Match Preview: Wanderers v Victory

The Wanderers head into their final regular season game of the season against the Melbourne Victory knowing they must win to keep their Finals hopes alive.

Sitting two points outside of the top six, the Wanderers must get all three points in Melbourne, and hope that Melbourne City slip up in their clash against Western United the day after.

It means Marko Rudan’s side will not be lacking motivation at AAMI Park as they look to overcome mounting injury issues to secure a second win on the road against the Victory in a row after their gutsy win in round two last season.

The Wanderers come into the match off the back of a tough defeat against Melbourne City last weekend, where a depleted Wanderers side fell short in a fightback attempt in a 2-1 defeat.

The Wanderers created chances in a largely even first half but found themselves 2-1 down at the break.

The introduction of youngster Marcus Younis from the bench helped turn the game in Western Sydney’s favour, as they had much of the possession and shots in the second half as they pushed to get back in the game.

Younis scored his first ever professional goal in the 69th minute after getting on the end of a great Dylan Scicluna cross to head the ball past Jamie Young, but the Wanderers unfortunately couldn’t find the crucial equaliser.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 20: Marcus Younis of the Wanderers celebrates scoring a goal during the A-League Men round 25 match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City at CommBank Stadium, on April 20, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Despite the result, the performances of the Wanderers youngsters such as Younis, Scicluna, and also Zac Sapsford – who started after his goal in the Sydney Derby – were highly pleasing, and earned praise from Rudan after the match.

With Brandon Borrello and Tom Beadling out for the rest of the season due to injury, Sapsford and Younis could be in line to start in what is the Red and Black’s most important game of the season, though Nicolas Milanovic and Lachie Brook may also be back in the picture after returning from Olyroos duty.

This will also be a game where the experienced players such as Marcelo, Lawrence Thomas and Milos Ninkovic will need to stand up and lead by example with a place in the finals on the line; Ninkovic had a strong cameo off the bench in his last home game before retirement against City, and he will be determined to keep his career going into the finals.

There is slightly less on the line for the Wanderers’ opponents this weekend, having already secured a home final, though they will be looking to wrap up a third placed finish in the league with a positive result.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 10: Nicolas Milanovic of the Wanderers strikes the ball during the A-League Men round seven match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Victory at CommBank Stadium, on December 10, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Despite sitting in third, it has been something of a frustrating season for Melbourne, as they have drawn a league high 12 games this season, with their 10 wins being the same as the Wanderers.

It means a potential tilt at the minor premiership fell away at the beginning of the year, as the side went on a six game run without a win, with five of those games being draws.

They have also struggled at times in front of goal, which is exemplified when star striker Bruno Fornaroli is absent; he has nearly half of his teams goals this season with 18, and the next top scorer is Zinedine Machach with six.

The Wanderers know the threat of Fornaroli all too well, as he put in a whirlwind performance in the reverse fixture in Parramatta.

He scored all four goals in Melbourne’s 4-3 win, as the Victory held off a late charge from the Red & Black, winning the game despite only having nine shots to the Wanderers’ 19.

The Wanderers will have to keep him quiet, as well as putting on a clinical performance of their own on the road if they are to play finals football for the second year in a row.