AFC Champions League winner Western Sydney is experiencing a domestic season from hell and one thinks that it is going to get even worse when the Wanderers hosts Sydney on Saturday.
Western Sydney crashed out of the inaugural Australian FFA Cup to a semi-professional side, Adelaide City, and it is bottom of the Australian A-League ladder with an abysmal record of one win, five draws and 10 losses. The excuse about Western Sydney being exhausted because of its AFC Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup commitments has worn thin, with most people seeing the Wanderers for what they are – an ordinary team that rode their luck throughout the AFC Champions League to take out the continental prize.
The Sydney derby does not have anything like the history of those in cities such as Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester but its eight A-League editions have been incident packed, starting with Alessandro Del Piero scoring Sydney’s winning goal in the first through to Bernie Ibini equalising for Sydney with a goal-of-the-season contender in the eighth.
One is expecting the ninth A-League clash between Western Sydney and Sydney to be equally eventful, with the Sky Blues trading at attractive odds to equal or better their biggest win in the derby, which stands at a two-goal margin. Sydney is available at odds of +375 with BetVictor to cover a one-goal handicap against Western Sydney and all but guarantee that the Wanderers miss out on the play-offs.
Sydney boss Graham Arnold had an excellent few hours last Saturday. First, Arnold watched Sydney come back from 1-2 down to beat Central Coast 4-2 as the Sky Blues extended their A-League unbeaten run to six games. Then Arnold saw Western Sydney implode versus Adelaide, throwing away a 1-0 lead to lose 1-2 and losing three regular starters for the derby – Mateo Poljak and Matthew Spiranovic picked up cards that earned them suspensions, while former Sydney striker Brendan Santalab injured his troublesome shoulder again.
Arnold is great mates with Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic – they were housemates during their playing days in Japan and their relationship is akin to big brother and little brother – but there is no room for sentiment in professional football and Arnold, known for his tactical astuteness, will have spent the week devising ways to take advantage of the many issues facing the Wanderers, another of which being tiredness – Sydney is not in the AFC Champions League, whereas Western Sydney began its title defence against Kashima in Japan on Wednesday. One would love to see the air miles accounts of certain Western Sydney players and staff.
Bookmakers are right to post Sydney as the favourite for the match of the A-League’s 19th round and, certainly, there is nothing wrong with backing the Sky Blues at odds of +138 with Bet365 to earn three points at Western Sydney’s Pirtek Stadium. But this weekly column is about hitting the jackpot and one thinks that Sydney could make a statement versus its cross-city rival. Sydney has scored at least three goals in its each of its last four A-League matches, with Austria skipper Marc Janko netting half a dozen times in those games. Sydney’s underwhelming defence is what one thinks will prevent it winning the A-League competition but Western Sydney lacks firepower at the best of times and it will miss Santalab, who has the ideal personality type for a derby.
Sydney and Western Sydney have contested two A-League games this season – the Sky Blues fought back from 0-2 down to win 3-2 at Allianz Stadium in October and November’s match at Pirtek Stadium resulted in a 1-1 draw. Back Sydney to win the third A-League derby of the term in emphatic fashion.
Sydney FC (-1) to beat Sydney Wanders
28th February 08:00 GMT
Where to Bet: BetVictor
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