Adelaide United defender Iacopo La Rocca is expecting a fired up Western Sydney Wanderers outfit when the pair meet in an intriguing Grand Final rematch to kick-off Round 2 of the Hyundai A-League at Coopers Stadium on Friday night.
The Wanderers were left reeling following their 4-0 rout at the hands of Sydney FC in the Sydney Derby last weekend and La Rocca is anticipating a dramatic response from Tony Popovic’s men.
“They didn’t start very good this season, especially losing 4-0 in the derby, it’s not a good start,” La Rocca said.
“But I expect a different game, a different reaction from the team because this season they will be as well one of the stronger teams in Australia.
“I know Popa (Tony Popovic) and I know he will push the team and of course they will come here to get the three points.
“But we play at home we have the advantage to play at home and we want the three points as well.”
The Reds, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their past five home matches versus Western Sydney, a record dating back to February 2013.
La Rocca, who formerly played for Western Sydney before moving to Adelaide, revealed he is excited about the prospect of playing in front of a packed Coopers Stadium for the first time this season.
“I’m very excited, I expect a packed stadium you know after what we have seen in the Grand Final (last season), I expect the reigning champions to have a packed stadium,” La Rocca said.
“Especially the first game and I’m excited to play in front of my supporters.”
La Rocca is confident of the team’s attacking talent, after United earned a 1-1 draw away to Newcastle Jets in Round 1.
“Yes, I’m full of confidence,” La Rocca continued. “Because you can see from the previous game we created a few chances.
“And I think after when we score the first goal everything will change and they have the quality to change the game, I’m fully confident.”
It is the first time the two sides have encountered since that momentous Grand Final day for Reds fans last season, after the Club secured the Hyundai A-League 2015/16 Championship courtesy of a 3-1 win.
And United have boasted the upper hand in its recent meetings against the Wanderers as well, losing just once in their previous nine meetings.
However, traditionally, this fixture has been a tight contest with two of the past three games ending in goalless stalemates.
The Italian further revealed his injury concerns are behind him and is nearing full fitness, after suffering a fractured cheek bone earlier in pre-season.
“Just last game I didn’t have the right confidence, after the first header my confidence went better and now I’m okay, I’m fully confident to play the 90 minutes,” La Rocca said.
“I’m okay just I think I need a few more games, but when I play centre-back you have to run less than (in midfield).
“It’s okay if you play smarter you can play through the 90 minutes.”
La Rocca also insisted he is ready for the defensive challenge to face former teammates Kerem Bulut and Brendon Santalab.
“Always I like to play against players like (Brendon) Santalab or (Kerem) Bulut because I know that you have to be in the game for 90 minutes, because they are always there,” La Rocca continued.
“And they can be very dangerous, especially for me to play against Wanderers it’s something special, I’m looking forward to it.”