the grand final 2-0 to Central Coast
Dean Heffernan [Perth Glory], Tomi Juric [Adelaide United], Brendon Santalab [Chongqing Lifan], Matthew Spiranovic [free]
Reece Caira [Wellington Phoenix], Tarek Elrich [Adelaide United], Joey Gibbs [Newcastle Jets], Dino Kresinger [Zavrc], Rocky Visconte [Croydon Kings]
A growing fan base and going so close to grand final success last season should see Western Sydney aiming for similar again this campaign. Tony Popovic could barely have asked for a better start in his first full-time head coaching role as the Wanderers claimed the premiership before losing the grand final. Western Sydney have kept a relatively settled squad, which could be either a help or a hindrance. Popovic has added strikers in Tomi Juric and Brendon Santalab and strengthened an already stingy defence with the signing of Matthew Spiranovic. While other teams may have added more quality to their squads, the Wanderers are rightly prepared to stick by the players who got them so close last season.
What has to go right
Much of Western Sydney's success last season was built on their defence and they look like needing similar again to match or better their efforts of 2012-13. There have been no major losses from that squad while the additions of Spiranovic and Dean Heffernan help strengthen the defence. Juric and Brendon Santalab will add quality to the attacking third, but defences – led by goalkeeper Ante Covic – win championships and they will need to stand up again for the Wanderers.
Failure to keep clean sheets would really hurt Western Sydney while injuries are capable of derailing any team's A-League campaign. If Covic is unable to reproduce his form of the past couple of the seasons the Wanderers may be troubled and imagine the impact of a long-term injury to either Shinji Ono or Youssouf Hersi.
"O-no! Shinji tears ACL"
Despite only a few additions, there is nothing to suggest the Wanderers cannot be just as good as last season. Popovic's men were organised and hard to break down and if they are as disciplined again, they will be hard to beat. Urged on by some of the league's most vocal supporters, the Wanderers should be strong at home, and their defence should at least keep them in matches on the road. The question will be whether they have the attacking quality to go one step further than last season.
Second, semi-final loss [writer's prediction].