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Western Sydney will be playing its seventh match in 21 days when it hosts Melbourne Victory at Pirtek Stadium on Friday and one thinks the game is ripe for a walkover-like result.
One is expecting Western Sydney to cop a hammering any time soon because, while Wanderers boss Tony Popovic would never admit it, he has given up on the Australian A-League because it would take a miracle for his team to qualify for the finals after taking only 11 points from its opening 19 matches. All that matters to Popovic now is Western Sydney’s defence of its AFC Champions League title and its campaign is in full swing with two group games completed already.
Popovic is the Claudio Ranieri of the Australian A-League. It is not just that Popovic likes to tinker with Western Sydney’s starting line-up but that he is famous for keeping his selections to himself until one hour before kick off. He keeps Western Sydney players in the dark as much as he does the man against whom he is coaching. And because of Western Sydney’s punishing domestic and international schedule, he is making seven or eight changes per match currently. For example, only Western Sydney skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley has started both of his side’s last two games. When one thinks about that it is a truly remarkable statistic.
Two weeks ago Western Sydney almost copped a hammering from Sydney in the biggest Australian A-League grudge match of all. Sydney led Western Sydney 3-0 inside 24 minutes at Pirtek Stadium but the Sky Blues took their foot off the pedal and allowed the Wanderers to fight back to 3-3 before regaining their composure and scoring the final goal.
Next up it was the turn of Guangzhou Evergrande to do a bit of a number on Western Sydney, also at Pirtek Stadium. It was men against boys for much of the AFC Champions League Group H game, with Guangzhou Evergrande leading Western Sydney 3-1 midway through the second half and the Wanderers netting an inconsequential second goal in the 95th minute.
One thinks that the stars are aligning for Western Sydney, which will be playing its second Australian A-League match in the space of 48 hours, to suffer a heavy home loss on Friday to a Melbourne Victory team that is, on its day, the most complete all-around unit in Australia’s top flight.
Do not be perturbed that Melbourne Victory has won only one of its five Australian A-League games since beating Western Sydney 2-1 at Pirtek Stadium in January prior to the AFC Asian Cup break. Melbourne Victory should have won each of those five Australian A-League matches, with two of the world’s worst refereeing decisions denying it wins over Perth and Sydney. Melbourne Victory has scored 40 goals in its 19 Australian A-League games – easily the best average in the division – and it looks as though it is going to record a thumping win over a side in the near future.
Melbourne Victory entertained Western Sydney in the first match of the Australian A-League season and the result was a 4-1 home win for Kevin Muscat’s team that reflected the play fairly. One thinks that Melbourne Victory could register a similar success on enemy territory this weekend, with the odds of 15/2 8.50 +750 7.50 7.50 -0.13 with PaddyPower and WilliamHill that the away side covers a two-goal handicap appealing.
One final note: recent Western Sydney signing Kerem Bulut was due to line up for the Wanderers versus Melbourne City on Wednesday but Popovic stood down the striker after police charged him with intimidation following an incident at a local restaurant. Bulut scored two of Western Sydney’s three goals in its 3-4 Australian A-League home loss to Sydney.