Rudan-less Wanderers aim high in Western battle

Western Sydney Wanderers have a golden chance to press their claims as A-League Men heavyweights when they take on struggling defending champions Western United.

John Aloisi’s Western have struggled to recapture the form which led to their maiden title last season and so far this year the club – who host the Wanderers at AAMI Park on Sunday – have just one win from their opening seven games and sit stone cold last.

Their struggles for form are in complete contrast to the Wanderers, for whom a win would bring their strongest start after eight games since the 2015-16 season.

Marko Rudan has Western Sydney fans dreaming of a potential end to their finals hiatus after many false dawns.

Should the Wanderers win and Melbourne City come unstuck against Melbourne Victory, Rudan’s side would be top for Christmas.

Rudan has been struck down by illness this week, with assistant coach Adam Griffiths likely to take charge of the side heading to Melbourne on Sunday.

“They haven’t changed that much in how they will play (from last year),” Griffiths said of Western.

“It’s a common thing for teams to have a hangover (after winning competitions) but we want to focus on ourselves.”

Griffiths said forward Kusini Yengi and playmaker Milos Ninkovic were unlikely to play against Western, but close-season signing Oliver Bozanic is nearing full fitness after making his debut in a 30-minute cameo against Wellington last weekend.

“It’s been a great start for the team and I’ve missed out on that with injuries,” Bozanic said.

“It’s a massive opportunity for us to take a step forward and show what we are about.

“We’ve had over 15 players come in during this pre-season and we made the most of that and tried to gel together as a team.”

Western boss Aloisi said Japanese import Tomoki Imai would be fit and available for Sunday’s fixture.

“The Wanderers have got really good individual players and it’s going to be a tough game,” Aloisi said.

“We need to work hard and be well-organised defensively. 

“We’ve been creating chances and scoring goals, but we need to make sure our little mistakes aren’t being punished.”