Match Preview: City v Wanderers

The first ever ‘Unite Round’ in A-Leagues history is taking place this weekend, and the Wanderers will take on last year’s grand finalist Melbourne City in Parramatta.

You can get your tickets to the fixture here.

The game is officially an away one for the Wanderers despite being played at their home ground, as all 12 A-League teams descend on Sydney for a weekend of brilliant football action.

Western Sydney are playing their third match in a row at Commbank Stadium, with their previous two matches seeing the Red and Black win one and also suffer a narrow defeat.

Their last match on Saturday afternoon was a defeat to the reigning champions Central Coast Mariners; a Marco Tulio volley from distance ultimately separated the sides as the Mariners clinched a 1-0 win despite the best efforts of the Wanderers.

The side was disrupted in the warm-up due to an unfortunate injury to goalkeeper Jack Gibson, with Daniel Margush replacing him for his first appearance of the season, and young defender Anthony Pantazopoulos having to be drafted in as a makeshift back-up goalkeeper.

Margush acquitted himself well in his first A-League match since May 2022, making some key saves, including a well-timed sliding tackle in the second half to deny the Mariners.

The Wanderers enjoyed 60{d27fecd2aab8556c4f94c40a7029c11f3747289a19d4761b6980018407b307cc} possession and had 20 shots to the Mariners 11, but they were unable to find the equaliser and continued their inconsistent form in recent weeks; the side has recorded wins over Adelaide and Macarthur at home, but these have been sandwiched between frustrating defeats.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 06: Maximilien Balard (L) of the Mariners and Lachlan Brook (2L) of the Wanderers competes for the ball during the A-League Men round 11 match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Central Coast Mariners at CommBank Stadium, on January 06, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Izhar Khan/Getty Images)

The Wanderers still sit in a promising third position on the table and are just three points off the second placed Wellington Phoenix, but only four points separate them from ninth placed Brisbane, meaning any dropped points in the new year could have big knock on effects come May and the calculations for finals football.

The Wanderers defence continues to stand tall as the equal best in the league despite being without Lawrence Thomas who is on Asian Cup duty, as well as injuries disrupting centre back partnerships.

The Wanderers have two foreign spots open which they may look to fill in the January transfer window, but also have several players stepping in and performing well, including Oscar Priestman in the middle of the park, and Valentino Yuel, who has two goals and an assist since joining in December.

The Wanderers’ opponents this season have had a turbulent season compared to their lofty standards; a 6-0 shellacking at the hands of Adelaide in round two saw Rado Vidosic dismissed as coach, with Auerlio Vidmar stepping in to fill the breach.

Their form was initially underwhelming, but they have been undefeated since December with four wins and two draws in the league, including a record equalling 8-1 home win over Brisbane Roar.

They secured a come from behind win in their last match against Western United, with Hamza Sakhi and former Wanderer Terry Antonis scoring the goals in a 2-1 win; former Western Sydney academy product Alessandro Lopane has also featured regularly for City.

Not only do Melbourne come into this match with stronger form, but they also have a great record against the Wanderers in recent times, being undefeated against them since March 2019.

The sides only met twice last season, drawing on a scorching summer’s day in Parramatta, before City secured a last gasp 3-2 win on the final matchday of the regular season that thwarted the Wanderers’ attempts to finish in the top two.

City’s strong form in recent times has seen the overall ledger swing in their favour, with 13 wins to the Wanderers’ 12 in 32 matches; the Wanderers will be keen to make it 13 wins apiece and to build some space between them and the teams below them on the table.