Those waiting for Western Sydney’s bubble to burst continue to be shocked as the Hyundai A-League’s newcomers go from strength to strength.
Date: Saturday, January 26, 2013
Kick-off: 7.45pm AEDT
Venue: Parramatta Stadium, Sydney
Played: 1 – Wins: Wanderers 1, Heart 0
Wanderers 2-1 Heart, November 2, 2012
Past five matches:
Those waiting for Western Sydney’s bubble to burst continue to be shocked as the Hyundai A-League’s newcomers go from strength to strength. Last Sunday’s come-from-behind 2-1 win over Brisbane – their third over the champions this season – all but confirms the Wanderers will play finals football in their debut campaign. Tony Popovic’s side sit comfortably in fourth spot and just three points behind Adelaide in that crucial second position.
The Heart have also been in fairly strong form of late and sit just one place – although eight points – behind this weekend’s opponents. While they are without skipper Fred for up to a month with a quad injury, it didn’t stop them from registering a well-deserved 2-0 win over the high-flying Reds in their last match.
In a huge boost for the Heart’s finals hopes, striker Eli Babalj will return to the club following a stint with Red Star Belgrade in Serbia. The 20-year-old could feature in the squad for this match should his international clearance come through. The Wanderers won the only previous meeting between these two sides, with a Mark Bridge strike and a Patrick Gerhardt own goal giving them a 2-1 triumph at Parramatta Stadium in November.
The Big Issue:
Wanderers – Things couldn’t be going much better for the Wanderers at the moment but if there’s one thing they can still improve on it’s their results on home turf. Popovic’s troops have won just four of their nine home fixtures, with four defeats. It hasn’t stopped the club from surging to fourth on the ladder but it’s something they will want to get right, especially if they want to be successful in a home finals match.
Heart – They managed to cope last weekend but the absence of skipper Fred for up to a month could prove decisive for the Heart. Most of the good things the side does flows through the Brazilian and his passing and forward runs will be hard to replace. Former Socceroos midfielder Vince Grella appears to be nearing full fitness which could help their cause but the Heart will need to ensure they keep picking up points in Fred’s absence if they are to figure in the finals.
The Game Breaker:
Youssouf Hersi – The Ethiopian-born winger has hardly played over the past couple of seasons due to injury but he has certainly made up for lost time with his brilliant displays for the Wanderers. It’s not only Hersi’s pace that is a concern for his opponents but he seems to be able to run with the same power and energy from the first minute to the very last. Heart left-back Aziz Behich is known for his sensational attacks down the flank but he will need to be at his defensive best if the visitors are any hope of keeping Hersi in-check and picking up a win on the road.
Wanderers 2-0 Heart
The Heart have been one of the form sides in the A-League in the past six weeks but much of that success has come in the comfortable surrounds of AAMI Park. Aloisi’s side have struggled on the road and their last visit to Sydney saw them give up a 1-0 lead in the dying minutes to lose to the Sky Blues. A heaving Parramatta Stadium is the last place any side with troubles in front of the away fans will want to come, with the Wanderers fans providing great support for their boys and an intimidating atmosphere for visiting teams.