As Melbourne City FC prepare to take on the Western Sydney Wanderers on Friday night, we take an in-depth look at Tony Popovic’s side ahead of the important Hyundai A-League clash at AAMI Park.
Belief is rising at Wanderland
After a difficult start to the 2015/16 Hyundai A-League season, a rejuvenated Western Sydney Wanderers outfit will arrive at AAMI Park brimming with confidence after recording two consecutive wins against Perth Glory and Newcastle Jets.
Popovic’s side left it late Hunter Stadium last weekend, producing an impressive late comeback to down the high-flying Jets 2-1, courtesy of goals to Andreau and in-form attacker Mitch Nichols.
Finding themselves rooted to the bottom of the table after taking only one point from their opening three matches, the Wanderers could count themselves unlucky for their slow start to the season, with good performances in the matches against Brisbane, Sydney and Wellington yielding little result.
But with consecutive wins under their belt for the first time since December 2013, Popovic’s side are beginning to turn the corner and with the Wanderers only trailing City by goal difference, Friday night’s clash looms as an important fixture for both sides.
Possession is the key for Popovic
With over 18 new players joining the squad in pre-season, it has been a rapid period of on-field transition for the Wanderers.
But while the personnel at Popovic’s disposal has changed, it is an evolution in game-style which has seen the Wanderers transform into a more fluid, possession-based outfit.
Key to their ball retention philosophy is the duo of Andreu and Dimas Delgado, with the Spaniards providing the steel and guile in midfield in front of central defensive pairing Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Brendan Hamill.
With attackers Nichols, Dario Vidosic, Romeo Castelens and marquee man Federico Piovaccari providing the flair in the final third, the Wanderers more expansive approach is seeing them play through their opponents; an evolution from the days when they used to grind their rivals into submission.
Nichols hits the ground running
One man who is thriving under Popovic’s cultural and technical upheaval is former Perth Glory attacker Nichols, who has made a stunning start to life in the Red and Black.
Since returning to the Hyundai A-League from a spell with Japanese outfit Cerezo Osaka, the one-time Socceroo has been the forefront of the Wanderers attack, scoring a goal only 13 minutes into his club debut against Brisbane and netting a brilliant late winner to snatch all three points against the Jets last week.
Leading the Wanderers for chances created this season, Nichols is beginning to gel nicely with fellow attackers Vidosic and Piovaccari in the final third, and City’s defence will have to be at their best to nullify the Queenslander’s threat on Friday night.
Piovaccari firing blanks
Despite boasting a strong pedigree in European football, the pressure is starting to build on the Wanderers marquee man Federico Piovaccari.
The Italian striker arrived in Australia fresh out of a full season in La Liga, scoring six goals in 28 matches for Spanish side Eibar, whilst also being on the books of Serie A giants Inter Milan and Sampdoria.
However his transition to the A-League has demonstrated little of his attacking ability, failing to find the back of the net in his opening five matches.
But despite his barren run in front of goal, the Italian possesses the strength and ability to be a nuisance up front for the Wanderers, and Popovic will be expecting his marquee striker to leave his mark on AAMI Park tomorrow night
Last time we met
Western Sydney Wanderers 1-1 Melbourne City FC – Friday April 3 2015.
In a match played in driving rain at Pirtek Stadium, it was the Wanderers who started the brighter and got their reward midway through the first half via a sensational free-kick from Yojiro Takahagi.
But City responded just before with an even better goal from Harry Novillo, beating Dean Bouzanis with a 25-yard screamer to ensure John van’t Schip’s side returned to Melbourne with a share of the spoils.
- The last five league encounters between Melbourne and Western Sydney have seen 17 goals scored (3.4 goals per game).
- No keeper has made more saves in the A-League this season than Melbourne City FC shot-stopper Thomas Sorensen (20).
- Melbourne City FC midfielder Aaron Mooy leads the Hyundai A-League for goal assists (3). He has been involved in five of the Club's goals (two goals, three assists).
- The Wanderers have won back-to-back A-League regular matches for the first time since December 2013.
- Despite securing an away win against Newcastle last week, the Wanderers have only won two of their last 17 away league matches (including play-offs).