Saturday, January 9, 2016, 7.30pm AEDT, AAMI Park, Melbourne, Watch on Fox Sports
Melbourne City: Third
Western City Wanderers: Second
Melbourne City: 6-3-4
Western City Wanderers: 8-3-2
Last five games
Melbourne City: DLWWW
Western City Wanderers: DWDWW
MAKE no mistake, this is a massive game in the context of Melbourne City’s brilliant season.
And it is a pretty big tussle for the Western Sydney Wanderers too.
City ($2.80 with CrownBet.com.au) clings on to third spot by goal difference from Sydney FC, with both sides on 21 points, while the sliding Melbourne Victory are just one point back in fifth.
They have one of the toughest tests in the A-League when the Wanderers come to town.
The men from Western Sydney ($2.42 with CrownBet.com.au) (Draw is $3.40 with CrownBet.com.au) have quietly put together the equal best record in the league with the top of the table Brisbane Roar.
A win would propel them into top spot, pending the Roar’s clash with the Wellington Phoenix on Sunday.
But a loss would close the gap between it and City to just one game.
Major stakes to play for means you can expect a very tight game.
Both teams squandered chances to enhance their title claims last time out, with draws giving them both a share of the points.
The Wanderers played out a meandering draw with an Adelaide United side that is one point outside the top six, but the result meant the Wanderers unbeaten run was extended to nine games – but it was the first time they have failed to score in a match since way back in round three.
They will rue a host of missed chances and a penalty shout that probably should have been honoured by the referee.
United also had a huge shout for a penalty that wasn’t honoured and the denial of the Wanderers call later could have been a square up.
“It was an even first half, the second half we controlled in large parts,” Wanderers manager Tony Popovic said after the match.
“It was just the final ball, that last decision, that was lacking.
“We created some good combinations around the box and we had some good chances.
“We kept pushing for the win but Adelaide always looked dangerous on the break.”
City are another team that will be dangerous after they fought out an entertaining 2-2 stale mate with Sydney FC.
Missing star players Aaron Mooy, Ivan Franjic and Erik Paartalu, City went ahead early thanks to a maiden goal from Aaron Hughes.
But the Sky Blues’ superstar play maker Milos Ninkovic quickly cancelled that out after the break with a back heel finish from a brilliant ball off the boot of marquee man Filip Holosko.
City’s Bruno Fornaroli headed home to re-establish the lead, but Ninkovic’s second goal came with 12 minutes to go and consigned the match to a draw.
City was very lucky, with A-League legend Shane Smeltz some how squandering the easiest of chances with just seconds left in the match.
It will be a surreal feeling for second string goal keeper Dean Bouzanis, who has been signed by City from the Wanderers as a replacement for Tando Velaphi, who is off to Japan.
They will be buoyed by the signing of Australian quartet Paulo Retre, Jack Clisby, Connor Chapman and Jacob Melling to new deals that will keep them in City colours for the foreseeable future.
The Wanderers have a new man of their own in keeper Liam Reddy, who will be keeping number one man Andrew Redmayne on his toes.
Redmayne is as good as any one going around in the shot stopping stakes, with a joint league-high six clean sheets.
“Any competition in any spot is extremely welcome. It’s only going to help the team push for the title,” Redmayne said.
“Everyone brings a lot to the club and brings a lot to the squad.
“Every individual is very welcomed in this squad and I think we have a fantastic group.
“There’s a lot of confidence flowing through the team and we’re becoming a side that’s really hard to beat,” he said.
“I think that’s something you need to have in you to challenge for titles.
“We prepare for every game on its merit and we treat teams with the respect they deserve.
“And we’ll do that again this week, it’s another big game against Melbourne City.”
Jacob Pepper says the side will have a tough one against City.
“If you look at our last 10 matches they have all been positive and we’re undefeated as well,” Pepper said.
“We’ve got a clean sheet two weeks in a row now and I suppose that’s very important coming up against City who have been scoring goals.
“We have to be tight at the back and hopefully we can show that this week… hopefully we can secure the three points away.“
Match result: Melbourne City wins ($2.80 with CrownBet.com.au)
Correct match score: Melbourne City wins 2-1 ($10 with CrownBet.com.au)
Total match goals: Over 2.5 goals ($1.69 with CrownBet.com.au)
The high powered City side has 32 goals this season, which is a remarkable 10 more than the next best side, the top of the table Brisbane Roar. But this will be a tough one with the Wanderers holding the wood over City, having lost just once in their last 10 clashes, in that time winning seven and drawing two. Don’t expect a nil-all draw in this one – it has not happened to City yet this season. We’ve conservatively gone with 2-1 as the result, but don’t be surprised if there are more goals from both teams. We think there will only be one goal in it, so you could look at backing either team with the one goal start. A word of caution, make sure the likes of Mooy and company are back in the white before you hit these tips really hard.
First goal scorer predictions
Harry Novillo ($9 with WilliamHill.com.au)
The French man came to City as a replacement for marquee man Damien Duff and he has really made himself at home in the club’s colours. It is hard to forget last season’s stunning long range strike against the Wanderers and he will be champing at the bit to emulate that in this one. The 23 year old has four goals this season, which came in a glut of three matches, but hasn’t finished in his last two. He was super important in the clash with Sydney FC and probably should have scored. But he had two assists instead. We think this time he will be on the score sheet. He is due.
Bruno Fornaroli ($6.50 with WilliamHill.com.au)
What a signing Fornaroli has been for City this season. His goal against Sydney FC gave him 11 for the year, putting him at the top of the A-League’s Golden Boot race. The product of Uruguay has six goals in his last six A-League matches and only a fool would bet against the fact that he won’t make it seven in seven. He is the equal fastest player – with Aussie legend Mark Viduka – to reach 11 goals in A-League history. Number 12 is on the way. Jump on.
Western Sydney Wanderers
Brendon Santalab ($7.50 with WilliamHill.com.au)
How is this for a stat: Brendon Santalab scores a goal with every 26 touches, comfortably leading the A-League. He has a pair of goals in his nine games this year and scored recently in the match with the Perth Glory. Santalab is a controversial figure who brings crowds to their feet. They come to watch him play and the supporters will be egging him on to find the net in this one. When Santalab scores, they usually win and, after an injury interrupted season last year, it’s no surprise that his fitness has correlated with the Wanderers winning ways.
Federico Piovaccari ($7 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Another player with a pair of goals to his name this season, the Wanderers might have expected a few more from the Italian marquee man, but it hasn’t really mattered – they have been almost unbeatable this season. Piovaccari oozes class and has bundles of European experience to bring to the Wanderers. The 31 year old has not netted for the Wanderers in five matches. It is time for that to change and we reckon he can turn it around by firing in the first one against City.No tags for this post.