With the worst kept secret in Australian sport now well and truly out of the bag, Australian football at an elite level appears to be just months away from being on its knees.
So the grand final rematch is finally here, but not in the way that many fans would have hoped.
Many expected this fixture to help determine who ended up being premiers at the end of the season and that this would be the tightest game of the league so far.
However, the two teams both come into this game very differently based on points and results. Sydney FC are sitting second in the A-League, one point behind Melbourne City. They have won every game except one, including a win last week against Melbourne Victory. They had 12 points from five games and are unbeaten in the past two games.
On the other hand, Perth Glory are sitting in sixth place, with six in five games.
Sydney FC may have doubled their tally of points, but Perth Glory definitely shouldn’t be written off in this game. For one thing, they still have an amazing squad on paper. They have the best front three in the league and will be licking their lips since Sydney FC haven’t kept a clean sheet so far this season.
However, Perth Glory haven’t either, and Sydney’s front four are in red-hot form. Both teams will be gunning for goals.
Perth Glory squad
Perth Glory will still be without tempo-setting centre back Osama Malik, who is out for one more week with a hamstring injury. They also will have Alex Grant suspended after a controversial second yellow card in their one-all draw with Newcastle Jets two weeks ago.
However, they welcome back Jacob Tratt, Tomislav Mrcela, Nick D’Agostino and Kristian Popovic to the squad. The big talking point for Perth Glory is the formation that Tony Popovic will go with.
He opted against his favoured 3-4-1-2 formation against Newcastle, instead of playing a 4-2-3-1 with Diego Castro operating as a lone number ten. This formation could end up working very well for Perth Glory.
It is a waste to have three centre backs who help keep possession when you have pass masters Neil Kilkenny and Juande in midfield, and it also allows Joel Chianese to be added in his favoured position. Tony Popovic will opt for the 4-2-3-1 and will be looking to catch Sydney FC off guard.
Perth Glory predicted starting line-up (4-2-3-1)
GK: Liam Reddy
LB: James Meredith
CB: Dino Djulbic
CB: Gregory Wuthrich
RB: Ivan Franjic
CDM: Neil Kilkenny
LM: Chris Oikonomidis
CAM: Diego Castro
RAM: Joel Chianese
ST: Bruno Fornaroli
Sydney FC squad
The biggest news for Sydney FC fans is that Michael Zullo will make his first start of the season, in place of Paulo Retre. Zullo was out with a hamstring for four of their first five games, but after been given roughly 20 minutes off the bench in last week’s Big Blue, he will be pushing to start at HBF Park.
Other than this, I doubt Steve Corica will make any changes to a team that looks to be combining well, after a big off-season for Sydney FC. Brandon O’Neill declared a few weeks ago that he has ambitions to stay at Sydney FC and become their captain after Alex Wilkinson retires, and I can’t think of any better person to lead the next generation of Sydney FC players.
From defensive midfield, he has the most assists in the league, with three in five appearances, which is astonishing when you think of the quality of attacking midfielders and wingers out there in the A-League.
Sydney FC predicted line-up (4-2-2-2)
GK: Andrew Redmayne
LB: Michael Zullo
CB: Alex Wilkinson
CB: Ryan McGowan
RB: Rhyan Grant
CDM: Brandon O’Neill
CDM: Luke Brattan
LAM: Milos Ninkovic
RAM: Alex Baumjohann
ST: Adam Le Fondre
ST: Kosta Barbarouses
Although Perth Glory may be underdogs coming into this game, I wouldn’t put it past them to sneak a win at home.
However, I predict a draw, but a goal or more from each team will ensure that neither outfit will be able to rack up their first clean sheet of the season.