With three wins from their first three games – a first in club history – the Western Sydney Wanderers sit alone atop the A-League ladder.
In the tie of the round, exciting expansion team Western United will look to claim another scalp against visitors Western Sydney Wanderers.
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Expansion teams generally fare poorly, understandably so, in their inaugural campaign; in fact, the only A-League team to upend this trend was Western Sydney when they lost out to Central Coast Mariners 2-0 in the 2013 grand final.
Yet Western United find themselves currently in fourth place, three points behind this weekend’s opponents. A win by a margin of three goals or more would see them rise above Western Sydney in the table.
A-League fans had long called for expansion to improve the sport but the quality that Western United has shown in such a short span of time is almost remarkable. Manager Mark Rudan has built an exciting and energetic outfit and they’ve been a welcome addition so far.
Indeed, their front three of Alessandro Diamanti, Scott McDonald and Besart Berisha, when their legs weren’t so spent by the forces of ageing, would not have looked out of place for a decent English Championship team.
In what was the pick of the fixtures last weekend, Western United staged a stunning comeback against Melbourne Victory to triumph 3-2. Exciting for the neutral fan, certainly, but Rudan will not want to face such a tumultuous game every week.
Western United will have to ensure they keep things much tighter from kick-off this time as the two early goals – astoundingly within the first seven minutes – from Melbourne Victory had their defence rocking.
There was no loss of belief despite the early assault by Melbourne Victory though and teams with a weaker mentality would likely have capitulated in the contest.
Rudan will be emphasising just how fragile Western Sydney looked against every Brisbane attack and an open game would suit his side more.
Western United might look somewhat precarious at the back but, given the current profligacy of Western Sydney in front of goal, this might not matter.
For context, Daniel Lopar was again the hero for Western Sydney last weekend, much as he was in the previous round against Sydney FC. The signing of the transfer window as it stands, the Swiss goalkeeper will have to be imperious again to keep out the roaring Western United attack.
They weren’t helped last weekend by the early loss of the influential midfielder Primin Schwegler and gaps often appeared in the middle of the pitch. But against a struggling Brisbane Roar side, much more was rightly expected.
Manager Markus Babbel has conceded that their performances haven’t matched their results in the league so far and has cited the need for improvement in their tactics.
Western United predicted XI
GK: Filip Kurto
CB: Connor Chapman
CB: Andrew Durante
CB: Ersan Gulum
RM: Josh Risdon
CM: Panagiotis Kone
CM: Dario Jertec
LM: Connor Pain
CAM: Alessandro Diamanti
ST: Besart Berisha
ST: Scott McDonald
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Veteran Australian striker McDonald netted his first goal for his new side last weekend and will look for more against Western Sydney. Marquee arrival Diamanti has oozed class and the playmaker will be key as usual.
Western Sydney Wanderers predicted XI
GK: Daniel Lopar
RB: Daniel Georgievski
CB: Dylan McGowan
CB: Tass Mourdoukoutas
LB: Daniel Wilmering
RCM: Keanu Baccus
CM: Pirmin Schwegler
LCM: Kosta Grozos
RW: Kwame Yeboah
ST: Nicolai Muller
LW: Mitchell Duke
Recent marquee signing from Germany Muller came on in the second half against Brisbane and impressed immediately with his trickery in tight spaces and intuitive movement. He should make his first start this weekend.
Schwegler is expected to be fit enough after his injury to retain his starting place. Matt Jurman also came off injured against Brisbane and should be replaced by Mouroukoutas in the centre of defence as he was last weekend.
Western Sydney have only travelled away once this campaign, impressively winning 2-1 against league favourites Melbourne Victory. Western United, in contrast, have yet to win at their Geelong home, first drawing with Perth Glory and then losing out to Melbourne City.
These sides played out a draw during pre-season and the same result could be expected this weekend again.
Put simply, this could be a tight affair. However, Western United’s superior firepower will see them through.
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