Tony Popovic takes his revamped Wanderers to Coopers Stadium, where they will face a searching examination against Josep Gombau's possession-kings Adelaide United.
Saturday, 21 February 2015
Coopers Stadium, Adelaide
Kick-Off: 7:00 PM (Local) (7:30 PM AEDT)
Adelaide United squad : 1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (GK) (c), 2.Michael MARRONE, 4.Dylan McGOWAN, 5.Osama MALIK, 7.PABLO SÁNCHEZ, 8.ISAÍAS, 9.Sergio CIRIO, 10.Marcelo CARRUSCA, 11.Bruce DJITE, 14.Cameron WATSON, 16.Craig GOODWIN, 17.Awer MABIL, 18.Jimmy JEGGO, 19.Miguel PALANCA, 20.Paul IZZO (GK), 21.Tarek ELRICH, 24.Bruce KAMAU, 32.Nathan KONSTANDOPLOUS
***two to be omitted***
Ins: 20.Paul IZZO (GK) (promoted), 24.Bruce KAMAU (promoted), 32.Nathan KONSTANDOPLOUS (promoted)
Outs: 30.John HALL (GK) (not selected)
Unavailable: 3.Nigel BOOGAARD (knee – 1 week), 23.Jordan ELSEY (knee – indefinite)
Western Sydney Wanderers FC squad: 1.Ante COVIC (gk), 2.Shannon COLE, 3.Yusuke TANAKA, 4.Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY (c), 5.Brendan HAMILL, 7.Labinot HALITI, 8.Mateo POLJAK, 9.Tomi JURIC, 10.Yojiro TAKAHAGI, 11.Brendon SANTALAB, 12.Nikita RUKAVYTSYA, 13.Matthew SPIRANOVIC, 17.Romeo CASTELEN, 18.Iacopo La Rocca, 20.Dean BOUZANIS (gk), 23.Jason TRIFIRO, 25.Sam GALLAWAY, 33.Nick KALMAR
***two to be omitted***
Ins : 25.Sam GALLAWAY (promoted), 18.Iacopo La Rocca (returns from injury), 17.Romeo CASTELEN (returns from injury)
Outs: 6.Antony GOLEC (not selected)
Unavailable: 34.Golgol MEBRAHTU (knee – indefinite)
TV Broadcast: Live and exclusive coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 7.00pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport 2 (New Zealand)
Radio Broadcast: Online/ABC Radio Mobile phone app
Referee: Peter O'Leary
Assistant Referee 1: Paul Cetrangolo
Assistant Referee 2: Matthew Cream
Fourth Official: Rick Schneider
The Wanderers have some painful demons to exorcise on Saturday.
Their last visit to Coopers Stadium was one of the low points of a disastrous start to the A-League season. Nikolai Topor-Stanley was sent off for two yellow cards inside the first 17 minutes, leaving a lacklustre 10 men to be thoroughly outclassed by their hosts. If the Reds had remembered to pack their shooting boots, the margin of victory would have been far greater than 2-0.
Since then Tony Popovic has overhauled his under-performing squad and they finally got off the mark with a 2-0 win against Wellington Phoenix in Penrith earlier this month. But the jury is still out on whether that was the start of a genuine revival or merely a one-off.
Last weekend's uninspiring 1-1 draw with fellow strugglers the Newcastle Jets would suggest the latter. In contrast to the Hunter Stadium battlers, Adelaide represent the Wanderers' toughest opponents since they hosted Melbourne Victory before the Asian Cup.
We're about to find out what the recovering Asian champions are made of.
They can expect to encounter an Adelaide team full of motivation and in decent form. The Reds were held to a 1-1 draw at home to league leaders Perth Glory last Sunday but are still just four points off top spot.
They boast one of the most potent attacks and tightest defences in the competition. Playing in front of their own fans for the second match in succession, Gombau's men should be well rested and will go into this one as deserved favourites.
OPTA DATA STATS
- The Reds have hit the back of the net in each of their last seven matches.
- United are unbeaten in three against the Wanderers (W2 D1), keeping a clean sheet in each game.
- The Wanderers have scored four goals in four visits to Adelaide, with all of these coming in one game (4-2 in February 2013). They've lost the other three.
ROUTE TO GOAL
Adelaide have only scored once in each of their last two matches but the Reds remain a potent attacking side. Pablo Sanchez scored a delightful goal in their home draw with the Glory and it was Awer Mabil on the scoresheet in Gosford the week before.
Bruce Djite is well equipped to serve as a focal point up front, with Marcelo Carrusca pulling the strings in the hole. In addition to Sanchez and Mabil, Gombau can call on Craig Goodwin, Sergio Cirio and new recruit Miguel Palanca.
Popovic started with Tomi Juric, Nikita Rukavytsya and Labinot Haliti away to the Jets, with Japanese recruit Yojiro Takahagi now charged with creative duties. The former Sanfrecce Hiroshima midfielder looks like a potential A-League star, but will he see enough of the ball at Coopers Stadium to influence proceedings?
WHO'S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?
It was announced this week that impressive centre-back Nigel Boogaard, who has been a key figure under Gombau, will leave Adelaide at the end of the season to join the Newcastle Jets. Sidelined for this match with a knee problem, his departure will leave a significant void for the Reds to fill at the back.
The Reds have been inconsistent since the A-League's resumption following the break for the Asian Cup. They began with a bang, thumping the Newcastle Jets 7-0. But they then slipped up to lose 2-1 at the Central Coast Mariners, before being held to a 1-1 draw at home to Perth Glory last weekend.
The Wanderers' first match back from the Asian Cup saw them lose 2-1 away to Melbourne City. They finally won in the 2014-15 A-League by beating Wellington Phoenix 2-0 in Penrith, before conceding an injury time penalty to draw 1-1 with the Newcastle Jets last time out.
DID YOU KNOW?
No player has made more passes this season than Adelaide's Isaias (1126). The Wanderers have managed fewer shots on target than any other team this season (59).
Adelaide 2-1 Western Sydney
We're backing the Reds to come out on top in this one. Josep Gombau's men have looked more threatening up front and tighter at the back than the Wanderers throughout the campaign. Barring a serious reversal in one or both of those two trends this weekend, a home win is the most likely outcome.