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Will the Sydney Derby elimination final actually live up to the hype?

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3rd May, 2023

In an ideal world for the APL, a Sydney Derby in the grand final would’ve been the ultimate wish, considering the event will be hosted at Allianz Stadium for at least the next three seasons.

Instead, an elimination final will take place on Saturday night at CommBank Stadium between the Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney FC.

Over the years, this fixture has produced some epic encounters and thrilling drama in the regular season. Fascinatingly though, this will actually be the first-ever finals meeting in history between these two sides.

With finals comes the baggage of added pressure and the extra weight of expectation to earn bragging rights in a Derby always filled with extreme passion and intensity.

The crowd will play their part and make their voices heard to create an incredible atmosphere while showing their colours, as the top ten A-League attendances of all-time consist of four Sydney derbies, including a record 61,880 back in 2016.

On the pitch, will the match be one to savour or one to forget with so much on the line?

I wrote a piece over a week ago outlining Marko Rudan’s tactical balance and how it’s set the Wanderers up to be a real finals threat. The former defender has proven in the past to be capable of getting his players to play open attacking football, but when the stakes are this high, it’s likely the 47-year-old will revert to a more conservative approach. 

In their three meetings this season, the Wanderers won a fairly even contest before losing by the same scoreline of 1-0 in a match where they struggled to really create any sort of clear-cut chances and gain momentum until coincidentally receiving a red card.


Two early goals for the Wanderers helped them come away with an emphatic 4-0 victory despite handing over the majority of possession to the Sky Blues.

In Rudan’s finals debut in 2019, the Wellington Phoenix fell 1-0 to Perth. In all fairness, his side was extremely unfortunate with 31 shots on goal and opportunities gone astray.

One year later with Western United, they managed a narrow 1-0 victory against Brisbane who had more control, before bowing out 2-0 to Melbourne City in the next round after trying to keep a defensive solidity for the most part. Both teams in a match failed to score in all three of Rudan’s finals appearances.

Sitting on the opposite bench will be Steve Corica, who also treats these kinds of matches with the utmost caution.

A 0-0 in the 2019 final against the Glory witnessed zero shots on target for 120 minutes until they ultimately prevailed on penalties, making a strong case for the worst Grand Final to date.

They managed to beat the same opponents 2-0 in the semis a year later in a professional performance, setting up the opportunity to beat City 1-0 in the grand final which created another goalless encounter after 90 minutes.


The 2-1 triumph over Adelaide in the 2022 semi-final was in my view the most entertaining finals match managed under Corica. The final against City saw a red card dished out to Luke Brattan after 35 minutes, explaining their goal being their sole shot on target.

Overall, it’s a reasonably moderate sample size, but despite the freak 6-1 result that Corica achieved against the Victory in the semis, both coaches are known to keep it tight wherever possible and want to give nothing away.

Sydney's coach Steve Corica

(Photo by Mohamed Farag/Getty Images)

This is not to necessarily call their previous results boring or that Saturday night’s clash won’t entertain at all, but Corica and Rudan are very tactically astute and understand how and when to make adjustments during the course of a match accordingly.

Some substitution calls have been questionable in the past from Corica, but he’s still a proven winner.

Make no mistake, this Derby will be tightly contested with a fear of losing taking over as opposed to taking risks to win. 

Aggressive tackles and a fiery affair should play out in the middle of the park, just how both Rudan and Corica will want it with no love lost between the pair. 


Sydney has suffered a poor campaign by their standards and would admittedly count themselves fortunate to be in this position, whereas the Wanderers have performed above expectations and could be under more duress as a result. Maybe, for this reason alone, Rudan has just a tad more pressure to advance?

Nonetheless, an intriguing tactical battle awaits with no second chances. 

Now, we sit back and enjoy a 4-4 draw play out!

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