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The Juxtaposition that is the Sydney Derby

Friday 13th January 2017
Australia's A-League is certainly an oddity in world football. Sydney is home to two football teams, Sydney FC and the Western Sydney Wanderers. The two teams are chalk and cheese; adding an extra element to the Sydney derby this weekend.

Footballing derbies: the ultimate games of mettle and stern opposition. Manchester United and Manchester City, Barcelona and Real Madrid and of course the Sydney Derby between. Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers.

Okay… your silence is telling. The A-League isn't quite at the echelons of both the Premier League and La Liga at all. Australia is, however, making strides to improve the quality of its game both nationally and its domestic league product. The league now also enjoys wide international broadcast range; including here in the UK on BT Sport.

Just like any league, there are a few contentious derby games which have the tendency to blow over. Whilst the history might not be there (with the first meeting back in 2012), journalists blow the derby's trumpet of importance.

Del Piero and Mateo Poljak were involved with the first ever Sydney Derby and famously complemented the atmosphere between the two clubs. The Italian went to say the vibe was up there with the top clubs in Europe.

The two teams arguably hold the same amount silverware in their trophy cabinet. Sydney FC, the older club (formed in 2004) have won several domestic titles including one premier trophy and two grand final wins. Whether as Western Sydney Wanderers haven't tasted any Australian based success, but however did win the Asian Champions League in 2014. Impressive for a team which were only founded two years prior.

Sydney FC last season had altogether a torrid time of it. Finishing seventh didn't allow them to qualify for the finals series and they were some way off it – seven points off qualifying for it. What made it worse is they saw their rivals finish second in the league and contest the grand finale. Graham Arnold was afforded another season to turn the club around and that he's done. Between the end of last season and start of this campaign, the club saw a lot of playing staff come and go. Of the incoming staff, the Brazilian, Bobô, has been exceptional. The South American forward was prolific during his time in Turkey but had slumped a little during his stint with Grêmio. He was tempted by a move to Straya and has quickly made an impact. Seven goals in just fourteen games, including a brace last week against the Central Coast. Alex Brosque has been revitalised this season too, having scored eight goals so far.

The team also strengthened their defensive options with incoming transfers like Alex Wilkinson who's been ever present for Sydney FC so far, this season. The club's defence has been second to none this campaign. The club has conceded just seven goals in fourteen games; the next best defence has conceded more than double this. It's fair comment to say that nobody defends like SFC in the A-League. Vuković, who was brought in as the team's number one keeper at the start of the season has also played a major part of the team's exceptional goal resistance this year.
It's now round fifteen and the club comes into it with a grand record. Eleven wins, three draws and no losses. Undefeated in fourteen games, it's truly the stuff of legend. Whether they'll reach the heights of Wenger's 03/04 invincible season is unknown but in this league it's phenomenal.

You'd be forgiven for thinking the teams have swapped fortunes, last season Western Syndey Wanders were doing well and Sydney weren't. This year the shoe is on the other foot. WSW currently occupy the seventh place, and this rate won't qualify for the finals series. Much like their rivals last season.

Seemingly little has changed at WSW, but their campaign hasn't developed like they would have predicted. Mitch Nichols and Brendan Santalab have both been shadows of their former selves. Last season the two attacking players had twenty-one goals between them. Halfway through the campaign together they've only managed seven.

Tony Popovic is still at the helm of the club (and has been since the since inception of the club). His transfer policy has not paid off this season. Nicolás Martínez who's on loan Olympiacos has failed to make an impact as an attacking threat. Piñatares who arrived on a free has also not been terribly impressive and has found himself as more of a rotation option.

The team haven't won a game since the start of December and are massive underdogs against Sydney FC. Although if they could turn their season around, they'd choose no other team to do it against. A win for the Wanderers here would not only put them in better stead for the finals series, but also rock the SFC boat by bringing their unbeaten stint to an abrupt halt.
An exceptional previous Sydney Derby with seven goals.

Given the two sides chalk and cheese seasons, there's a clear favourite for this fixture. Sydney FC. One year ago, the smart money would have favoured Sydney. The A-League isn't a terribly old league; it's arguably still in its infancy and at this tender stage a good/bad transfer season can completely turn the league on its head. It's clear that's what happened here given the swap in stature between the two clubs. The Sydney Derby is a true non-static juxtaposition of world football.
Warren Smith

Yokohama F•Marinos supporter. Seen it all in the J.League, relegation fights and being crowned champions. Play five-a-side, pretty good too. Once scored an overhead kick.

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