Sydney FC will head down to Hobart to play Western United, where they will be looking to remain undefeated for a third consecutive week.
A win against United would propel the Sky Blues into the top six and move them six points from the ladder leader, Wellington Pheonix. It would also see the Sky Blues achieve a positive goal differential for the first time this Isuzu UTE A-League season.
Last week, against the Melbourne Victory, the Sky Blues dug deep to earn a point after a controversial red card decision saw Sydney FC reduced to ten men. After Wood’s red card in the 36th minute, the Sky Blues failed to concede, which Ufuk Talay applauded as he said it was a “valiant performance” from his side.
Although Sydney FC took a more defensive approach, expect the Sky Blues to return to their high-risk, high-reward strategy as they did in the first half, as they will hopefully have eleven players on the pitch.
In their last outing with Western United, Sydney FC won 4-2, after the team began implementing the harsh attacking strategy that has troubled their opponents since.
A double Joe Lolley and goals from Fabio Gomes and Jack Rodwell saw the Sky Blues take away the three points, even after a Matthew Grimaldi goal in the 83rd minute, which set up a nervous finish.
Talay was clear that despite Western United sitting at the bottom of the A-League ladder, Sydney FC should not underestimate their opponents, talking about their similar high-pressure strategy and the quality of their players.
“Western United have been playing some really good football; they came up with many opportunities and haven’t capitalised on those moments. You know, they press quite well.
“In the game against us, they picked us off when we pressed them, and I think those are moments we’ve looked at how we can improve.”
Last week, Western United hosted the Wanderers in Hobart and came out with a 1-0 defeat after a Lachlan Brook goal.
United players Steven Lustica and Kane Vidmar both were substituted off injured, and it is unclear whether they will be fit to return to play the Sky Blues. John Aloisi’s side’s injury list has continued to grow as his side will also be without Riku Danzaki, James Donachie, Jacob Tratt, Rhys Bozinovski, Nikita Rukavytsya and Sebastian Pasquali.
Pat Wood will serve his time on the sidelines after picking up a red card against Melbourne Victory, whilst Joel King and Jack Rodwell will also not feature this week.
Against the Wanderers, United only conceded one shot on goal, as they recorded 10 goal attempts and often found themselves with opportunities to score. Western couldn’t find the back of the net, which has become a problem for John Alosisi’s side.
The side has also been struggling to find the target in the broader competition, as in their 64 attempts since playing the Sky Blues just before Christmas, they’ve scored four goals and conceded eight.
In defence, Western United have only made 53.95% of tackles since playing against Sydney, whilst the Sky Blues have made 60% of tackles.
Key matchup: Sydney FC defence v Western United defence
The defence will be essential for both sides when they face each other, as Sydney FC will want to continue their defensive momentum after securing a clean sheet against Newcastle and then not conceding after going down to ten men last weekend.
Western United are still without a clean sheet this season and will want to pick up their third win if they are to get back in the finals race.
With Robert Mak rejoining Joe Lolley, Fabio Gomes, and Jaiden Kucharski, Sydney FC’s attack will be injury-less.
Moreover, Michael Ruhs and Brazilian Daniel Penha have caused headaches for the team’s defence, as last week, they came up with the most promising chances for Western and Penha scored a double against Macarthur in their three-all draw.
With both teams playing the high-risk, high-reward style of football, whether the game will be like the six-goal thriller a month ago will be answered by how the defences hold up when they are continuing to clock in injuries.
Western United v Sydney FC
Izuzu UTE A-League Round 15
Saturday 3rd February, 2024
North Hobart Oval, Hobart, TAS
Kick Off: 5:00pm AEDT
Gates Open: 4:00pm AEDT
Broadcast Live: Paramount+
Tickets: Click Here