Melbourne City FC Head Coach John van’t Schip believes the Western Sydney Wanderers will be a different proposition to seasons gone by when the two sides meet at AAMI Park on Friday night.
After a busy pre-season period which saw the addition of 18 new players, a rejuvenated Wanderers outfit have regained their mojo under Head Coach Tony Popovic, moving back into the top six of the Hyundai A-League with consecutive wins over Perth Glory and Newcastle Jets.
With both sides sitting in equal fourth position on seven points, van’t Schip highlighted the importance of the clash and believes a win against the new-look Wanderers will provide his side with added confidence in the early stages of the season.
“Western Sydney has a different game style than the last season. They’re playing out more from the back, less direct and they have made a bit of a change in their approach of how they play,” he said.
“They look good. Mitch Nichols as we all know is important in their way of playing. [Romeo] Castelen has been very good in the first few games – he got injured but he is back and [Dario] Vidosic is an interesting player, has history in the A-League and can do something special.
“They also have [Brendon] Santalab and the new Italian striker [Federico] Piovaccari – he hasn’t scored yet but he has shown for them that he is strong, he’s important and he works hard.
“We’re equal on the table so it is an important game, even though it is still at the start of the season. But you can already sense that if you can win these games, then you can make a good step and it’s good for the confidence.”
Key talisman Harry Novillo enjoyed a bright return to first-team action in City’s commanding 4-2 win over Adelaide United last Thursday, providing two assists for Bruno Fornaroli as the pair struck up a damaging partnership in the final third.
With key defenders Ivan Franjic and Michael Zullo also close to returning, van’t Schip believes having competition for places in all areas of the pitch will only make the squad stronger as the season progresses.
“We are still in a growing process. Looking at players that are coming back – we just saw a glimpse of Harry [Novillo] coming back and Ivan Franjic and Michael Zullo have to come back. Aaron Hughes is a player who still has to make his first appearance.
“In all departments of your team you want to have competition. It is good that Aaron is back and his fitness is at a point where he can play. That is only good, as it is for the players up front that Harry [Novillo] and Corey [Gameiro] are knocking on the door.
“Having that all together and having those players fit, I still think there is a lot of improvement to be done. That is something we are looking forward to but in the meantime we are also making steps with younger players who are getting experience and improving.
“We know towards the end of a league that is where you have to grow. We are making good steps but you want that to happen as soon as possible.”