ALM Match Preview: Sydney Derby

March begins with a bang for the Wanderers as they host their crosstown rivals in the 36th Sydney Derby.

Get your tickets to the Sydney Derby double header here.

The derby is always full of passion and fire, but this edition will be especially hotly contested as both sides are looking to cement their places in the top six, with the Wanderers looking to jump back into the top four with just nine matches left in the season.

It was a tough February for Western Sydney as they battled injuries, suspensions, and just one match played at home, but it ended with a hugely important three points on the road against Adelaide United last Saturday.

Nicolas Milanovic was the star man as he scored two wonderful headers in the first half to lead the Wanderers to a priceless 2-1 victory, holding off a late Adelaide fightback.

The match also saw Brandon Borrello make his first start since the last Sydney Derby in November, as well as the returns of Jorrit Hendrix and Aidan Simmons from suspension, with the latter notching up a wonderful assist for the opening goal.

The return of many key players from the Wanderers was reflected in their strong performance, with Hendrix adding quality and direction in the midfield, whilst Alex Bonetig also shone at centre back on his return from injury, allowing Hendrix to play further up the pitch.

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 24: Nicolas Milanovic of the Wanderers celebrates after scoring his teams first goal during the A-League Men round 18 match between Adelaide United and Western Sydney Wanderers at Coopers Stadium, on February 24, 2024, in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

The side will be further bolstered by the return of Tom Beadling after he missed three games through suspension.

The win over Adelaide lifted the Wanderers above their city rivals into fifth on the table, and they also have a game in hand on all of the teams above them, leaving them in prime position to jump into the top four race and beyond with a couple of victories in March.

Their opponents this weekend are on a six game unbeaten run, though three of those games have been draws, including in their last match against Melbourne City, where a wonder goal from Marco Tilio saw them forced to split the points after the game ended 1-1.

Their form has improved since the back half of 2023, where in the middle of December they had only won twice, and they now sit in sixth place.

They have struggled defensively this season, only keeping one clean sheet and shipping three goals or more on three occasions, but their 33 goals is the third-best in the league.

The Wanderers have a far better defensive record, conceding seven less goals and having kept seven clean sheets.

One of these clean sheets came in the opening Sydney Derby of the season, which as ever had many moments of drama.

The Wanderers had an early goal ruled out for offside, before Borrello went off injured after a reckless challenge from Luke Brattan.

His replacement Zac Sapsford – a former youth product of our rivals – would end up scoring his first senior goal in the 72nd minute when he cut inside and curled a brilliant effort past Andrew Redmayne, and the Wanderers would hold on for a 1-0 win.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 25: Zac Sapsford of the Wanderers celebrates with teammates after scoring the teams first goal during the A-League Men round five match between Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers at Allianz Stadium, on November 25, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mike Owen/Getty Images)

The win was their third straight at Allianz Stadium, and was their fifth derby win in the last 10 matches, with their opponents only having four in that time.

The Wanderers will look to avenge two home defeats in the derby last year, as they suffered one goal defeats in the regular season and in the finals series.

Big crowds came to those clashes, and another huge crowd is expected at CommBank Stadium once again for a derby double-header, which will see the A-League Women’s Sydney Derby played at 5:00pm.

A win for the Wanderers would close the gap in the derby head-to-head battle, with the Wanderers sitting on 11 wins compared to their opponents 15 wins.