Preview: Sydney FC v Perth Glory
Date: Sunday, October 27, 2012
Kick-off: 5pm AEDT, 2pm (WAST)
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Played 21: Wins: Sydney 10, Perth 4, Draws: 7
Sydney FC 2-1 Perth, February 11, 2012
Sydney FC: LLW
It's been contrasting starts to the seasons for these two sides with the Glory flying high in equal first place while the Sky Blues have taken time to get into their stride. But they both head into this clash – the first Hyundai A-League game at ANZ Stadium - on the back of impressive wins. Sydney claimed early bragging rights in the local derby with Alessandro Del Piero's penalty giving them a 1-0 win over the Wanderers while Perth were too strong for Melbourne Heart in a 2-0 result. Already with injury problems in defence, Sky Blues coach Ian Crook will be sweating on the fitness of left-back Fabio, who picked up a thigh injury against Western Sydney. The Brazilian hasn't taken part in many training sessions this week and may not be risked, with youngster Daniel Petkovski his likely replacement. Dutchman Pascal Bosschaart is rated a 50-50 chance for a return. The Glory are still without striker Shane Smeltz with a hamstring injury. Billy Mehmet will again lead their attack. Bas van den Brink is also a chance to return from a calf strain, vying with Steve Pantelidis for a spot alongside Michael Thwaite in the centre of defence.
The big issue:
Sydney – Glory defender Steve Pantelidis had a little dig at the Sydney team this week by claiming Del Piero had 'carried' the side over the first three games. The reality is he's probably right with the Italian superstar not only scoring the goals but creating most of the Sky Blues' chances as well. If Sydney are to build on their win last week and start moving up the ladder they will need to have more players contributing in attack. Especially against a Glory defence that is as stingy as ever.
Perth – The Glory might have started this season the stronger but the West Australian's seem to have a mental barrier whenever they come up against the Sky Blues. Perth have beaten Sydney just four times in the history of the Hyundai A-League. Their last triumph over the two-time champions was way back in November 2009, with Sydney currently on an eight-game unbeaten run against Ian Ferguson's side. Can they stop the hoodoo or will Sydney's hold over the Glory continue?
The game breaker:
Alessandro Del Piero – Could it be anyone else? The 37-year-old has settled immediately into life in Australia and silenced anyone who had any doubts that he was simply here for a holiday. All of Sydney's forward play flows through Del Piero and the Glory will need to cut off his supply line whenever possible. It would come as no surprise if fiery Glory captain Jacob Burns shadows the former Juventus striker for the entire 90 minutes. He is deadly not just from set pieces but showed in the win over the Wanderers last week he still has the ability to run at defenders and draw fouls. Ominously for the rest of the competition Del Piero, who will run out in his 800th professional match on Sunday, still believes he is yet to reach his peak form. The Glory will hope it's at least another week away.
Prediction: Sydney 1-1 Perth
Perth have shown over the first three weeks they are again one of the teams to beat and are in stronger form than their hosts but Sydney's confidence-boosting win and imposing record over the Glory makes this one hard to pick. The promotion of Paul Reid to the midfield has given the Sky Blues a much more formidable looking defensive set-up and protection for what's been a shaky back four. In saying that, the Glory haven't exactly been banging in the goals, relying on two set pieces to beat the Heart last weekend. Perth's side has been together for much longer and it looks stronger than that of the home side but with Del Piero around the Sky Blues have an X-factor that can sometimes win a game on his own. It would come as no surprise if both sides cancelled each other out and shared the points.